We shall start with the brief, one-hit-wonders that lasted little longer than a social media post’s shelf life. There was the short-lived, flash-in-the-pan likes of the cronut. Do you remember this one? The drool-worthy hybrid of a donut and a croissant saw a brief glimmer of interest before fizzling out along with its silly portmanteau. There have also been some in the scene who are trying to make the word bartaurant happen. Yes, it’s a mixture of bar and restaurant, two words that should definitely be kept separate. Surprisingly, to most of us, cupcakes continue to dominate the sweets scene. More openings than closings have happened on this front and it seems Hong Kong’s favourite dessert still reigns supreme. Macarons continue to give the little buttercream cakes a run for their money with new shops opening near monthly and practically dominating the entire third floor of Harbour City. But these ambrosial confections haven’t quite managed to overtake the cupcake kingdom as yet.
Soft serve looks set to be the 2015 new-kid-on-the-iceblock, with the new Korean chain Softree opening in Causeway Bay, the matcha version from Via Tokyo, the popular Hokkaido Milk flavour from Sweets House Cha Cha and the opulent Moët and Chandon cone from Soft Crème in Tai Hang. We’ll see how this craze endures but our hopes are high as who doesn’t love the extreme lickability of soft ice cream, and did we mention, Godiva do a sinful chocolate cone in shop? Yes, we can see a solid future for soft serve.
Bao chicka bao bao, more commonly referred to – by everyone except us – as bao, the Taiwanese street food entered the scene with a flour-filled boom with the exciting skills on show at May Chow’s Little Bao and the foodie demand was immediately apparent. Shortly thereafter followed Wanchai’s Bao Wow and most recently Social Place, as well as lunch specials at more established eateries like Fatty Crab started getting their bao on. The fall of fine dining has continued its decline in favour of casual concepts, which doesn’t always translate into lower prices. High concept art restaurantsappeared, with price tags to match, and a fascinating mix of eyeballing and tasting can result in full-scale multi-sensory overload. Bibo offered us fine cuisine in a pop art lover’s showroom (it’s absolutely worth grabbing a drink in here to gawk at the art), Popsy Room combined music with art and food for an all round stimulating dining experience, while Jouer, a French bakery in Wanchai calls itself a food playground and crafts each item into its own work of art. Celebrity chefs, British in particular, took over plenty of our print pages with Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Tom Aikens and Jason Atherton all opening new venues to much hurrah this year.
French restaurants opened so frequently we could barely keep our appetites up let alone say bon appetite. There’s the haute cuisine offered at Cocotte and Upper Modern Bistro (oh the cheese!), and then there are our favourites, the more affordable bistros we could see ourselves frequenting: La Vache!, Metropolitain, Le Port Parfumé, Le Relais de l’Entrecôte and our weekly takeway lunch spot, La Rotisserie. Their roast chicken can’t be beaten for a filling midday meal. Moving on to the Americas infiltration of HK’s food shores, Carbone opened its New York Italian doors and greeted guests like new friends with a focus on old-school service and a “customer is always right” policy. We are very excited that this might translate into a trend that we could definitely never get enough of. We love tipping well for great service and would adore more restaurants achieving this level of attention to diners. The invasion continued with burgersappearing on menus absolutely everywhere to the delight of burger aficionados all over the city. Burritoshave claimed much of our stomach space in recent months with Little Burro opening two locations followed by Cali-Mex opening four venues on the same day. Yonge Piggies also added burritos to their diner-style menu and we can probably expect more of these Mexican wraps working their way around town.
As the hipster movement continues to sweep the globe, Hong Kong is in no way exempt from its domination.Hipster-fied Chinese food has moved out of the banquet halls and into small, trendy settings appealing to the younger generations. Some with tongue-in-cheek names like Ho Lee Fook, some with mysterious false names and exteriors like Mrs. Pound and some with hybrid flavours like Man Mo Café, Sohofama, Foxtail & Broomcorn and Fu Lu Shou.
Cool bars erupted on the scene like Missy Ho (cocktails on swings) The Envoy (stylish mixology), Stocktons (dark and mysterious), The Woods (creative concoctions) and Ping Pong 129 (bringing back the old gin joint), and all priding themselves on being hard to find and only for those in the know. Only the cool kids need apply. The cocktails remain elaborate, as was the practice in previous years, but less molecular on the whole with a reduction in the bartender use of centrifuges and resulting pearls and instead focusing on creative combinations, some venturing into the weird additions of mustard and foie gras to our inebriants (this we assume will be a brief flirtation in the world of mixology).Sherry came back from the 1970’s with thanks from Ham & Sherry and restaurants daring to pair the digestif with Cantonese cuisine like Dynasty 8 at the Conrad Macau. We’re not sure this tipple is set for a full on renaissance but it’s nice to indulge in the warmth of this grown up liquor.Craft beer continues to pick up steam across the city with Beertopia continuing to attract crowds every year and pubs like Craft Brew, Tipping Point and the brand new Crafty Cow in Sheung Wan.
There was a brief surge in the Japanese trick of frozen beer foam over the summer that may return in hotter months and beer pong became a game no longer limited to college dorms but rather now haunts the halls of chic venues like Amazake and Privé. Sugary sodas are said to be on the decline with“functional wellness beverage” brands such as Pom Wonderful, SuperFood Lab, KonaRed, GinZeng and JaxCoco on the rise. We’re not sure about the catchiness of the designation but we love the idea of drinking something more fun than water that’s doing our bodies good. Juice bars like Genie, Mr. Green Juice and Pressed Juices are popping up to serve liquid lunches, and raw foodcontinues to gain momentum with Peggy Chan’s establishments going strong and ahead of their time in HK’s scene that consistently trails the global norm. The vegetarian and raw communities got excited by the Wanchai opening of Maya Café and nood food arrived in Soho providing raw takeaway snacks, cleanses and juices for the mindful eaters among us.
Gluten-free continues to be on the radar although Paleo (nothing processed) seems to be the new diet trend of choice. Fat has been deemed good and sugar has become the big bad guy. Coconuts are the new super fruit giving us healthy oil, sugar and water to drink and cook with. Veggies have taken on a life of their own with restaurants like Nur championing the deliciousness of the simple things and stalwart restaurants like Sevva concocting delicious “We ❤ vegetables” menus. Last year Brussels sproutswere everywhere, even littered atop our pizzas at Motorino but this year the cauliflower looks set to reign supreme as it has recently worked its way as the headline of its own dishes at restaurants like 22 Ships and Yardbird, making us fall back in love with this forgotten veggie. Farm-to-table is a feel-good fad doing great things for local farms that we hope will fall from being trendy and become the norm in this fair city where more and more diners care about what they are putting in their mouths and where the food comes from. IPC Foodlab, Wild Grass, Nur, Blue Butcher, Stone Nullah Tavern and the brand new The Awakening in Sai Ying Pun (specialising in Paleo friendly eats) as well as mindful fast food joints like Healthy Chicken, are all doing good work at getting good food in us.
Two bagel joints: Schragels and Bagoes, have opened serving proper New York style rounds complete with lox, schmears, salmon and all the fixings. Neither are accessible from the street and mass orders are the only way to get your fix but this is one trend we would be delighted to see flourish and extend past the life of a fad. Sharing plates continue to be a popular eating concept, and the areas of Wong Chuk Hang andKennedy Town are drawing more and more attention for their burgeoning dining destinations that make it worth the trip to the slightly more far flung reaches of HK. We suspect exotic ethnic foods may be a hit next year with Ethiopian, Hawaiian and Caribbean dining projects in the works as well as a rise insmokehouses and perhaps more teaching classrooms like Mixing Bowl, showing us how to do it at home.
Eating insects is apparently something we will all be doing this time next year due to the protein-rich, low-environmental impact of ingesting creepy crawlers and black rice has been appearing on menus around the world with its superfood properties and low price point, so should hit us here in the 852 very soon.
We asked the founders of one of the hottest restaurant groups in Hong Kong, Black Sheep Restaurants(Chom Chom, Motorino, Carbone, La Vache, Ho Lee Fook, Boqueria), Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark how they opened some of the most popular eateries in town.
“At Black Sheep Restaurants we don’t believe in “trends.” We travel all over the world looking for dining cultures that lack representation in Hong Kong, and focus on developing forward-thinking concepts that tell a story about a time and place. We want to add to the conversation rather than sing the same tune as everyone else. We don’t think our restaurants are modern or trendy. They may feel that way because our clientele are often times trendsetters, but that is not our goal in developing restaurants. We look for stories to tell. For example, we went to Vietnam to research for another concept and fell in love with the culture of street food in Hanoi. A few months later, there was Chôm Chôm.”
We asked Asim and Chris to look into the future and predict what’s next in Hong Kong’s food horizon, “We think more niche, focused concepts will start opening. Hong Kongers know that there are many regions of Italy and styles of Italian food, so just “Italian” isn’t going to cut it anymore — it needs to be more specific. Culture plays a huge part in how people entertain and dine. When opening Boqueria, for example, we were inspired by how the dining cultures of Spain and Hong Kong were so similar: very social, family-style, lots of pork and rice!”.
Coco Chan, Founder of Coco Alexandra PR & Events has seen many fads come and go. She gives us her thoughts on what’s to come and what she’s seen in 2014, “I really hate this word because it’s a little stale and overused but “fusion” best describes this year’s dining trend. I think it should be rebranded to “third culture dining”, it fits perfectly for the HK market.
Strong trend towards even more eco and health-focused, organic restaurants.
There was a wave of new concept eateries opening up offering unique culinary experiences and while I see this trend rolling over into 2015, I think there will be a strong trend towards even more eco and health-focused, organic restaurants. We will also definitely be seeing a shift in restaurant openings from the more populated districts to the Western districts (Sai Wan, Kennedy Town, Sai Ying Pun, Sheung Wan) and probably some more out on the South side of the island, in the new hot spot of Aberdeen & The Pulse (Repulse Bay), which I’m excited about. I’ve heard whispers about cool new concepts.”
What was your favourite food trend of 2014?
Look into your crystal food ball and tell us your predictions for 2015, www.facebook.com/foodiehk