Elephant Grounds Mid-Levels, HK

Short version

Great cafe in Mid-Levels, right next to the escalators

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 8/10 An assortment of healthy breakfast choices.

Price: 8/10 – Pretty stock standard for a Western breakfast in HK.

Service: 8/10 – My food came out relatively quickly, it actually came out faster than my coffee! Staff are helpful and efficient.

Ambience: 8/10 – Casual, modern decor with wood paneling throughout, and upbeat music that will get you going, especially when you need it in the morning 😊

Location: 7/10 – Right next to the Mid-Level Escalators on Caine Road, so relatively easy to get to. But it’s up in Mid-Levels, so not the most convenient to get to by MTR.

Coffee: 7/10 – Not bad. Coffee is a tad too bitter for my liking, but only a teeny tiny bit.

Elephant Grounds Mid-Levels

61 Caine Rd., Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong

+852 2535 7155

Home

Long version

I’ve been to this cafe a few times for breakfast now, and it’s been pretty consistent in terms of food and service. My most recent visit was on a Friday, and as I was making my way up from our serviced apartment on Hollywood Road at around 10am, I caught the “transition period” when the mid-level escalators were being switched from going down to all going up. So I had to walk up part of the way, and was grateful when I saw the next set of escalators had already been switched over to go up. Nonetheless, the set of escalators that take you to Caine Road are currently under renovation until early 2019 I believe, so unless you catch a bus that drops you right on Caine Road, you will have to walk up regardless… πŸ˜“

So it was just after 10am when I reached the cafe, and the 7-8 tables of two on street level were almost all taken. I managed to grab the last one that was available πŸ˜… They also have 4 tables of two outside, and apparently they also have an upstairs section, which I am yet to see. The tables are small, and there isn’t much space between them, so it feels a bit cramped inside. But it’s HK, so you sorta just have to get used to the lack of space here πŸ˜†

Their little breakfast menu is quite cute!

It also says that breakfast finishes at 11:30am awwww πŸ˜” Mental note for next time I want to head over here. Also note that their coffees are all double shot. The price of coffee in HK is ridiculous, much like their property prices, so for HK$40, it’s pretty standard, believe it or not.

This visit, I went for their peanut butter banana toast.

It was served on this rather small plate, so I had to be careful as I was eating, to make sure I didn’t spill any of it onto the table or into my lap! Especially since I’m a total klutz and either or both of these things could easily happen πŸ˜‚

Staff here are efficient and courteous. They wear these orange shirts, which matches the colour of their takeaway coffee cups, so it’s quite easy to pick them out. I thought this colour coordination was pretty cool πŸ€“ A few others don’t wear the orange shirt, though, perhaps they’re the baristas and/or kitchen staff? Not sure. In any case, it’s easy to grab the attention of one of the waiters, as someone is usually walking around to attend to the customers.

I like the ambience in this cafe. It’s modern, relaxed, yet it also has this positive feel to it. There’s always upbeat music playing, which gets you going right when you need it most, as you’re trying to get your morning started 😊 But it’s not in-your-face, it’s just at the right volume at this time of the day.

And they also take credit card, which I always appreciate πŸ’³ The small things in life make me happy 😊

The bathroom is right out the back. They have one cubicle for men and one for women, with a shared sink area. The cubicle doors also have the wood paneling, like the rest of the cafe, so the decor extends all the way out to here too 😊

Overall, I enjoy going to this cafe. I come here when I want a pretty decent Western breakfast 😊 I will have to move on and try their lunch menu one day, but it’s hard for me to go past my favourite meal of the day, that’s my problem…!

Itacho Sushi (Central, HK)

Casual Japanese restaurant in Central, HK.

Short Version

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 8/10 – The size of their sushi pieces was HUGE! Decent food.

Price: 8/10 – In line with prices in the area.

Service: 6/10 – Aspects could have been better.

Ambience: 9/10 – Laidback and casual.

Location: 8/10 – Just off Hollywood Road in the Central area in Hong Kong. Very easy to get to from the mid-level escalators.

Itacho Sushi

Cheung Fai Building, Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong

+852 2503 2303

Long Version

I felt like Japanese for dinner, so we thought we’d try this place close to our serviced apartment, our current abode this trip to Hong Kong.

We got there quite late – around 9:30pm – and they take last orders at 10pm, so we were pushing for time. We were still seated (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this review πŸ˜‚), but the 10pm deadline was mentioned from the outset, so at least we were warned. A few others were still walking in after us, and they too were seated, so I didn’t feel too bad walking in so late 😊

It’s one of those restaurants where you order off a tablet, and your order then goes straight to the kitchen. The only difference with their software, though, is that there is an intermediate step: once you’re ready to order, you need to scan a QR code, and THEN your order will be sent to the kitchen. I guess because the tablet isn’t assigned your table number, and the QR code is that missing link.

We had to ask for the QR code, so it would be better if the waiter just automatically gave the QR code to patrons as soon as they are seated. Nonetheless, once this was given to us, it was easy ordering from that point.

The food came out relatively quickly, and it was good. Sushi pieces were huge and the food was really nice.

Staff were a bit standoffish, but as with a lot of places, I can’t tell whether it’s because they’re not comfortable speaking in English and so tend to avoid our table, or if they’re just standoffish with all patrons. But we did come in quite late in the evening, so maybe they’re all just winding down and ready to go home. So I may have to return to this place at an earlier time in the day and see what the service is like then 😊

Decor is quite nice in here, modern and bright. They also have quite a few seats, and there is quite a fair bit of space by HK standards. It’s also on street level, and so is very easy to find.

Overall a pleasant dinner. It’s the sort of place where you go for a casual lunch or dinner either on your own or with a handful of other people. I would definitely go again.

Chifa Dumpling House (Central, HK)

Peruvian & Cantonese fusion in this restaurant just off Hollywood Road near Central, HK.

Short Version

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 8/10 – Different, but not in a bad way.

Price: 7/10 – A bit on the pricier side, but for the food and location, it’s quite standard.

Service: 8/10 – Friendly staff, prompt service, food came out at a decent pace.

Ambience: 8/10 – Lively inside. Quite cramped, but nothing new in HK.

Location: 8/10 – Not too far from the mid-level escalators.

Chifa Dumpling House

G/F No, 26 Peel St, Central, Hong Kong

+852 2311 1815

Home

Long Version

We were just wandering around the area near the serviced apartment that we’re staying at this trip, and stumbled across this cute little place. We got there at around 7:30pm, so right during the dinner peak, so I was expecting to be turned away. But they had some seats at the counter, which I actually don’t mind, because you get to see the chefs in action. Well, the ones doing the stir frying and the desserts, at least. I think there were a few other guys in another kitchen doing the dumplings.

They have a very enticing menu, one where I just want to try virtually everything on it πŸ˜† So maybe it’s better to go here with more people, so you can sample a wider range of dishes. It’s a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisines, so the flavours were rather different, but not in a bad way. So you just have to leave your expectations at the door, and just go wherever your tastebuds take you 😊

We ordered four dishes in total:

  • Truffle potsticker
  • Meat & rice
  • Classic xiao long bao
  • Beef tongue open buns

The waiter recommended 4-5 dishes for two people, and I think the four dishes was sufficient for us. We weren’t stuffed, but comfortably full. Big eaters will probably want to order more.

Having said that, our four dishes and drinks cost us HKD$430 (about S$75), so bear that in mind when ordering your 10th dish…! 😊

The waiter cleared our table and when she’d walked away, N and I were like “we ordered four dishes, didn’t we?? And we’ve only received three, right?!”, proceeding to check how many food dishes had been captured on our phones πŸ˜‚ Yep, only three. I was about to ask the waiter if our 4th dish was still on its way when another waiter came up and said “you’re still waiting on your tuffle potstickers, right?”, and gave us new plates a fresh set of chopsticks. So I guess they want us to really taste the truffle. It’s the small touches 😊 I, of course, have no idea what the fuss is all about, but I’ll still welcome new plates and cutlery nonetheless 😊

The staff were all very friendly and attentive, and everyone speaks impeccable English, so it is very easy to communicate with them. The menu is also all in English, so all good on that front too. Note that there is no service charge built into their pricing, so any tip you leave will be appreciated by the staff. The bill comes in this cute little well, so you can just leave your tip in there.

The restaurant is a decent size, split into two sections. The main section is larger, and the smaller section is off to the side down a few steps. Seating in general is a bit cramped, but it’s HK, so it sorta comes with the territory 😊 It’s also a little noisy inside, but we could still hear each other. I guess that’s when the cramped seating comes in handy, I suppose πŸ˜† It was rather busy when we went, as I’ve already mentioned, so perhaps it would be better to book if you wanted to come here with a larger group.

The restaurant is just off Hollywood Road, but the area is quite steep, so just a heads up for those who are less mobile. It is very close to the mid-level escalators, so at least you get a bit of help from the escalators, but the street itself that the restaurant is on is very steep. Get off the mid-level escalators when you see Lush on the left-hand side (at the time of writing, Lush was there…!), and then walk down the stairs. Probably easier to walk down Gage Street (the street with the 7-Eleven on the corner), and then turn left into Peel Street (second street on the left) and walk up to the restaurant from there.

Yat Lok Restaurant (Central, HK)

Short version

Cheap One Michelin star place in Central, HK

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 7/10 – Portions are on the smaller side, but sufficient for me.

Price: 9/10 – Cheap, particularly considering it’s a one Michelin star place.

Service: 4/10 – Suffice to say that they didn’t get their Michelin star for their service 😳

Ambience: 5/10 – Pretty basic. But to be honest, I barely noticed because the tiny place was just jam packed with people. I think the place is all about the food.

Location: 9/10 – About a 5minwalk from Central MTR (exit D2 is your best bet)

Yat Lok Restaurant

Conwell House G/F

34-38 Stanley St, Central, Hong Kong

+852 2524 3882

Long version

N was taken here by a work colleague, and he loved their roast goose so much that he wanted to have it again. So he decided to take me there this trip.

Now this is a one-star Michelin place, so it is always busy. We went at around 4:30pm on a Saturday, and we still had to wait in a queue, with 2-3 groups ahead of us. Maybe the place is busy all day on weekends πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ I couldn’t quite tell who was in the queue, and I think another group might’ve also pushed in, but who knows. It was a bit of a shambles while we were waiting outside the restaurant.

We were eventually seated after about five minutes. There is seriously no space in here, don’t even bother trying to navigate a pram or anything of that size through this place. You will barely get yourself through the narrow aisles! Also be prepared to share a table, as there is just no space, since this place is mega-popular. There were only two of us, and that took enough effort to seat us. So I don’t know how long it would take to seat a group comprising more than that!

Service is virtually non-existent, so be prepared for some curtness from the wait staff. This place didn’t get its Michelin Star for service, I can say that much! πŸ˜‚

They want you to order ASAP, it felt like they gave me about 30 seconds to look at their menu 😳 It is in both English and Chinese, so you’ll be ok on that front πŸ˜† And then just point when you order, I don’t think they speak much English at all. So it’s all about turnover here. They want you in and out as quickly as possible, no fluffing around – chop chop!

Being the non-foodie that I am, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the food here, and it didn’t wow me any more than any other roast pork place that I’ve had. But it must’ve received its one Michelin star for something (for their roast goose, perhaps), it just probably wasn’t for the roast pork that I had today 😊

So this isn’t my style of dining. It may appeal to others who care more about the food rather than the level of service they get (and obviously those giving out Michelin stars didn’t seem to mind it!), but I like some level of courtesy to be shown to customers. Having said that, though, no doubt I’ll be back here either with N or with other foodie friends, as I seem to have a lot of friends who like their food and would want to visit a cheap one Michelin star place like this one πŸ˜†

So what was your experience like at Yat Lok? Let me know in the comments below ⬇️⬇️

EXpresso (The Excelsior, HK)

Short version

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 9/10 – The egg tarts were REALLY niceΒ πŸ˜‹

Price: 8/10 – For a cafe in a hotel, this was actually priced quite reasonably. I ordered one of their breakfast sets for HKD$52 (just under S$8) for two egg tarts and a medium coffee, which is pretty good value.

Service: 5/10 – This is based on my own personal experience, not on the level of service that other people received, as they seemed to receive much better service than I did. Were they regulars? I don’t know. Ot that it should matter.

Ambience: 6/10 -Nice enough. Small cafe with not many seats inside, but it didn’t feel particularly special. Just a cafe in a hotel, not much more than that!

Location: 9/10 – Located in The Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, which is just a few minutes walk from Causeway Bay MTR (exit D3 is probably your best bet). It’s just next to the hotel lifts so it’s a bit hidden, and not a cafe that you would just happen to walk past. You’d have to be making a deliberate trip to go there – or you’re staying at the hotel, like I was.

Coffee: 2/10 – I am giving this a low score as this is primarily a coffee shop, and their coffee was terrible. Most cafes in Asia sit at 6-7 for me, but this was way sub-par. And for a place that specialises in coffee, I can’t give them any concessions.

EXpresso

281 Gloucester Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

+852 2837 6777

https://www.mandarinoriental.com/hong-kong/the-excelsior/fine-dining/cafes/expresso

Long version

I went and had breakfast at the coffee shop in the lobby of our hotel. For some reason, I started reading reviews of the place there, and a lot of people were complimenting them on their egg tarts. There were also a few comments on their good coffee, so I decided to check it out. I don’t normally like egg tarts at yum cha, but for some reason, I decided to have this one. Maybe coz it was my last day in HK and I was feeling adventurousΒ πŸ€·β€

I ordered their breakfast set, which the waiter pointed out to me when she noticed that I was reading the sign. One of their sets was for two egg tarts and a medium-sized coffee for HKD$52 (almost S$8) which is pretty good value, considering that a small cup of coffee in HK will already set you back around HKD$35-40 (S$6-S$7 😲). So I ordered that.

I was pleasantly surprised: the coffee turned out to be atrocious, but the egg tarts were really nice! I was expecting it to be the other way around. I drank the coffee anyway, simply coz I needed the caffeine. But it definitely wasn’t drunk for its lovely taste πŸ˜‚ Thoroughly disappointed, as they stock Illy, a brand of coffee beans that I like πŸ˜” They offered three sizes of coffee: small, medium and large. Medium was what was part of the breakfast set, so maybe brewing a small vs a medium/large is different? The coffee was just way too watery. It ended up being just flavoured water πŸ˜”

Service was a bit inconsistent too, I felt. The waiter who took my order was nice to certain customers, and rather curt to others, including me. So I’m not sure if she was just friendlier to the regulars, or people who she’s seen at least once, or some other criteria, but I did notice the difference. She wasn’t any more rude than wait staff at other places, but I did notice the inconsistency. Others got a smile, friendly banter at the counter when they were ordering, and/or a goodbye. I got none of those πŸ˜•

But kudos to her for being able to speak different languages! She obviously spoke Cantonese, her native dialect, but switched easily enough to English when I ordered. And then Chinese customers ordered soon after me, and she then just as easily switched to Mandarin. I suppose more and more people in the service industry needs Mandarin now, with so many tourists from China visiting. I am totally jealous of their multi-lingual abilities!

It’s relatively easy to get to this cafe. It’s in the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, which is just a few minutes from Causeway Bay MTR. It’s tucked away next to their lift lobby, so you wouldn’t just randomly walk past it as you’re going about your day. You’d have to be dead set on walking in that direction. It’s on the ground floor, so it’s quite accessible.

I’m not sure if you can charge to your room, as I just paid in cash, since it wasn’t that much anyway. They don’t take Octopus card, which I was surprised about, given that their transactions would be relatively small in amount, I would’ve thought. But credit card is accepted.

Overall, I would come back for their egg tarts – and that’s coming from someone who generally doesn’t like egg tarts! But I would pass on their coffee. Maybe if I stay at or near this hotel again, I may give them a second chance and update this review, if needed. Let’s see 😊

18 Grams (Causeway Bay, HK)

Short Version

A cozy cafe offering a nice Western breakfast in Causeway Bay.

Food from a non-foodie perspective: 8/10 – surprising good, for a western breakfast in Asia πŸ˜‚

Price: 8/10 – Pretty average prices for breakfast/brunch

Service: 9/10 – It’s a tiny cafe, so if they weren’t attentive to the customers, that would be shocking service. It did take a while for my food and drink to come out, but I was pretty damn hungry and had very little patience to start off with πŸ˜‚

Ambience: 9/10 – Their chalkboard menu outside reminded me of any small cafe in Melbourne 😊 And the more rustic interior was pretty cool too. They had retro music playing as well, sounded like it was from the 60s. It just had a really chilled vibe.

Location: 9/10 – Not too far from the MTR. Exit D1 at Causeway Bay MTR is probably your best bet.

Coffee: 7/10 – A little bit watery for my liking, but I did like the milder coffee taste. Coffee in SG tends to be more on the bitter side, so it’s nice to get a milder coffee once in a while.

18 Grams

Unit C, 15 Cannon St, Causeway Bay

+852 2893 8988

Long Version

I’m generally pretty willing to try different cuisines, but breakfast is one meal that I struggle to deviate from western cuisine. So no matter where I am in the world, I always tend to gravitate towards a more western breakfast. And in Asia, this tends to mean paying through the roof for semi-decent fare. At least relative to more local breakfast options available. So it does get a little bit pricey if you’re eating breakfast out all the time, which tends to be what happens when we’re overseas.

So of course I went looking for a place to try on my first full day in HK. I stumbled across this place, and it appealed to me primarily because it serves all day breakfast. A lot of places finish serving breakfast sometime mid-morning, so my eyes always light up when I see a place that extends this to at least sometime mid-afternoon, effectively offering brunch; or even better: offering all day breakfast!

It was easy enough to find, as at least it’s on street level. A lot of restaurants in HK are located in high-rise buildings, so sometimes you have to go on a bit of an adventure to find what you’re after.

They had a chalkboard out the front, with a list of their all-day breakfast menu. It had “Aussie breakfast” at the very top, so of course that made me like the place even more 😊

But that’s not what I ordered πŸ˜‚ I had the peanut butter and banana bagel. I love this combo, and I never eat bagels, so I thought I’d give it a go. It wasn’t quite New York bagel standard, but it was good enough for me πŸ‘ It was very filling, and so this ended up being brunch for me 😊

My brunchΒ πŸ˜‹

I lived in Melbourne for a few years, and that has set a coffee benchmark for me, so as a result, I have found is now set quite high. So it’s hard to find coffee outside of Melbourne that reaches that benchmark. So the one today was ok 😊 I think coffee snobs probably won’t approve, but it was ok enough for me. I think it was a little too watery, just wasn’t creamy enough. But I liked the taste of the coffee.

They also had a jug of water on the table already, so you top up to your heart’s content. I really like this, as it saves the wait staff from having to attend to each and every table’s water requests. And it saves customers from having to wait to find an available waiter for top ups as well. Especially in a climate that can be hot and humid like in HK, this is even more important.

They only take cash or Octopus card, so luckily I had both. But I just topped up my Octopus card, so I decided to run that balance down. It’s the Oyster/Opal/EZ Link card equivalent in Hong Kong. It’s pretty cool that the Octopus card is so prolific in this city, you can pay for so many things with your Octopus card. It’s not just a public transport card.

It’s a tiny cafe, with two tables for 2 and one larger table for 4 inside, and a bar-style table outside for 2. So during peak times, I guess this place can get ridiculously busy and virtually impossible to get a table. But I went mid-morning during the week, so I had no issues 😊

The large table inside
The identical table next to mine

They have a few other branches too, so it’s cool to see that they’re expanding. I like seeing small businesses expand and grow 😊

Overall, it was a nice casual breakfast in HK πŸ‘ I would definitely go again 😊