Being lucky enough to have been in Hong Kong for NY celebrations 2012/2013, as well as for the even more spectacular Chinese New Year, we decided this year to forgo the crowds and fireworks and look for an alternative way to spend our party time.
Not being able to drink (well, one of us) also threw a particular curveball our way so the focus was just going to have to darn well be on food and sober fun. Not so bad really.
Leaving it to the day before New Year to organise in a city like Hong Kong is a particularly bad idea. Thus, we left it to the day before. However, being somewhat blessed by our own stupidity, we still managed to score a table at one of the hottest New Year dinners in town. Of course.
22 Ships has been open in Hong Kong since October 2012 but thanks to its strict ‘no reservation’ policy, its recent acclaim as one of CNN’s “6 places worth waiting for”, its inclusion in the 2014 Michelin guide (having received a Bib Gourmand), not to mention the fact that it’s helmed by Jason Atherton, have combined with the fact that we finish work way too late each night to line up and, accordingly, had still not made it there. Stink.
Thankfully, the food gods looked down on us, smiled at our willingness to travel, gorge and be grateful, and not only let 22 Ships take bookings for one night only, but allowed us to receive the last table in the place at a day’s notice. CHUR!
Cool enough, right? But turns out the dinner included a ticket to an afterparty and NY countdown at their new venue across the road, Ham & Sherry, a baby at just two weeks old.
A fashionable 9.30pm booking had us initially taking our seats at the bar to wait for some over-stayers to clear off. We so didn’t mind as the amazing barkeep plied us with a gorgeous welcome of warming beverages and superb service. The drinkers amongst us sampled both the red sangria and the cava while H-J licked the foam from the top of each.
It was such seriously good foam, that her plaintive expression lead the aforementioned awesome barkeep to ply her pregnant form with little shooters just of the foam. Awwwwww.
Could this place get any better? Yes. Yes it could. A sudden distinctive accent soon rang in our ears…turns out the manager, Josef, is a Kiwi! Not only did this mean we had found a kindred vowel-squasher to happily chirp away in Kiwi-speak with, he also had a mint selection of Kiwi tunes pumping through the restaurant.
Cocktails + New Zealanders-in-Hong-Kong + New Year + David Dallas = Best New Restaurant ever. Word.
A few shots of Cafe Patron may or may not have been imbibed at this point, warming the bellies nicely for our transfer away from the kind arms of barkeep to our window-side table for the special NY 4-course dinner.
Course number 1, roasted cauliflower with chestnuts and raisins, was so delicious that we scoffed it down before remembering we should have taken a photo of it. Harking back to our cameraless stint in Korea, we have rendered a picture of said dish using the power of our memories and our coloured pencils.
The next plate to arrive had such an effect on us, our legs were shaking like a dog being scratched in its ‘spot’. Little splots of a tangy lemon dressing complimented the supremely tender but meaty beetroot-cured salmon. This was fish at its best and we gleefully split and DEVOURED the plate of our fourth member who doesn’t eat salmon. He’s welcome to come and not eat salmon anytime he wants.
Next up was the braised pork with cipollini onions and apple, another deceptively simple description far under-expressing just how damn tasty the dish was. Slightly crispy, slightly chewy skin covered the most soft, fork-cut-able (yes, that’s a word) pork imaginable, with the tiny little onions and the apple providing a perfect balance of sour, sharp and sweet.
The dessert course was a coconut sorbet with compressed watermelon and honeycomb. To us New Zealanders the honeycomb was the most awesome component, reminding us of the delights of Hokey Pokey Ice-Cream. The other bits were pretty great too, especially the little blobs of marshmallowy-roasty coconuty stuff that decorated the plate.
All in all a pretty great celebratory dinner, if you ask us!
With that, it was off across the road to Ham & Sherry for the after-party and more drinks. However, following Josef’s lead, we bypassed the front door, turned into an alleyway and proceeded to be taken into a hidden bar down the back. A bar so secret it has no name but what we can tell you is that it has DELICIOUS drinks, with even the non-alcoholic varieties being as good on a sober New Years Eve. Again, great music, great atmosphere and a generally great vibe reminding us of some of our favourite haunts from back in ol’ Wellywood.
We did see the New Year in, kind of, although the countdown at the bar commenced at 11.57pm according to our closely watched digital devices rendering us completely unsure of what the hell was actually going on until the countdown was already at 3…2…1 HAPPY NEW YEAR. Oh well, that’s not what its really about anyway, is it?!
But wait…New Year Day goes beyond just the few moments after midnight, so in order to make the first one of 2014 super memorable, we decided to keep up the momentum with another random and as yet unvisited HK destination. 8.30am saw half of our intrepid team up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, while the other half starting mumbling something about this being like “the DMZ all over again”.
Regardless of the foggy headed one’s lack of desire to move from the bed, we managed to make it to the ‘Ark Express’ (yes, things just got weird), a bus that was to whisk us away to Ma Wan Island, otherwise known as home of Noah’s Ark Theme Park.
It’s place as strange as it sounds, housing a “full scale ark replica” – um, hold on, could this thing REALLY house two of every single animal on the planet? Somehow we imagined that would require something much, much bigger. But what do we know? Dan was particularly disillusioned at this point, discovering that the pairs of animals that we were to encounter were not in fact real animals, but also replicas, causing him to nearly pack his toys and storm home.
Luckily, there was something to distract him and before you all start thinking we’d received some kind of bump to the head making us venture to such an odd destination on January 1st, it should be explained somewhat. You see, a friend of ours has rather a fixation on jelly beans and Time Out Magazine had advertised the following:
With her family visiting from far-flung shores, we were powerless to resist the idea of spending the day in a random place playing with jelly beans! What better way to start the new year than with being sat doing uwith your mates to take part in some ultra-wholesome craft?. Awwww….
Though Dan grumbled, he got quite into designing his own jelly bean ‘jar’…
in fact so into it, that after a while we were asked when we were likely to move on. We hardly think Jelly Belly would be stoked with the less than rainbow attitude shown by the hosts that day (who didn’t work for the company, we actually thought to ask because we were surprised by how disinterested, rude and unhelpful they were) but after replying “as long as it takes” we continued on our mission, creating our little gems and then filling them with jelly beans. Success!
However, there is a really pretty beach, lined with restaurants which may or may not be any good but the lookout is nice and it just happens to have one of the best views of the famous Tsing Ma Bridge
After heading back to the oh-so-friendly jelly bean skanks to pick up our treasures we decided we couldn’t face anymore Ark-tastic times, so high-tailed it back to the bus and to relative civilisation. Noah can keep it. If he can even fit his animals on this thing, which we highly doubt.
And after all, how many of you can say you spent your first day of the year at an Ark?
Happy New Year and Welcome to 2014! May the crazy adventures, random destinations and bizarre activities continue…