The article is part of a guide to Hong Kong from FT Globetrotter
Solitude is not in Hong Kong’s vocabulary. The frenetic Asian capital of freewheeling commerce is one of the world’s busiest cities and that fact is baked into the local dining scene.
Yards away from the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island’s Central district — home to some of the priciest rents on the planet — plastic chairs and tables spill out into the street as noisy diners chew on chicken feet and char siu (barbecue pork) and chat boisterously about the city’s combustible politics.
Mealtimes in Hong Kong used to be an elbow-to-elbow affair, where privacy was occasionally a luxury. For the solo diner, it could also be intimidating — but in these straitened social times, there are plenty of places where you can tuck into a quiet meal and relish the joy of eating alone. All of these establishments were open at the time of publication, but the usual caveats in these current times apply: please check the websites carefully or phone ahead before visiting.
41 Elgin Street, Central
Good for: excellent food and attentive service
Not so good for: expense accounts
Belon, a neo-Parisian bistro in Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan SoHo district, is pitched at diners with small appetites and big wallets.
Solo travellers will be well accommodated at the bar, where they can soak up Belon’s understated ambience over Hokkaido scallop with shio kombu and pomelo, and whole-roasted chicken with petits pois à la française.
The waiters are extremely attentive and can provide advice on complementary dishes, preparation times and portion sizes. The latter can be generous, such as the ris de veau, but some — the basil scarpinocc with burrata, say — are austere.
Belon is not cheap. It’s worth the price — but when just a small helping of bread comes in at HK$68 (about £6.50), you might want to mentally prepare yourself for a chunky bill at the end of your meal.
Din Tai Fung
68 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay
Good for: gorging on dumplings
Not so good for: introverts
Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese dim-sum joint, has been a fixture in the city for decades and is renowned globally for its xiao long bao, or steamed pork dumplings.
While most diners arrive in groups, visiting alone is also good fun — but be brave and bear the queue. Din Tai Fung does not take reservations, but those arriving on their own can expect to be seated quickly at a table shared with other diners.
The atmosphere here is often boisterous — and the food delicious. Dishes are cheap and turn up promptly, and service is authentically Hong Kong: brusque and unfussy. Other crowd-pleasers are spicy wontons and egg-fried rice.
Din Tai Fung has expanded its footprint and now has restaurants across Asia, the US and, more recently, in London. But you can’t beat the original.
222 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
Good for: soaking up the previous night’s excess
Not so good for: dieters
Laid-back Ninetys is one of Hong Kong’s growing selection of Antipodean-style breakfast joints, propelled by the city’s army of Aussie expats. This is where to find solitude after a big night out (assuming we’ll ever enjoy those again), and it brings new meaning to the term “fry-up”, with deep-fried eggs Benedict likely to soak up even the most well-earned hangover.
The dinner menu is also adventurous, with dishes such as “Roasted Duck Breast Passionfruit Maple Syrup” (exactly what it sounds like) and “Super Piggy Piggy” (Ibérico pork with Granny Smith apples).
The drinks menu veers from locally brewed coffee-flavoured craft beer to a choice of sakes. A range of single-origin coffees is available too.
Ninetys is most popular for breakfast, particularly at weekends, so expect a queue outside.
Feather & Bone
5 Luard Road, Wan Chai
Good for: voracious, unreconstructed carnivorism
Not so good for: quinoa and kale salad
Carnivores in Hong Kong have few reasons to complain. Cantonese cuisine is keen on pushing the anatomical limits of barnyard beasts: offal (such as tripe, feet and liver) is a menu mainstay in this town.
That is, however, not to everyone’s tastes. So it helps that the city also sizzles a mean steak. Case in point is Feather & Bone, a chain of premium butchers where they will also prepare and cook meat on site.
Diners can choose their cut from the butcher’s counter and most of the bases are covered. Think grain-fed, grass-fed, Angus rib-eye, strip loin, tenderloin, Wagyu, sourced from Australia and reasonably priced. An extensive menu of prepared dishes also offers plenty of non-bovine choices.
Feather & Bone has several locations around Hong Kong close to the major hotels and business districts. The restaurants are popular with families and the after-work crowd, but the bar offers up an enticing solo spot. Its serviceable drinks list includes a decent range of craft beers from Hong Kong and the Land Down Under, as well as wines from France and South America as well as Australia.
440 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay
Good for: a quick feed
Not so good for: any socialising
Introverts rejoice! Diners who lack an appetite for human interaction can gorge on the isolation offered by Ichiran, a chain of Japanese ramen restaurants — if you can call it a restaurant at all.
Ichiran does not have any tables by the standard definition. Customers are led by an attendant to a cramped booth, where a small slip of paper lists a modest selection of tonkatsu ramen — Japanese soup noodles — based on spiciness, ingredients and noodle texture. Sides dishes include pork char siu, while drinks are basically variations on green tea and matcha-infused Asahi beer.
Food is served swiftly and passed through a curtain by bowing servers, while individual diners are hived off from one another by partitions.
The whole experience is over pretty quickly, with little in terms of decor or atmosphere to distract hungry patrons. A seasoned solo diner could not ask for more.
Where are your favourite spots in Hong Kong to grab a quiet bite to eat? Tell us in the comments
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