After 23 years, Stanley restaurant Lucy’s is now Henry’s…Catharina Cheung speaks to the new owner.
The minute I stepped into Henry’s and plopped down onto one of the sofas, I felt I’d left Hong Kong far behind. The orange toned hues and wooden furnishings ooze Mediterranean vibes. It is warm, simple and cosy. Stanley residents and regular patrons of Lucy’s restaurant will know exactly what I’m describing.
British born Lucy Humbert moved to Hong Kong in 1988 and opened her eponymous restaurant in September 1994 but, after 23 years of business, decided to close its doors in July this year and moved back to the UK to be with her daughter on her educational journey.
Just before closure plans were finalised, one of her former chefs, Henry Kwan, stepped in with an offer to take over the reigns. Hence, Lucy’s is now Henry’s, and will continue to fill the bellies of diners in Stanley with its signature dishes.
Henry, a soft-spoken sort with a gentle smile, was among the first batch of Lucy’s staff. In 1988, he started out as a chef at Miramar Hotel (now known as the Mira Hotel) for approximately a decade. After leaving Lucy’s, he eventually opened his own restaurant Onion in Causeway Bay.
Unfortunately, Onion’s location on the upper floor of a building meant zero passing foot traffic and made it difficult for customers to reach via the single lift, so the business did not do as well as expected.
“I remember having to go downstairs myself to bring customers up. Eventually we had to self-evaluate what exactly was going wrong, why customers who made bookings ended up cancelling even though we lowered our prices,” Henry reminisces.
When Henry got wind of the fact that Lucy’s was winding down, he approached Humbert with an offer. He knew the business was struggling, and that the overall economy was on a general downward trend, but felt that money should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all.
“More important was the happiness I felt working here—I just wanted to retain that feeling of being a family in the workplace,” he says. Apart from one young lad who used to work with Henry at Onion, the staff at Henry’s are still mostly the old team from Lucy’s era.
Theirs has always been a small team, and they share a bond from years of working closely together. One member, now in his 70s, still regularly pops in a few days each week to work part time. In such a tight-knit workplace, Henry sees his return as a homecoming.
Henry’s greatest satisfaction is seeing his customers finishing everything on their plates, a clear sign that they have genuinely enjoyed his creations. Asked if he might take the restaurant in a new culinary or stylistic direction, Henry emphatically shakes his head.
Claiming himself to be old and sentimental, he gushes, “the very reason I took over this business was because we cherished the warm vibe that it has always offered. It would be wrong of me to transform it into one of those places you’d see along the seafront; it’d just be any other old place then.”
he brings out folders upon folders of recipes, which all the chefs have to follow exactly.
Having worked in several other corporations since his time at Lucy’s, Henry admits that his cooking methods and style have evolved, but in order to refamiliarise himself, he spent a week at the restaurant with Lucy before she left for the UK. He brings out folders upon folders of recipes, which all the chefs have to follow exactly.
This consistency has secured Lucy’s a place in the heart of many Stanley locals, and for Henry, retaining the original flavours for these regular customers is key—“A wonton noodle shop can’t suddenly switch to selling congee and expect to retain its customers!” he quips.
Of course, Henry has creations of his own that he is eager to showcase. But for now, the plan is to test the waters and see how readily customers are willing to accept small changes.
For instance, they will start jazzing up their dish presentations with syrup calligraphy and drawings—just a touch of Insta-worthy modernity to bring to a more traditional business. A selection of Henry’s personal dishes will be on the specials menu, and also available for significant events.
Permanent menu status will be conferred if they prove popular. One such dish is the Spanish Ibérico suckling pig, currently hidden among the specials, and is only available by pre-ordering, lest it lose its taste and crispy texture.
Henry also recommends his favourite dishes, which have been on Lucy’s menu since its opening 23 years ago. The salmon fish cakes, spinach souffle, and pecan pudding are well-loved by regulars. Also worth looking out for are seasonal specials like roast turkey over Christmas. There are also plans for more community involvement, such as catering for events and charities, and seasonal events for Halloween and Easter.
Despite some setbacks in transferring the food and beverage licence, Henry’s restaurant has officially changed owners as of August 3, and everything else is on track for the name to be emblazoned across the restaurant to be changed to ‘Henry’s’ by the start of October.
i brought my wife here on our very first day years and years ago
As the interview wraps up, Henry gazes around the restaurant and points out a table tucked in a cosy corner. “I brought my wife here on our very first date years and years ago; that was the table we sat at.” Truly an establishment with lots of memories for both Stanley residents and Henry himself, it comes as a relief that others will still be able to experience the same homey vibes and comfort food that has earned this restaurant a solid fanbase.
And although he still speaks fondly of Onion, I think Henry Kwan couldn’t be happier to be back.