Old and new meet in Wanchai

Updated: 2013-08-05 14:17

By Rebecca Lo in Hong kong (China Daily)

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 Old and new meet in Wanchai

Cafe Post offers diners an open, bright and airy space to enjoy their meals. Rebecca Lo / For China Daily

In a city that struggles with the battle between progress and preservation, with progress often emerging victorious, it is refreshing to encounter Cafe Post. The all-day dining restaurant for Hotel Indigo, it has a direct view of the colonial Wanchai post office built in 1912. That, coupled with being near the historic Blue House off Queen's Road East, gives the site a flavor that is reflected in the restaurant's interior design and menu.

I arrived at the 52-seat restaurant and was immediately struck by how open, bright and airy it is. The entry is simply a change in flooring from the elevator lobby to the restaurant. Sunlight streams through the glass doors leading out to a 16-seat terrace overlooking the post office and leafy trees.

Cafe Post is more like a comfortable family kitchen than a restaurant. Local firm Aedas was responsible for the building's architecture and the restaurant's interior design. A bar where guests can help themselves to the breakfast buffet becomes a communal dining table at lunch and dinner time, lit by a medley of pendant lamps. An island counter lets chefs prepare hot dishes in front of guests while the rear wall with its colorful mosaic tiles and exposed brick wall was inspired by the neighborhood's architecture.

I could immediately smell the White Rabbit coffee courtesy of local brewer Rabbit Hole Coffee and Roaster. The slightly acidic flavor of its coffee is its signature attraction, and I was glad that there are now more places to enjoy it.

I loved that attention was paid to the little things. Even the menu was well designed, covered with fabric reminiscent of mail bags and with its logo overlapping an impression of a postage stamp. Inside, sidebar notes highlight specialty dishes for visitors who may not be as familiar with Hong Kong's delicacies.

A quick glance at the wine list showed that its half a dozen whites, four sparklings and nine reds featured mostly Australian with some French and Italian vintages. For those needing a sugar rush, there is also a selection of fresh juices.

Cafe Post offers a wide selection of international dishes, though I was informed that its Chinese ones are better than its Western ones. Scanning the menu, I saw that there were set lunch options ranging from HK$180 ($23) to HK$200 ($25) that included a soup, main and dessert. However, we felt a little international that day and ordered both Eastern and Western a la carte standards to see if the rumors were correct.

Old and new meet in Wanchai

First to arrive was a dim sum bamboo basket where we could select four of eight choices. We went for steamed fresh prawn dumplings, shaomai, deep fried spring rolls and xiaolongbao (a type of steamed bun). None disappointed. As the xiaolong bao wasn't scalding, I was able to gulp it down in one bite. Its thin pastry was delicious, though it could have used a little more soup to be perfect.

Bruschetta with tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella was flavorful but the bread was chewy instead of crisp. More successful were mini Wagyu beef burgers with tallegio cheese, caramelized onion and chips, though again the meat could have been juicier.

My favorite dish was the braise garoupa fillet with bean curd, shallot and ginger in an old-school clay pot. It, along with other Hong Kong favorites like wonton noodles in soup and sweet and sour pork with pineapple, were some of Cafe Post's best simple dishes well prepared. Big chunks of moist fish were accompanied by soft bean curd and tender mushrooms, while the salt from roast pork in the dish was a nice touch.

I finished with a cup of White Rabbit coffee and silently congratulated Cafe Post on the artful merging of old and new Wanchai.


(China Daily USA 08/05/2013 page10)