A wet and rain-soaked weekend is coming up, so I thought I’d share with you photos from two of my favorite Sunday brunch joints in Hong Kong… you know just in case those junk boating plans fall through. Whenever Sunday rolls around, everyone always asks the same question… What is the best brunch in Hong Kong??? And if you’re like me, you think it’s a Google search away, when in reality, the information you’d get online as feedback could even be more painful to get through. Let me help.
The “Best brunch” depends on a lot of factors for different people. Some are all about “views” and some are about “ambiance”. For me, that criteria is important, however in addition, I find the most important elements of a great Sunday brunch is that A. It has to be Western (unless it’s outright dimsum which is fine), B. It’s gotta serve amazing juice, coffee, and bloody maries, C. Eggs. It’s gotta serve eggs or eggy dishes well, and lastly D. The special Added extra something that only a unique restaurant can provide… and its not necessarily champagne. (Though that’s an easy tack on that’s very welcome.)
+ “Old World Becomes New Classic” // The Principal
The Principal, is one of Hong Kong’s classic hidden gems, located on a little tucked-in corner on Star Street. The restaurant, owned by the Press Room Group, IS a destination that doubles as a sleepy neighborhood locale. The interiors are fresh, clean, and crisp… and earthy. Reflected ceiling is in timber, the back wall is clad in light clay brick tiling, and the seating in a light beige and brown madras with a slight blue-grey tint. Tables all have a bit of plant life in a clay pot, everything seems very… mediterranean. The design for the fit out, by Australian studio, Hecker Guthrie, serves as a nice and subtle backdrop for the restaurant’s offerings, delicacies reminiscent of old world flavors, but adapted for a modern, urban palate which expects innovation.
Executive Chef, Jonay Armas, honed his craft in Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain, including La Terraza del Casino and El Chaflan in Madrid, and El Raco de Can Fabes in Barcelona. Regularly, meals at The Principal come in three “travel” inspired set menus, but for the Sunday Brunch, it’s the world’s buffet… direct to your table.
The menu begins with a “Picnic”, when the waiter brings to your table a wicker basket filled with items and things in glass jars, tin cans, and cheese wrapped in paper. Items in the basket, which are then carefully laid out on the table include; a Strawberry and rhubarb yoghurt mousse, cold cuts and cheese, liver pate, Moroccan-inspired hummus, Anchovies in Vinegar-garlic-olive oil, and freshly baked bread.
For some people in Europe, that’s it for Brunch… but if you’re a guest at the Principal, like me and my sister were… it’s the first course of a six course meal.
For the rest of the meal (you know, it’s 6 courses like I said), we were served a delicious ceviche, tempura made of seasonal vegetables, eggs cooked sunny side up in front of us and served with free range bacon, and lastly for savory, the Sunday Roast… a Spanish suckling pig served “Korean Style”, wrapped in lettuce.
And of course, there’s no full meal without… Desserts!
These beautiful creations include cakes that taste like Snickers Bars, frozen raspberries with pop rocks, Pina Colada Profiteroles, chocolate meringue lollipops, and of course… Churros. Delicious.
Service at The Principal is extremely on point, and attentive. And for a price of 740HKD, the six course Sunday Brunch also comes with bottomless Champagne (a Brut Le Mesnil-sur-Oger), a selection of Wine /Beer, Juices, fancy water, and Graffeo Coffee or Harney and Sons Teas. NOT BAD. Great even!
+ “Dockside and Farm Fresh Simplicty” // Fish & Meat
Fish & Meat is definitely one of my most favorite new restaurants in Hong Kong. Not only is it designed by one HK-based designer I admire (and whom I had the pleasure of interviewing before), Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose, but the Fish AND the Steak are both equally divine… at least for dinner! I was recently invited to taste the new brunch menu which has just launched last month… and it’s just not any other brunch menu… it’s brunch… with the addition of a BUTTERMILK. PANCAKE. STATION. I kid you not.
For mains on offer here (besides the Buttermilk Pancake Station itself with homemade toppings like Vanilla Cream and Caramel Sauce)… is an Organic poached egg Brioche with Truffle, Pan Fried Sea Bream with fennel and green pea puree, Organic Sunny Side Eggs, and a Cedar River Prime Sirloin… to name a few of what our table consumed.
Unlike The Principal, Fish & Meat is really visible to its neighborhood location on the corner of Glenealy and Wyndham Street, with the right amount of glazing on both sides to let plenty of sunshine in, and vantages to the city out. Ambiance? Design? Check. Views? Check.
Fish and Meat’s general philosophy, a sensitivity towards “farm to table” methods of sourcing, preparation, and serving are all on point even for Sunday Brunch and is evident. It really feels like you’re being served farm fresh food in a farm fresh environment. Compared to The Principal, you can get more relaxed here and be a little bit louder… but then again, it depends on what kind of mood you want for Sunday Brunch.
I also had my fill of the “Cold Buffet”, a selection of fresh oysters and mussels, and a few salads made of beetroot gravlax, crab, watercress, squash, asparagus, and even the basic Ceasar is also available. There’s a delicious farfalle pasta in red pesto and burrata also on offer for those carb-inclined.
Service at Fish & Meat is also quite good and personable, and generally matches the menu’s casual attitude. The mains are delicious, but you know… if you can do it… have the the Steak or the eggs. You won’t regret it!
So that’s my brunch wrap up, a picture summary of my two favorite brunch places. It’s not too sceney nor is it overwhelming. They’re both buffets on an intimate scale, and with each having their own unique offerings. If you check out any one of these brunch places this weekend, be sure to tag me on Instagram @theWanderlister, so I can inspect and comment on all your delicious #SundayBrunch #FoodPorn.
Going to New York City for work and play gave me a chance to make some visits to a few cool destination stores by my favorite brands, for men. If you’re a guy and you only have a day or two to fit in some shopping in the city, I strongly suggest highlighting Nolita and Bleecker Streets to your lists, since these two neighborhoods carry a good selection of casual menswear brands to fit most tastes.
Please note, nothing in my NYC #wanderlist covers formalwear or suiting, but there are some selections available at a few of these stores that can offer a full range of styles for most any occasion. (For bespoke suiting, I recommend the NYC outpost of Hong Kong’s iconic menswear tailor, The Armoury.)
+ FINE THREADS // Black Fleece on Bleecker Street
In 2007, Brooks Brothers launched a youth oriented label,Black Fleece, in collaboration with Mr. Thom Browne, who won the 2006 CFDA Award Winner for menswear just a year before. Yearning to break free aesthetically, from their main Brooks Brothers line, the Black Fleece label allows for the brand to offer a selection of menswear for a new generation of guys who may not be so familiar with the traditional Brooks Brothers suiting, but are ready to embrace elements of “dandy” suiting in their day-to-day lives. With Black Fleece, designer Thom Browne gets to make clothing for a wider demographic of men who seek to embrace his modern look, underpinned by the Brooks Brothers level of quality and craftsmanship.
The corner store on Bleecker Street is intimate, carrying both men and women’s. Customers and staff know each other there on a first name basis, and when I went, everyone who showed up at the store, were pretty much return customers. This is a good thing for me to notice, especially because the clothes are so playfully quirky and a-traditional. I suppose the intimacy in shopping experience for Black Fleece is really about the support of their customers who just “get” the brand concept from the get-go. (And FYI, the service quality in Hong Kong’s flagship on Wyndham Street is absolutely the same level. Top notch and personal. I hope they keep it up!)
+ STREET STYLE // Saturday’s Surf NYC on Crosby Street
Yes, Saturday’s is an urban shop in New York City for those into surfing culture. I know… crazy right, because where can you actually surf in Manhattan!? While I was there, twice, during my last trip, I did witness a guy purchase a surfboard and then packing it up on the spot. So yes, in New York City, surf sells at Saturday’s Surf NYC.
Saturday’s is essentially a casual men’s shop selling “street style” with a splattering of elegant buttoned down looks and up-market T’s and sweatshirts. The reason why I support this local brand, which first opened its doors in 2009, is that while it speaks to a particularly niche and quirky customer (urbanites who are engrossed in surfing culture), its collection… from apparel, to bags, to shoes, to accessories, pretty much have a strong and consistent aesthetic base line which a broader design-focused demographic can appreciate. Everything is either grey, black, or primary colors in palette, and for the patterns or stripes that appear in their collection, it’s pretty bold in a pop art kind of way… yet clean and modern. This kind of stylistic integrity is a great position to be in, especially for a young brand wanting to make a mark in casual street wear.
Some of my favorite things about the shop… browsing Saturdays Magazine, the brand’s modern take on the classic surfer magazine and checking out the back garden where you can just sit and chill with a cup of delicious La Colombe coffee from their destination coffee shop in store.
+ ARMED CANDY // Miansai on Crosby Street
Miansai’s Crosby Street location in Nolita has only been operating for less than a year (opened in December 2013), but already it seems like the flagship has been there since the establishment of its brand in 2008. Founded in Miami, by New York born, Michael Saiger, Miansai’s men’s jewellery is now coolly retailed in 40 US States and 36 countries, including Mr. Porter (which ships internationally), and Kapok, Harvey Nichols, and Lane Crawford, here in Hong Kong.
The Crosby street location offers the full array of Miansai’s products, plus leather goods, with all items Made in the USA by its team of 30 craftsmen. If you’ve been shopping in Asia, and think you’ve seen all of what Miansai has to offer re: nautical themed bracelets, think again, this tiny shop in New York carries everything you’ve seen and so much more, including new designs, fixings, and clasps, recently launched for its 2014 collection of wares.
My favorite is the cuff design, made of .925 Sterling Silver, 14K Gold and Rose Gold, and for some items, 18K Gold. Have a sip and sit in the in-house tea room as you enjoy browsing and the trying on of all things Miansai. (FYI. You can also build your own bracelet.)
+ CURATED STYLE // Odin New York on Lafayette
10 year old menswear boutique, Odin, has been on the curated menswear scene way before menswear became a staple on everything from everyone’s Pinterest and TUMBLR boards, to their multiple-broque closets. Founded by partners, Paul Birardi (ex-buyer at Macy’s) and Eddy Chai (ex-advertising art director), Odin has held their own, courting working gents from all walks of life who care about fashion and style, plus now college students and even some female shoppers.
The store on Lafayette Street, a 2000 square foot, ex-Chinese Noodles factory, was a hands-on experience for the founders, building and designing everything themselves to house menswear multi-brands from the ground up. Since establishing the boutique, Odin has collaborated with American retail giants like Target, the Gap, and boutique labels like Matsuda, Rag & Bone, Common Projects, Mark McNairy, Alex Mill, Todd Snyder, and Engineered Garments.
The Lafayette Street shop offers personal styling services for a wide range of products available from the house’s own label to the likes of Thom Browne’s main line, which I bought a few pieces on sale.
+ ALL AROUND STYLE // Club Monaco Men’s on 5th
Not quite in Nolita and Bleecker (we’re talking 5th Avenue), but just a walk away from the iconic burger joint, Shake Shack in Madison Square Park where my friend Andy and I had our lunch, is the heaven that is Club Monaco’s 5th Avenue store. I don’t know about you, but I’m obsessed about all things Club Monaco (and its been a few years now), since I’ve done style collaborations with them in Hong Kong years ago and since their menswear line was taken on board by Menswear designer, Aaron Levine.
The 5th Avenue store is indeed a mecca for those who are “Club Monanites” (okay Made this moniker up) offering a full selection of CM classics, essentials, and specialty seasonal items in playful prints, colors, and elegant (ie. non baggy) and fitting menswear silhouettes. Accessories and outerwear complement easy to wear CM items from the brand and partner “Made-In-America” labels. Shoes include a great selection from Grenson and New Balance. The huge two-story store looks like an old-time Department Store from the turn of the century, and also fits a florist, a bookstore by the Strand, and an outpost by my favorite Williamsburg café, Toby’s, for those inclined to stay awhile after a full shopping experience.
+ GROOMING // Fellow Barber on Crosby St,
On Crosby Street adjacent to Miansai and Saturday’s, be sure to check out, Fellow Barber, one of four of these barber locations in New York City and Brooklyn. Fellow Barber is committed to offering all patrons a traditional barbershop experience without the pretense of a salon. Because everything is “traditional”, all Fellow Barbers are expertly trained to provide classic men’s cuts with straight-razor shaves.
The shop on Crosby Street carries a wide array of products, including shaving kits, body soaps, and moustache/beard wax for the discernible gentleman.
SHOP Black Fleece West Village . 351 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10014 . T: +12129292763 / SHOP Saturday’s Surf NYC . 31 Crosby Street, New York NY 10013 . T: +12129667875 / SHOP Miansai Nolita . 33 Crosby Street, New York NY . T: +12128589710 / SHOP Odin New York Nolita/SOHO . 199 Lafayette Street, New York NY . T: +12129660026 / SHOP Club Monaco on 5th Avenue . 160 5th Avenue, New York NY 10010 . T: +12123520936 / VISIT Fellow Barber Nolita . 33 Crosby Street, New York NY . T: +12129296014
After my six day stay in Williamsburg, I packed up my bags and moved to the opposite end of the map, to Manhattan’s West side, where I spent my last two nights at the Enrique Norten-designed, Hotel Americano. Enrique Norten’s firm, TEN Arquitectos, is originally from Mexico, however projects like Grupo Habita’s 56 room boutique- Hotel Americano, opening in 2011, helped Norten establish a permanent presence in New York.
Compared to Williamsburg, the West Chelsea/High Line art district, is too a bit off the grid from Manhattan’s usual buzzy and traffic-crazed neighborhoods. So technically, staying at Hotel Americano, with its chain-mail clad facade veiling the hotel like a soft protective blanket, gives the building a character of introvertedness re-establishing a getaway experience right in the middle of the city.
The rooms have this minimalist Japanese x Scandinavian ambiance, with all the beds low on a timber-finish staging area. I stayed at the “Downtown King” room, where the soft glow of the window provides, a subtle Rothko-esque backdrop… and lifting this curtain allows for a more dramatic urban backdrop through the picture window.
Materials are minimal… mirrored stainless steel working desks, fair-faced concrete flooring cool the touch, white marble tiles within the bathroom’s interiors, a glass and steel partition with a fritted pattern separating the shower from the bedroom area… all very modern reflecting contemporary architecture palate without losing the comfort sensibilities of “home”.
There are aspects of the room which is considered luxury… the iPad with an amazing selection of music and muzak which I had playing in the background the whole time, a great selection of self-labeled snacks (like the rich sea salt chocolate bar which everyone needs to try), and (the one item I loved the most), a bathrobe in soft denim. It’s fantastic.Unfortunately some items, ie. room speakers were not working (they are supposed to easily connect to the iPad), no complimentary drinking water in the room, and no coffee machine. But those are minor gripes for a hotel with just the right amount of comfort and generally amazing low key and personal Manhattan service.
Public areas are cozy yet not cramped. The design is very streamlined and completely Manhattan-modern-minimalist done right. Ok, at the very least it reflects the general ambiance of this area of Chelsea, with the neighborhood’s rustic factory facades and cool gallery interiors of every ground floor space. I loved the negative/positives of President Obama in cool Instagram-ish glory in the lobby’s sitting area. We think we’re cool? He’s definitely been there and done that.
Speaking of “gallery interiors”, it was so cool to meet up with Hong Kong-turned-Manhattan graphic designer, Danielle Huthart, and art critic / consultant of everything, Shana Beth Mason, together for an art + hotel jazz brunch on my last sunny Saturday in the city before jetting back to Hong Kong. According to the latest M art map, I counted roughly 200 gallery spaces in West Chelsea around Hotel Americano. Like Shana says, the West Chelsea art scene is largely commercial, and the real experimental stuff worth seeing is in the Lower East Side (understandably). However, we’re already here for brunch, so we might as well see what’s around right?
Some cool shows we saw, digital prints on canvas by Linda Meiko Allen, titled Figmenta, closing July 31st, 2014 at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery.
Physical large scale collage works on display by Gabi Trinkaus at Claire Oliver which ends this month.
PACE Prints Chelsea has the latest neon works by Ryan McGinness on display.
Our two favourite shows… this sexy one, titled Goldenboy by Jeff Bark, which has since ended at the Hasted Kraeutler, consisting of prints and a sculptural tableaux.
And we also loved these very formal, yet hyper-real paintings by Pierre Dorion at the Jack Shainman Gallery.
Every year, Paul Kasmin’s gallery exhibits a free curated not-for-sale-show. I was so lucky to have been there when the space across the street from Hotel Americano was curating a superb show by Russian-Jewish painter Chaim Soutine, noted for his amazingly thick and messy brush strokes in muted colours, depicting animals and items he finds at the market. Not since a 1950 MoMA retrospective of his work has all his works made it for a non-sell exhibition under one roof.
A complimentary show by Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin’s other space on the corner of 10ave and Hotel Americano’s 27th street, feature vibrant watercolors of animal creatures from various fables depicted in a very illustrative moments.
Architecture lovers will love walking around the the neighborhood to revel in buildings that seemingly never age…
And the new sky-high mansions that take their place. This one below attempts at the quirk factor.
There are some more cool buildings, as one gets further south around W. 14th Street, like this Samsung shop with a twisted tower. If you know the designer’s name, please let me know!
There’s a wonderful building on 66 Ninth Avenue, called the Porter House, by SHoP Architects (with the black facade and vertical LED stripes.) You can’t miss it. It’s almost a landmark. It’a warehouse turned residential building.
Speaking of twisted, watch out for Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum to open next year.
And along the High Line park (a newly opened public green park ON TOP of the old High Line railroad tracks) designed by Diller + Scofidio, there’s an architectural view of the big everything else; the “white sails” building by Frank Gehry dubbed the IAC, on the West Side Highway, and adjacent to it Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue.
Speaking of the High Line, the second phase of the tracks just opened up, and it’s wonderful to be there. Views are framed… literally.
As for the first phase, the area closest to the Meatpacking District… the park’s architecture and its fixtures, are aging quite elegantly.
Across the street there’s a cool concept store called, STORY… claiming to have a “point of view of a magazine, changing like a gallery, and selling things like a store.” So basically the shop’s VM changes four times a year to a theme. And when I was there, the theme was “COOL”… which is appropriate for the summer. The “COOL” idea is reflected in the lightweight structure of straws, and held together by snowflake fixings at its intersection.
For restaurants, you can check out fusion-dim sum at the new, Buddakan NYC, a “modern-Asian” dining destination in a converted cookie factory designed by Christian Liaigre and founded by Stephen Starr also of Chelsea’s Morimoto. I enjoyed my drinks and food here and wish I had more than just bar snacks. The staff were very friendly, and the innovative selections, like their classic, “Edamame Dumplings”, is something definitely to look forward to, again on my next visit. It’s adjacent to the Chelsea Market… you won’t miss it.
I will miss this neighborhood. It’s in the middle of Manhattan, yet generally less rushed and more relaxed.
Thanks Smith Hotels and Hotel Americano for a great stay!
FYI. The red “summer wool” jacket i’m in the wearing in the #selfie above was tailored by Moustache in Hong Kong. I strongly recommend them and their work if one has time in Hong Kong to get anything tailored.
STAY Hotel Americano . 518 W 27th St. New York NY 10001 / BOOK Mr and Mrs Smith Hotels / VISIT Art Galleries in West Chelsea / SHOP Story . 144 10th Avenue at 19th Street, NY NY 10011 / EAT Buddakan NYC . 75 9th Avenue, NY NY 10011 / VISIT The High Line, New York NY 10011