Sitting comfortably atop the Maritime Museum at Central’s Pier 8 is a little haven full of natural light, sweeping views, happy staff, delicious cakes and expertly brewed coffee. Founded by The Nesbitt Centre in 2013, Café 8 aims to create employment and learning opportunities for adults with special needs and learning disabilities. With over 80 per cent of the staff consisting of individuals with special needs and a management team full of passion and positivity, Café 8 is one of the most inspiring places to grab a coffee, slice of cake or sundowner.
Along with hc: Bistro, winner of this year’s Foodie Forks Most Inspiring Initiative Editors’ Choice award, we’re thrilled to see more and more establishments creating job and learning opportunities for adults with special needs. The Nesbitt Centre previously founded The Nest (now in two locations, Central and Kowloon), a coffee shop that hires part-time workers with special needs. So we already knew that Café 8 had great coffee, but we were also excited to find out about their new happy hour deal… and that they make what is quite possibly the best chocolate cake in Hong Kong.
The only thing that makes happy hour happier for us foodies is when there’s food involved. Café 8 has recently launched a Sunset Drinks happy hour on Thursdays and Fridays from 5–8pm, which includes complimentary snacks. The bite-sized snacks are quite moreish. They’re also pretty healthy, with offerings like creamy smoked salmon on cucumber, pesto chicken salad tarts and smoky aubergine tapenade on wholegrain toast.
Drinks are affordably priced, with beer starting at just $30 and wine at $60. The bar is fully stocked, and the natural sunlight that filters through the restaurant makes for a perfect place to watch the sun go down. If the weather permits, the terrace is ideal for sundowners, offering stunning views of Victoria Harbour.
In a recent collaboration, Rooftop Republic has provided the rooftop terrace with a very impressive herb garden. The staff and learners of The Nesbitt Centre tend to the herbs, which are then used to infuse the water.
Being a café in Hong Kong for over six years is an impressive feat for any Hong Kong establishment. We know all too well the high turnover rate of restaurants, bars and cafés in this crazy city. Café 8 boasts a high retention rate of staff owing to its nurturing environment. I spoke to the café’s resident barista, Alex, who has been a member of staff for almost five years now, starting on a part-time basis and then moving on to full time. He is a self-professed coffee connoisseur whose passion for coffee has led him to training other aspiring baristas with special needs. With the support of The Nesbitt Centre, he is working towards a managerial role and starting his own business. When I asked the restaurant manager, Melody, if working with special needs employees can be difficult, she responded, “When you see they’re learning and smiling, it’s all worth it.”
Head Chef Charcoal oversees a small kitchen team that serve up light bites like salads and sandwiches. He’s also behind the new sunset canapés. It turns out that Chef Charcoal is a master baker. This flourless chocolate cake ($60) is gluten free and incredibly dense and chocolatey.
The lemon tart ($55) is one of the most popular baked goods at Café 8 and has a strong zesty and tart flavour. The strawberry tart ($55) is a new addition to the cake display and is extremely creamy, with a crunchy biscuit base and chunks of fresh strawberry. A serving of one of these cakes is double the size of the two pictured here (much as I would have liked to eat a total of three cake slices, that may have been overdoing it). Another option is the gluten-free cheesecake ($55), which was already sold out when I got there.
In a place as fast-paced as Hong Kong, a lazy afternoon with good views, drinks and food is always welcome. The bright atmosphere and sunny dispositions of the staff at Café 8 are enough to improve anyone’s mood. With such reasonable prices and tasty bites, the Sunset Drinks deal is one that’s hard to refuse. As for that chocolate cake, it’s a testament to my self-control that I’m not there eating it right now…
Rooftop, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Pier 8, Central, 3791 2158
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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