Now that winter is over and we’re well and truly in spring, Southside is chock full of stunning days out at this time of year, whether you’re looking for a bite to eat, a laze on a deserted beach or just an escape from the usual Hong Kong tourist traps. Carolynne Dear explores Southside.
Coco Thai at Deep Water Bay
With the South China Sea lapping Deep Water Bay beach just metres away, Coco Thai is a beautiful setting for an alfresco meal cooked by former Bangkok Palace Hotel chef Kambudda Tawatchai. Don’t miss the whole steamed squid with lemongrass, chilli and lime leaf or the baked seabream in a salt and Thai herb crust, and try the refreshing homemade lemonade with rosemary. For a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, you can’t go past the banana and coconut shakes. Takeaway lunch salads are also available.
Oysters are jet fresh from Ireland and Australia, the duck is from southwest France and the chicken is free-range.
UG/F, Island Road, Deep Water Bay | 2812 1826 | email@example.com
Reservations are recommended on Friday and Saturday evenings | Open daily, noon-11pm
Po Toi Island
Po Toi is Hong Kong’s southernmost island, where foaming waves crash against rugged cliffs and hikers enjoy invigorating coastal trails with fantastic views over the South China Sea.
This is a popular junk-trip destination not least for its seafood restaurants, in particular Ming Kee, reputed to serve the best black-pepper squid in the world. The restaurant is built beachside on a huge wooden deck open on three sides. Enjoy the steamed scallops, calamari or just an ice cream while the kids frolic on the sand.
Old ruined buildings all over the island are testament to the attractions of a booming city just across the water. Don’t miss Old Mo’s House, also known as the Ghost House, where Japanese soldiers stayed during the second world war, as well as Tin Hau Temple, Turtle Rock, Monk Rock and Palm Rock on the southern headland. It takes a leap of imagination to see the shapes.
Catch a ferry from Stanley or Aberdeen piers. Check www.traway.com.hk for timetables.
Ming Kee seafood restaurant | 2849 7038
St Stephen’s Beach
Another gem on the southern tip of the island is St Stephen’s. If you believe warm evenings are best spent with good company, a dazzling sunset, a beach and a glass of Pimm’s, St Stephen’s is for you. Just add friends.
St Stephen’s is a lovely little west-facing beach, shaded on the fringes, and the perfect spot for sundowners. When we took houseguests, the beach café kept seven hungry children satisfied with burgers, satay, noodles, dips and fries at reasonable prices, while the parents were more than happy with their impressive Pimm’s, mixed perfectly with all the essential components but without turning them into fruit cocktails.
The food was even brought down to the beach for us and set out beautifully on our picnic blanket. And the sunset was magnificent.
If you prefer to cook your own supper, there are barbecue facilities at the far end of the beach. The changing area has been recently updated and the beach has lifeguards from April to October.
Drive through Stanley on Stanley Village Road and onto Wong Ma Kok Road, then turn right to St Stephen’s beach and pier. Limited parking.
Just try keeping your visitors out of legendary Stanley Market. A trip to Stanley is inevitable, but the best reason for going is Lucy’s, which is almost as iconic to locals as the Main Street.
Tucked into a side alley off the Main Street, it has been serving up delicious home-baked goodies, lunches, brunches and suppers for 16 years. We stopped by mid-week for lunch and enjoyed delicious spiced lamb, prune and couscous followed by a naughty but nice pecan pudding with toffee cream sauce. All the food is home-cooked and so good Lucy has published a recipe book. We are planning a return visit – the warm lemon pudding with vanilla ice cream is calling…
G/F, 64 Stanley Main Street | 2813 9055
Set around a rocky headland between two beaches, Shek O is an eccentric, laidback beach town far from the city madness. Think vibrantly painted houses surrounded by shrubs and vines, sunkissed locals walking barefoot with surfboards under their arms, hidden rasta bars and plenty of alfresco shack-like restaurants. Shek O Chinese and Thai is an all-time favourite, ignore the plastic chairs, tables and toilet paper napkins and get ready for delicious dishes and fresh seafood at dirt cheap prices. Kick back with a couple of afternoon beers while the little ones play mini golf two doors down or run amok at the beach a minute away. Alternatively, join the crowd at the barbecue pits, then finish off at Ben’s Bar on the back beach. Dimly lit lanterns paired with the sounds of reggae and crashing waves make the perfect setting for a night cap.
Shek O Chinese and Thai, 303 Shek O Village, main intersection, Shek O | 2809 4426
Ben’s Bar, 273 Shek O Village | 2809 2268
For a touch of history and a fabulous Asian-inspired buffet, Spices in Repulse Bay retains all the charm of its colonial past. The restaurant stands on the site of the former Repulse Bay Hotel, a favourite with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward and assorted royals before it was demolished in 1982, then rebuilt a few years later as the replica The Repulse Bay shopping plaza.
Dinner at Spices begins with a smorgasbord of Asian appetizers, a selection of main course curry, noodle or wok-fried dishes and a dessert buffet. Best of all is its large terrace – rare in Hong Kong and perfect at this time of year.
Aberdeen Country Park
The shaded paths of Aberdeen Country Park are perfect for an afternoon amble. There is a shorter, lower reservoir trail and an upper trail that takes about an hour to walk. It’s a steep climb up Aberdeen Reservoir Road from the bustle below, but worth the effort once you reach this oasis of trees and greenery. There are plenty of benches, picnic spots and barbecue areas, a Kids Walk and even a nature discovery centre (on the right about 400 metres from the entrance).
Built in 1931, the two reservoirs were the last to be completed on Hong Kong Island. Today, they are surrounded by dense woodland. Aberdeen Valley is the second largest on the island and is also the main roosting area for Hong Kong’s black kites, which congregate here in large numbers in the evening.
Aberdeen Reservoir Road | www.afcd.gov.hk
Chung Hom Kok beach
The island’s beaches come into their own at this time of year. Cooler, less crowded and a lot more tranquil than those scorching summer days (and nights), they are still warm enough to relax on and the water is deliciously cool.
One of the prettiest and most secluded is Chung Hom Kok. To test its visitor potential, my young son and I took our visiting granny there one weekday afternoon. A sun-dappled path leads down the wooded hillside and onto the beach, passing a shady children’s playground – a huge hit with my son. We counted the flitting butterflies as we passed the barbecue area and onto the beach.
There was not a soul about, the water was a beautiful turquoise (and clean, there is a water cleanliness monitoring board on the beach) and we spent a happy afternoon collecting shells and watching the occasional junk or fishing boat drift past.
“Wow!” said Granny. “Who would have thought Hong Kong had beaches like this? I thought it was all high rise.”
The beach is patrolled from April to October and there is a handy kiosk selling soft drinks, snacks and inflatable water toys. There are clean changing rooms and shady areas on the beach in the mornings from the surrounding trees.
Chung Hom Kok beach is at the end of Chung Hom Kok Road, sign-posted on the right as you travel towards Stanley on Repulse Bay Road.