Header image courtesy of @amazing.day.in.the.life (via Instagram)
With the pace at which things change here in Hong Kong, it’s no wonder that we’re so fond of nostalgic things; hard-to-find childhood snacks, 1990s television shows, dying restaurant franchises. Hongkongers have an unquenchable appetite for the relics of days gone by, and because we love a themed café, there are plenty of eateries around town that have tapped into that collective sense of nostalgia. From decades-old apothecaries converted into hip coffee shops to cheeky brothel-themed hotpot joints, here are some of the coolest retro restaurants and cafés (and one bar!) you can find in Hong Kong.
Located on the famous Wyndham Street strip in Central, this hotpot restaurant puts the “broth” in “brothel” with its retro red light district vibes. Inspired by the famous Qing dynasty novel Dream of the Red Chamber, Yi Hung Yuen’s look is heavily influenced by ancient Chinese architecture, while the bordello theme is carried through in the cheekily named dishes (i.e. “courtesan” soups and “young fresh” meats) and raunchy illustrated cocktail menu.
Get hot and heavy with the mala soup base ($128) or the typhoon shelter crab hotpot ($488), and keep the good times going with one of Yi Hung Yuen’s signature tipples; we like the Red Light Green Wine ($128), made from sour plum-infused shochu, green tea liqueur, berries, Korean yuzu honey syrup, and cold-brewed green tea.
Yi Hung Yuen (怡紅院), Shop B & C, 13–55 Wyndham Street, Central | (+852) 3101 9968
Tucked away on a backstreet behind the historic Blue House, Tai Lung Fung is a warm and welcoming sight with its pink neon signage and red metal shutters. This neighbourhood bar in Wan Chai is named after a famed Cantonese opera troupe from the 1960s, whose name is now synonymous with kitsch, so it only makes sense that its retro interiors are a loving tribute to mid-century Hong Kong.
Unlike some other popular drinking establishments, Tai Lung Fung doesn’t try to rush you out the door, so you can take your time to pore over all the cool vintage toys and gloriously gaudy bric-a-brac in between drinks and fun tabletop games (Uno, Jenga, and playing cards can all be easily found in the main bar area).
Tai Lung Fung (大龍鳳), 5 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 2572 0055
Push past the noren (暖簾; fabric dividers) on this gorgeous sage green shopfront in To Kwa Wan and you will discover a haven for vintage lovers; not only is the space chock-a-block with kitschy knickknacks, but it also retains vestiges of Pak Kung, the bing sutt (冰室; traditional Hong Kong “ice room”) that formerly occupied the space. In the time since Pak Kung went out of business, 91 Ma Tau Kok Road has changed concepts a few times—from Fullcup Motorcycle Café to Ex Bistro, a shisha bar and café, and now Fullcup Planet—but throughout it all, the retro tiled floor, original signage, and geometric window grates have remained.
Inspired by the owner’s time spent in Okinawa, Planet is markedly more Japanese-influenced than Fullcup’s previous iterations, with a full menu of Okinawan beef dishes, as well as a selection of beverages flavoured with Okinawan ingredients. Try the salty-sweet coffee beverage called Jupiter ($69), or the Okinawan sea salt cocoa ($63) for a taste of the region’s famous export, or the Shikuwasa honey soda ($69) made with Okinawan green lemons if you like tart flavours.
Fullcup Planet, 91 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan
Housed in a hundred-year-old pre-war tenement building, Tai Wo Tang has had a long and storied history. First established as a medicinal ginseng store in the 1930s, the site served as a family-run TCM clinic for much of its life before closing down in 2017. In an effort to conserve a living piece of Kowloon City history, the café’s owners took care to preserve many of the decorations from the original Tai Wo Tang, including its golden signage, antique wooden benches and metal shutters, and the nearly hundred-year-old apothecary cabinet.
Much of the menu is dedicated to fusion pasta and risotto dishes, but tastes of Hong Kong peek through in the mini Tai Wo Tang pineapple bun ($78), with butter, foie gras, and rhubarb, as well as the fried chicken & egg waffle ($98) with lemon or ginger sauce, and the red date hawthorn cheesecake ($68).
Tai Wo Tang (大和堂), 24 Nga Tsin Long Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2623 2006
This Yuen Long tea house is a curious beast; its interiors are not just informed by vintage Hong Kong, but act almost like an interactive museum exhibition of an old housing estate! On the ground floor, you’ll find the main dining area encircled by fake retro shopfronts—including a bing sutt, a homeware store, and a grocery stall—while the mezzanine is designed to look like real-life apartment hallways, with hanging laundry and apartment numbers spray-painted on the walls. Beyond any gimmickry, the food here is solid, with the quail egg siu mai ($28) and prawn & bean curd skin rolls ($26) being favourites with regulars.
Old Fung Tea House (老馮茶居), 66 Tai Tong Road, Yuen Long | (+852) 2659 8826
While the majority of the entries featured in this article are new or refurbished spaces that incorporate old designs, Lung Wah Hotel’s history really does span over almost 80 years. Though the restaurant is all that remains from the compound’s heyday, the eatery is just one small part of a sprawling estate that used to house a hotel, restaurant, garden, and zoo.
With its stone-walled doorway, imperial-style architecture, and red-lantern-lined tunnel entrance, Lung Wah feels like the set of a period production—which makes sense, since it was regularly used as a filming location, including for Bruce Lee himself. Once a high-class and exclusive space frequented by the rich and famous, Lung Wah isn’t quite the retreat it used to be, but word has it that the roast pigeon ($98) is still to die for—and the site is now home to a music school!
Lung Wah Hotel (龍華酒店), 22 Wo Che Ha, Sha Tin | (+852) 2691 1594
Similar to Old Fung Tea House, this 9,000-square-foot hotpot restaurant in Causeway Bay creates a sense of escapism and immersive nostalgia by staging tableaux of old school businesses; take a peek at the herbal tea stand, fruit stall, Shanghainese salon, and more before settling in for a meal on the vinyl-covered seats.
If you can’t pick between their soups like the Huadiao wine and medicinal herb broth and signature mala soup base, just order a combo of the two in a split pot. Don’t forget to pair your Huadiao soup with the drunken fatty beef ($108), which has been marinated in the same liquor, and make sure to try the famous pork meatballs with preserved vegetables ($68)!
Lau Haa Hot Pot Restaurant (樓下火鍋飯店), Shop A, B/F & G/F, Block A, Lockhart House, 441 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay | (+852) 2214 9388