Hip Hong Kong has been steadily moving west in recent years, from Central into Sheung Wan and the newly christened PoHo district (named for Po Hing Fong and Hollywood Road, the streets that mark the south and north boundaries of the neighborhood). It’s not a total surprise, then, that the newest trendy establishments are popping up even further west in Sai Wan and Sai Ying Pun.
Indeed, it seems like a new, cool enterprise opens in the area every week — whether it’s in the form of a hip restaurant, sleek bar or trendy gallery.
This great westward expansion was heralded by the immigration of Hong Kong’s perennially hip club, XXX Gallery (usually referred to in speech as “triple ex”), which broke paradigms from its first night in business. XXX was founded in 2011 by San Franciscan import DJ Enso, who craved an antidote to the velvet-roped clubs of Wyndham Street and Lan Kwai Fong. The result was a gritty, (literally) underground haven for dance-happy locals and expats that quickly became known for its unmarked metal door on Wing Lok Street and its energetic rotating DJ nights. Alas, in December 2012, XXX was forced to close due to increased rent and noise complaints. Fortunately, the venue has relocated to Des Voeux Road West in Sai Wan. The site is still under construction, though in the meantime the venue has hosted impromptu art exhibitions. The club hopes to re-open in August.
In the meantime, the surrounding areas are exploding with new life. Among the more notable new restaurants in Sai Ying Pun is Metropolitan, a French bistro courtesy of the folks behind the perennially popular Pastis. Metropolitan is named and styled after Paris’s gorgeous art deco metro station, wrought iron curlicues and all. The food is standard French fare, including beef stew, rotisserie, tarte tatin, and a homemade foie gras with chutney and brioche.
Another welcome addition to Sai Ying Pun is Awakening, which aims to fill Hong Kong’s much grieved southern comfort hole. This eatery succeeds with a delicious menu featuring pan-ethnic American foods, including burgers, reubens, burritos, Korean beef, a not-to-miss macaroni and cheese and a great selection of American craft beers, including Kona Brewing Co. Wailua Ale and Lost Coast’s Indica IPA.
After dinner, the party goes on. Les Boules-Café Pétanque, true to its name, is a neighborhood bar where you can play a game of Pétanque, or “bowls,” on a sand court (in this game, which is similar to bocce ball, players throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet, or “piglet”). There’s more to the Sai Ying Pun bar than that, though, including inexpensive drinks and a dance floor that has been attracting pretty young people in droves. Les Boules recently partnered with cool-kid Sai Ying Pun gallery Above Second to throw an unofficial Art Basel party featuring British electro-pop princess Little Boots.
Surely, this is only the beginning. Sai Ying Pun, which once seemed like a long trek from more popular neighborhoods like Central, Admiralty and Wan Chai, is transforming into Central’s backyard. With the reappearance of XXX and the exodus of expats from Sheung Wan as rents rise — and with a new MTR station scheduled to open at Sai Ying Pun in 2015 — the western districts are set to become the polestars of Hong Kong’s trendsetters.
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