DIM SUM AT CITY HALL
Dim sum is uniquely Cantonese and means "to touch the heart". Maxim's Palace at City Hall on Hong Kong Island is something of an institution in the city. It's big and busy, with views across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon, although major construction is now going on along the harbour. Despite the chaos going on around you, the service in the ornate lofty dining room is efficient and the range of goodies is overwhelming and, more importantly, fresh. It is a favourite with the Hong Kong locals, which means there is often queues at the entrance, especially on weekends. There are a-la-carte and dim sum menus in English but the best way to experience this place is to grab one of the trolley ladies with push carts as they come around and point at what looks good. There are some pretty out-there dishes as well, which is all part of the fun. In traditional dim sum style, after each dish is ordered, the ladies stamp a card on your table which is tallied up into the bill at the end, and you'll be doing well if you can eat more than $30 per person.
>> Maxim's Palace is at 2nd Floor, Low Block, City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central. Phone (852) 2521 1303.
PEKING DUCK AT KOWLOON
Like dim sum, Peking duck is one of those quintessential Hong Kong food experiences and the Peking Garden at Star House is rated one of the best. The a-la-carte menu is mostly northern Chinese but this is the place to go for Peking duck. It's best to make a reservation, so you can bag one of the tables near the windows and have a great view of the Kowloon Clock Tower, the Star Ferry Terminal and the harbour. If you are inside the restaurant, the views aren't so good but, even so, the duck is worth it all the same. The staff are efficient and were good at helping us not to over-order. We ordered a full Peking duck, and they served us half of it with the beautiful crispy skin, and succulent meat wrapped in flour pancakes with a sprig of spring onion and slice of cucumber with plum sauce. After just the half-duck, the staff noticed we had eaten enough and delivered a bill for half the price, even though we ordered a full duck.
>> Peking Garden is at 3rd Floor, Star House, 3 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui. Phone (852) 2735 8211.
TRADITIONAL HIGH END CANTONESE
Yan Toh Heen, at the Intercontinental Hong Kong, was awarded a Michelin Star in the 2010 Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau and is regarded as one of the best Chinese restaurants in the world specialising in Cantonese cuisine. The restaurant has a modern contemporary decor, with stunning views over Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island, but it's the food quality and attention to detail that make this place so special. As traditional junks, ferries and construction barges jostle on the water, inside the atmosphere is tranquil and relaxed, with a menu featuring Cantonese classics served with a creative modern presentation. Standards range from simmered chicken in soy sauce to Peking duck, while some of the impressive Cantonese variations include wok-fried wagyu beef cheek with shishito pepper and morel mushrooms, and braised abalone rolls with minced shrimp and asparagus. They also offer an alternative "iHealth" menu, with healthier versions of the Cantonese cuisine.
>> Yan Toh Heen is at 18 Salisbury Rd, Kowloon. Phone (852) 2721 1211 or see www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com.
VEGETARIAN LUNCH AT LANTAU
Lantau is the biggest outlying island in Hong Kong and home to the world's largest seated bronze Buddha in the Ngong Ping plateau at an elevation of 520m, which overlooks the beautiful Po Lin Monastery. Most people now arrive at Tung Chung station and take the new Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car on the 6km ride up to the Buddha and the monastery. Visitors can buy a general ($9) or deluxe meal ticket ($15) from a booth at the the steps leading to the Buddha, and after the climb to the top, enter a basic restaurant and sit down to a set-course vegetarian lunch served by the Po Lin monks. The general ticket means you might be seated with other diners and are served a basic four-course meal, while the deluxe means you have a table to yourself with a few extra dishes.. It's a set menu but the food is good and includes spring rolls, savoury pancakes, fried dumplings, stir-fried vegetables, tofu and vegetables and vegetable curry. On weekends it can get very busy and it's best to have an early lunch.
>>Po Lin Monastery is at Ngong Ping, Lantau and is open every day from noon-2pm.
TEA AND DESSERT AT WAN CHAI
Tea culture is an essential part of daily life in Hong Kong and is best enjoyed in a traditional Chinese setting. The district of Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island is a hub of Chinese culture and this is a great place to find cha chaan teng, or fast-food joints, and traditional tea and pastry shops. This is all at street level, where a unique energy takes hold and where the day-to-day lives of the people of Hong Kong are played out. Wan Chai Market is the centre of this fascinating streetscape and is the start of a maze of back streets, including Cross Street and Spring Garden Lane. Here, you can pull up a wooden table and chair and slurp noodles as locals wander past or take tea and a pastry in a family-run shop for less than a dollar. Many of Wan Chai's older buildings are being demolished as part of an urban renewal plan, but there's still enough of the "old" Hong Kong to make this a fascinating exploration of its food culture.
>> Wan Chai Market is at Stone Nullah Lane, near Wan Chai MRT.
Qantas operates three direct flights per week between Perth and Hong Kong. Visit www.qantas.com.au or phone 13 13 13.
Cathay Pacific flies daily direct between Perth and Hong Kong. Visit www.cathaypacific.com or phone 13 17 47.
Where to Stay:
The Intercontinental Hong Kong is on the waterfront on the southern tip of Kowloon and has views of the nightly Symphony of Light show from the Lobby Lounge and many of its suites. See www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com or phone 0011 (852) 2721 1211.
For more information, go to www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com.
The children aged 12 and 10 watched helplessly as their mothers died.