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Remembering Hong Kong’s Old Style Cafés

Mido Café, one of the city’s most iconic cha chaan teng's that served Hong Kongers for over 70 years, recently announced that it would be closing its doors for now. Known for its classic Hong Kong dishes, such as baked pork ribs with rice, fried wontons and its lotus seed ice drink, the café was a staple for many who craved the nostalgic taste of childhood. With its famous neon sign, ceiling fans, and tiled floors, the café has kept the charm of 1950s Hong Kong alive. It was also the setting for many classic Hong Kong TV dramas and movies, including Revolving Doors of Vengeance, Street Fighters, and Goodbye Mr. Cool.


Whilst the café had been shut during Hong Kong’s fifth pandemic wave, it recently opened back up in May - so the announcement of its closure has taken many by surprise.  Over the weekend, an announcement on the café's front door said, “It’s already been 72 years, so it’s time to relax and catch our breath. Remember, after today, there will always be tomorrow and decades to come. That’s it for now, see you next time. If fate favours us, we’ll definitely meet again…”


Due to numerous issues, exacerbated by the pandemic, many Hong Kong old style eateries have had to close shop. In light of this nostalgic café closing its doors, it’s a good time to remember some other iconic cafés and restaurants that have served the city for decades.

 

China Café (Closed)

First opened in 1964, the China Café on Canton Road in Mong Kok was one of Hong Kong’s most famous cafés, also known as a “Bing Sutt” (meaning “ice room” in Cantonese). With its ceiling fans, mosaic tiled floors, and booth seating it embodied old Hong Kong, remaining unchanged for all the years it was open. Walking through the unassuming entrance was almost like being transported back in time, and brought back waves of nostalgia for many patrons.

Its classic 60s-style interior also served as a backdrop for numerous legendary Hong Kong movies such as C’est La Vie, Mon Chéri (1993), PTU (2003), Tales from the Dark 1 (2013) and Fulltime Killer (2001). The late Anthony Bourdain even dined there in an episode of his Parts Unknown series, trying local favourites such as Hong Kong-style French toast and fried pork cutlet rice with tomato sauce. 

Unfortunately, China Café closed its doors at the end of 2019, leaving behind a great legacy that will be treasured by Hong Kongers for years to come.  

China Cafe
Image courtesy of Kevin Lau, via flickr

 

Jumbo Floating Restaurant (Closed)

It was unmissable - the 249 foot long, 3 story tall floating Chinese imperial style seafood restaurant was an iconic site in Hong Kong. Moored in Aberdeen Harbour, Jumbo Floating Restaurant was known around the world and was a staple tourist attraction. In the 44 years that it was operating, it hosted over thirty million visitors including the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, President Jimmy Carter, Gong Li and Tom Cruise. 

The enormous vessel was made up of three separate ships amounting to a 45,000sq ft space. It featured a banquet hall, space for 2300 diners, a six story pagoda and even a dragon throne. The restaurant also earned the title of the world’s largest floating restaurant.

However, it encountered its fair share of problems, having been closed since March 2020.  All plans to reopen the restaurant fell through. As its operating licence expired in June, and the operating costs of the restaurant were too high, it was decided that it would leave Hong Kong. It was towed out of Hong Kong on 14 June 2022. On its way to its new home in Cambodia, it encountered bad weather near the Paracel Islands, and reportedly capsized. 

Jumbo
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Hoi On Café (Closed)

Established in 1952, Hoi On was one of Hong Kong’s oldest bing sutts. The name “Hoi On” translates directly to “sea safe” in Cantonese, a tribute to its previous patrons, most of whom were sailors. 

The white facade, complete with red Chinese characters running up and down its door frame made this little hole in the wall hard to miss. With its fading red booths, ceiling fans, and tiled floors, the old Sheung Wan café was a time capsule, giving you a glimpse into old Hong Kong. Their signature dishes included fried noodles, char siu, Hong Kong style French toast and of course shaved ice with red bean.

In November 2021, the café shut its doors for good, with the owners saying they would like to take a break. 

 Hoi On Cafe
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

***

Though many of these cafés have shut, it’s not all bleak news. There are still many cafés keeping the nostalgia of old Hong Kong alive! Here’s a short list of café recommendations to satisfy your bing sutt and cha chaan teng cravings. 

 

Australia Dairy Company

Founded in 1970, this iconic restaurant has become famous for its rude servers (the average customer visit duration is a short 10 minutes!), but deliciously fluffy scrambled eggs and their signature milk pudding make up for this - anyway it’s all part of the experience! 

Address: 47 Parkes Street, Jordan

Open: Friday - Wednesday (7:30am - 10:00pm), Thursday (closed)

 

Kam Wah Café

As one of Hong Kong’s original bing sutts, Kam Wah Café has been serving customers since 1972. Famed for their freshly made pineapple buns accompanied by a generous slab of melted butter, locals and tourists alike flock to this establishment for their daily sweet fix, all washed down with a cup of Hong Kong’s famous milk tea.

Address: 45-47 Bute Street, Mongkok

Open: 7 days a week (6:30am - 9:00pm)

 

Mrs Tang Café

The original café is located in Yuen Long, on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail. Mrs Tang’s Café’s speciality is their tomato and fried egg pineapple bun - the salty and sweet flavours merge perfectly, creating a unique take on a Hong Kong classic. The good news is that the owners decided to open two franchises closer to the city - one in Wan Chai and another in Kwun Tong, so there’s no need to go all the way out to Yuen Long for their delicious food. However, if you have time, it is definitely worth taking an afternoon to go try the original café. 

Address: 

- G/F, 121 Ha Mei San Tsuen, Tin Shui Wai, New Territories (Yuen Long Café)

- 272 Jaffe Rd, Wan Chai (Wan Chai Café)

- Royal Plaza, One Kowloon, King Yip Street No.55, Kwun Tong (Kwun Tong Café)

Open:  Monday - Saturday (8:00am - 5:00pm)

Posted by Capture Marketing on

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