Hong Kong hidden places #1: Mum’s not home

27 03 2017

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Mum’s Not Home is one of my new favorite Hong Kong hangouts. We first noticed it as a neon light shining in the window of an old Yau ma Tei tenement building, and then climbed up the chipped stairs to find a painted door.


Ringing the bell, we were ushered into a room filled with ferns, racks of colourful clothes on sale, artworks, a papier mache monkey’s head and an oversized menu of sweet drinks and cakes. Avant garde French electro was playing and a saffron-haired HK hipster was taking pictures with his boyfriend against the lush greenery, while a middle-aged woman scooped up rubber dinosaurs on sale.

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I immediately fell in love.

Banh xeo street

7 02 2017

Eating cheaply and well is one of the highlights of any Vietnam trip and we feasted on roadside noodles served with pungent vegemite-y fish paste and sweet pink onions. These were delicious, but would leave me knocked out a few hours later with a blazing MSG hangover. We also saw oysters frying on the street, frog, and ate local specialities like the cao lao noodles in Hoi An, thick and springy with crunchy pork crackling in a fragrant broth, or bamboo soup.

In Danang our biggest discovery was the “Banh xeo” street,  an alleyway really, home to rowdy, napkin-strewn restaurants serving the Vietnamese crepes stuffed with beans and shrimps, accompanied by satay sticks of beef.

Afterwards we would walk up to Highlands Coffee, one of the city’s innumerable high-decibel “ca phes” serving evening crowds sugar-loaded coffee drinks and weirdly, absolutely no food.

For dessert, the place to go was AVA, a tiny patisserie in a mouldy little room that served the absolute best chocolate cakes I have ever tasted.

Cafe society

27 12 2016


Camel milk latte at Jethro’s Canteen and kimchi poached eggs at Archie’s.


Melbourne hipster

25 12 2016


While back in town, I wanted to see what was new on Melbourne’s hipster strip of Fitzroy. I started with “Easey’s”, a  frankly remarkable bar and burger joint housed in a series of old train carraiges, perched up four flights of grafittied stairs on an innercity sidestreet. Not only is the concept amazing, but the banging nineties hip hop, views, tasy burgers and cute straight bro waiters gave it a fun-time vibe.

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Around the corner on Smith Street is “Hotel Jesus”,  perhaps the kitschiest of the city’s burgeoning crop of Mexican restaurants, designed by the same team as Bali’s (even more riotous) “Motel Mexicola“.

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And finally, way down the end of Johnston Street near the river, is “Admiral Cheng-Ho.” The cafe is named after the Chinese explorer ( more often known as Zheng-he) who led a fleet to Africa in the thirteenth century and could hypothetically have taken coffee back to China. Since the closure of “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, a hipster congee and tripe cafe, this is the only Chinese-themed hipster cafe in Melbourne but to be honest, other than the teas on the menu it was mostly standard (and therefore, excellent) Melbourne cafe fare.


Sunny Wong Chuk Hang weekend

21 11 2016

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With a friend in town from Guangzhou, I spent a sunny Sunday morning trawling through the galleries, cafes and rooftop gardens tucked away in the old industrial buildings of my own neighbourhood, Wong Chuk Hang.

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First we had pumpkin salad and pancakes at Three Thirds, the cozy cafe hidden in the Yally Industrial Building, before taking in some surprise Lee Ufan artworks and a beautiful hillside view at Bridgestone Gallery, Slovenian photographer Matjaž Tančič hosting the opening of his exhibition of 3-D pictures of North Korea at Pekin Gallery and an avant-garde performance at Spring Workshop. I really should do this more often.

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Lush life

20 10 2016


The cafe murals and illustrations of Melbourne’s Robert Bowers.

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Weekend report

5 09 2016


So what did  get up to this week? Dinner at the new vegetarian hangout Ovo Cafe in Central, tucked away in a mini-mall with an organic food supermarket and the new incarnation of Maya, another highly-regarded Hong Kong vegetarian eatery.

Saturday brunch: scrambled tofu in caramel with pine nuts, and an overpriced but delicious baguette at Le Pain Quotidien.

At home, reading about philosophy, the Shanghai White Terror and Karl Ove Knausgaarden’s “My Struggle” (not yet finished, and lots to process before I write more on that.)

Dinner with a new Brazilian friend and a good Shatin buddy – steamed fish in blackbean sauce and monkeyhead mushrooms – and then fun, fanciful drinks at Quinary: frothy earl grey martinis and yuan yeung with whiskey-flavoured condensed milk.

A Sunday swim in a murky pool on a warm, late Summer day: the sky cloudy and grey, with a warm breeze blowing. More reading.


Then on Sunday, as we drove in to Yau Ma Tei to see a movie, news of a fire at the city’s fruit market, just a block away from our destination. I had been at the market just the week before: shopping for dragon fruits and longan amid the dangling, flashing lights and the sooty old buildings, dating back to 1913, one with a tree sprouting maturely out of its roof gables.

Although the dust has yet to settle, I’ll be sad if this unique old part of Hong Kong is lost.

Trapped in a traffic diversion, we arrived at the cinema late and did a disorienting dash down the street of fortunes tellers, to the flashing strobe lights and drunken warblings of the pavement karaoke bars.

The movie itself was disappointing: “If Cats disappeared from the world.” The premise was great – a man dying of a brain tumour is approached by the devil who offers to extend his life, on the condition that for every day gained, something precious will disappear from the world…

Sadly though, it was really poorly executed: full of cheesy piano music and clumsy allusions to much better films, like an unnecessary trip to Argentina halfway through, quoting liberally from “Happy Together.”

Disappointed, we went to Temple Street to eat a late supper of Malay Cake and shrimp dumplings at Kung Fu Dim Sum, before back to bed for Monday morning.