Hong Kong: Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts!
June 14, 2019|In Asia, Asia Guide, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island|By paraphernalia.coShare This
Table of Contents hide Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts! Background What to expect #eat The Chinese Library Aaharn Madame Fù Grand Café Chinois #drink Dragonfly The Dispensary Behind Bars #explore Heritage Arts #shop Loom Loop Lotusse No Brand No Name #stay booking.com Finally… Getting there & getting around When to go Pin it for later.
Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts!
Galleries, antique stores, restaurants and bars, are excellent reasons to head to Hollywood Road. Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts, opened in May 2018, joins these as another lure.
Hong Kong Jockey Club took on this mammoth conservation and revitalisation project, one of the most significant in Hong Kong. The cost? Around 3.7 billion HKD (USD 474 Million).
The project has been years in the making. Concept design work began in 2006. In 2007, a joint announcement by the Hong Kong Government and the Jockey Club declared their plan for the funding of the not-for-profit revitalisation.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the master plan for Tai Kwun was approved by the Town Planning Board and 2011 before restoration and construction began.
This area of almost 28,000 square metres houses 16 historic buildings built between 1860 and 1925. Ten of these have been restored while the others are works in progress.
An incredible variety of #eat #drink #explore & #shop possibilities fill the completed buildings so let’s take a look around.
Tai Kwun means “big station” in Chinese, a colloquial reference to the law enforcement offices of the Central Police Station, Magistrates Courts and Victoria Prison.
Through turbulent years in the 18 and 1900s, Hong Kong’s population ballooned with the arrival of Chinese immigrants. The Opium Wars triggered Hong Kong Island’s establishment as a British Colony with Kowloon to follow.
The original Police Station and Prison required expansion between 1905 and 1925 to combat criminal activity as the population increased.
What to expect
The building on Hollywood Road was the Headquarters Block, built in 1919. The late-Victorian style building is notable for its red brick walls, granite features and the imposing columns in its entrance hall.
Inside Tai Kwun and behind the Headquarters Block is the Parade Ground bordered by the Armoury and Barrack Block.
The barrack block at the main entrance to the old Central Police Station was built in 1860. It impresses with granite staircases and wrought-iron balconies.
JC Contemporary is the compound’s new addition and houses exhibitions of the modern era.
The Greek-revival style Central Magistracy, built in 1914, served the entire colony from its two courts. The structure’s façade represents the law’s intimidating power.
Corridors and tunnels inside the magistracy lead to the police station, prison or out to the open air. The direction the accused was escorted depended on the verdict.
Today, Tai Kwun’s revitalisation offers guided tours exploring the compound’s history, modern and historical exhibitions, a variety of dining options, bars, shopping and workshops.
Below you’ll find a few paraphernalia.co tried and tested venues to get you started.
The Chinese Library
Named one of 2019’s Top 100 Tables in Hong Kong, The Chinese Library exudes elegant sophistication.
Original fittings are evident in the 170-year-old Police Headquarters’ eastern wing. The stylish design extends from inside, out to the balcony.
Regional favourites from Zhejiang, Shanghai, Sichuan, Beijing, and Guangdong fill the menu, while chic bar staff shake and stir signature cocktails.
Stopping for a drink only, we observed from afar the artistic presentation of scrumptious dishes.
The Chinese Library is on the list for a future Hong Kong visit, but these were standouts on the menu:
BBQ Pork Loin glazed with New Zealand Manuka Honey
“Dragon Well” – tea-smoked crystal river shrimp
“Lotus Pond” – wok fried lily bulbs and lotus seeds
Braised E-fu noodles with wild mushrooms & black truffles.
That’s just to start. 😉
Should you experience The Chinese Library before we do, please share your dining adventure with us.
The Chinese Library. 1st Floor. Block 1. Police Headquarters Block.
By stepping away from Nahm in Bangkok, David Thompson has more time for Long Chim and his new openings. Aaharn opened in October 2018 on the first floor of Tai Kwun’s Armoury.
Aaharn is everything you’d expect from this Thai cuisine lifer. The menu is simple, coming straight to the point with an offer of three canapés before a wonderful selection of mains.
Flavours are authenticly Thai without compromise. Ingredients arrive from Thailand daily until produce can be sourced from local vendors to meet distinct Thai qualities. The menu changes based on availability.
On our visit, Ma Hor (fresh pineapple triangles topped with sweet & spicy chilli jam) prepared our palate for what was to follow. An incredible feast of fresh, moreish Thai flavours.
Betel leaves with ginger, peanuts, toasted coconut & lime.
Egg Nets with chicken, shallots & kaffir lime.
Crispy noodles with crab, beansprouts & pickled garlic.
Dry red curry of river prawns, kaffir lime leaves & coriander.
Although the menu is quite condensed, it’s still difficult to settle on your dishes – they all sound so delectable.
By selecting the set menu, the decisions are made for you so you can sit back and enjoy Aaharn’s full range of flavours.
The set menu begins with Ma Hor followed by three canapés, five mains, dessert, and a fruit platter. Currently, at HKD 748, an additional HKD 350 includes wine pairing (3 glasses).
Considering the excellent wine list and in-depth knowledge of Kiki Sontiyart, restaurant manager and sommelier, we suggest leaving the wine pairing and following a wine road less travelled.
Kiki Sontiyart has wine in her blood. Her mother’s career importing wine to Thailand no doubt played a part in Kiki’s career path.
When thinking wine, Thailand wouldn’t jump to mind, however, for the past thirty years, Thais have been cultivating vines. Thai wines are beginning to receive global recognition and what would be better to drink with Thai food than Thai wine?
After a discussion with Kiki, who described the Verdelho we selected as “funky”, we couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome.
Yes, on the nose it was “funky” almost sour yoghurty, but on the palate, fresh, dry with a little fruit and kaffir lime. Perfect!
The elegant setting, commitment to authentic Thai flavours, welcoming staff, and Tai Kwun’s famous mango tree in the parade ground make a visit to Aaharn feel like a visit to Thailand.
Aaharn. 1st Floor. Block 2. Armoury.
Madame Fù Grand Café Chinois
We love Madame Fù. After blowing off an arranged marriage at sixteen, she scooted to Shanghai. There, her beauty and demeanour attracted the attention of a wealthy admirer who whisked her to Paris and sponsored her education.
Having experienced the grand salons of Paris, she returned to Shanghai in the 1930s and created her own unique salon, entertaining artists, authors, and poets.
Madame Fù Grand Café Chinois is a tribute to the style and elegance of 1930s Shanghai.
Encompassing the entire third floor of the Barrack Block, Madame Fù’s restaurant, bar, and private dining rooms are meticulously designed against the backdrop of the 1860s building.
Opulent furniture complements dark teak and large leafy plants sway in the evening breeze.
The menu is punctuated with Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Beijing favourites while upping its game with the likes of Madame Fù’s Chicken with Black Truffle and Chive Sauce, Crispy Cod with Ginger Vinegar Glaze, and Firecracker Lobster.
Visit Madame Fù’s for dim-sum, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, or for a well deserved G&T on Madame Fù’s delightful verandah.
Madame Fù Grand Café Chinois. 3rd Floor. Block 3. Barrack Block.
At Dragonfly, it’s difficult to decide between two reasons to visit. Is it the innovative and expertly conceived cocktails or is it to marvel at this other-worldly interior? We can assure you, it’s both.
Ashley Sutton’s gift for creating personalities with interiors is legendary. Take Iron Fairies, J. Boroski, and Ophelia for example. Each has its own story while leaving us without a doubt they’re Ashley Sutton designed.
Dragonfly wraps you in its wings from the entrance. A celebration of two masters, the stained glass techniques of Louis Comfort Tiffany and master jeweller and artist René Lalique.
This is a totally hand made project. The detail is astounding. From the dome lit ceiling to the beautifully illustrated cocktail list, you’ll be mesmerised by this stunning venue.
The cocktails at Dragonfly match this vibrant ambience perfectly.
They’ve gone Rogue with their Negroni using Scotch whiskey, Aperol, Amaro Montenegro, citrus and homemade 6 spice syrup. Even die-hard Classic Negroni lovers have been known to order a second. 😉
The Salad Imposter might sit as comfortably on the bar snacks menu as it does on the cocktail list with Parmesan infused Gin Mare, basil, fresh plum tomato, peach vinaigrette, citrus, and a seasoned mozzarella ball.
An undercover courtyard adjacent to the main room of Dragonfly presents guest and resident DJs, bands and outdoor seating.
Dragonfly. Ground Floor. Block 10 & 13. Superintendent’s House & C Hall.
A lounge bar overlooking the central parade ground, The Dispensary links The Chinese Library and British restaurant, Statement. These three establishments add to the Aqua Group’s offer in Hong Kong.
As with all of Tai Kwun’s venues, attention to detail at The Dispensary is evident. Classic black & white floor tiles, dark teak, and leather and cane furniture bring back the colonial era.
Cocktails highlighting Chinese liquor are playful and potent, and wine and beer lovers are well catered for.
The Dispensary is perfect for after work, pre-dinner or whenever you feel like a tipple.
The Dispensary. 1st Floor. Block 1. Police Headquarters Block.
Literally behind prison cell bars in the south-western corner of Tai Kwun, Behind Bars’ neon interior contrasts significantly to the other establishments we’ve mentioned.
A quaint ordering and pick up system at the bar (order at one window, pick up from another) might represent the prison commissary but more research is required.
Patrons spill into the Prison Yard hanging onto their bottled cocktails.
All Behind Bars’ cocktails are premade and bottled. Having not tried them (we needed a cold ale) the feedback on the “All Day & a Night” wasn’t positive. A take on the ubiquitous Espresso Martini, it was a poor substitute apparently.
Behind Bars’ Prison Yard is part of Tai Kwun’s exhibition and entertainment space. Visit with this in mind and order a beer, the cocktails will be forgotten and you’ll be happy as a lark.
Behind Bars. Ground Floor. Block 15. E Hall.
Tai Kwun Centre manages visitor numbers to minimise the impact on the site and neighbouring community. To avoid disappointment, register and receive a Tai Kwun Pass.
You can do this through the official website or download the app. Registration is free and may be the difference between entering or not during busy periods.
Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts is much more than the #eat and #drink options above. Exhibitions, workshops, performances and heritage tours educate and entertain.
Visit Tai Kwun 101, an exhibition of 101 objects relating to the history of Tai Kwun. Stories around the objects tell of life in the barracks, courts and prison. Interactive installations present relationships between the objects and people.
Join a free 45-minute guided tour throughout the compound. Registering is necessary and if you speak Cantonese you’re set, otherwise, English tours are only available Tuesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm.
A self-guided (also free) audio tour with architects, Herzog & de Meuron shares the concepts and vision behind the revitalisation project. The architects walk you through the bridging of Tai Kwun’s past and present.
Download the Tai Kwun app for access to these informative tours & exhibitions.
JC Contemporary’s current exhibition, Murakami Vs Murakami is showcased in all art galleries throughout Tai Kwun Centre.
Sixty paintings and sculptures by the renowned Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, include “large scale post-apocalyptic works, optimistic flower pieces, and his contemplative Enso paintings, offering Buddhist visions of enlightenment.”
From June 1st until September 1st, public programming to enhance the exhibition include workshops, public discussions, films and guided exhibition tours.
Check the app for details and purchase your tickets in advance for a considerable saving.
You never know when the retail bug will bite, but when it does Tai Kwun has you covered. A host of brands we know and love have set up shop but many lesser-known designers reflect the Heritage and Arts ethos.
At Loom Loop, it’s all about the fabric. A chance encounter brought Canton Silk to Polly & Andy’s attention, a fabric with a long Guangdong heritage.
Twenty-metre lengths of silk are naturally dyed using yams. Piece dyed by hand thirty times the fabric is then painted with a layer of protective mud to ensure colour fastness.
Dried on the sand, then washed in the same river the mud was sourced from, the final step is lawn drying.
Polly designs unique pieces around the fabric’s origins incorporating denim off-cuts and non-shipped knits from garment factories.
A perfect retail partner for Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts.
Since 1877, Lottusse has been manufacturing high-quality leather in Mallorca, Spain, producing footwear, bags, accessories and clothing. More than eighty artisans work with Lottusse to produce these hand-crafted designs.
Offering a made-to-order service, Lottusse encourages you to design, while they provide the expertise to realise your bespoke pieces.
No Brand No Name
Funky sunnies and handbags are what No Brand No Name does best. Beautiful design details without the designer price tag. An impressive store soon to be up and running online.
Tai Kwun’s central location means there is a mountain of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Check the Ovolo, LKF Hotel, or The Pottinger for easy access to Tai Kwun or follow our lead and stay at Little Tai Hang.
Little Tai Hang is a short walk from Tin Hau MTR Station on the Island line. Hop out at Central and take the escalator to Hollywood Road and the footbridge to Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts.
See what we have to say about Little Tai Hang and other Hong Kong Island Hidden Gems here.
If you prefer to be nice and close to Tai Kwun, select SoHo from the booking.com filters or add Little Tai Hang for a home away from home experience.
Please note, paraphernalia.co is a Booking.com affiliate. This means by booking through us you’ll still receive the same booking.com competitive rates while we receive a tiny commission to keep paraphernalia.co going.
We appreciate your support.
Please don’t forget to download the iPhone or Android app to stay in touch with Tai Kwun current events.
Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts may have taken some time in the making, but it surpassed our expectations.
With excellent dining & drinking venues, historical & contemporary exhibitions, retail & entertainment, Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts: it’s a place we love….
Getting there & getting around
Hong Kong is an international hub so finding a flight from wherever you are won’t be difficult.
On arrival, be sure to pick up an Octopus Card.
Hong Kong has some of the best public transport in the world and your Octopus Card is your ticket to it. Easily topped up at MTR stations, 711, Watsons or Mannings stores, you won’t regret investing in an Octopus card.
The Airport Express stops at Tsing Yi, Kowloon or Hong Kong Island and takes about 25 minutes to complete the trip. From your station, either hop on the MTR (Hong Kong’s underground), use buses, the tram, ferries or grab a taxi to where you need to go.
A note when grabbing a cab, avoid crossing the harbour through either tunnel, you’ll pay the toll and traffic can be punishing. Also, keep in mind, baggage stowed in the boot (trunk for US readers) is charged at HK$ 5 per item.
Hong Kong is also an easy walking city. Plenty of overpasses allow crossing busy, traffic-filled streets. “The escalator” transports you from Central to the Mid-levels, an 800-metre distance with 135-metre elevation taking 20 minutes. From 6 am until 10 am, the escalator travels downhill, from 10 am to midnight it goes up.
Where the escalator meets Hollywood Road, follow the footbridge directly to Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts.
When to go
If it were up to us, we’d say all year round but if you don’t like the heat and humidity, then avoid July to September. Typhoons are most common during this period too.
Winter can be quite cool, sometimes dropping into single digit temperatures so Spring and Autumn are recommended.
Afternoon showers occur through spring in April and May while Autumn is mostly dry.
Unless Rugby and crowds are a passion, avoid April when Hong Kong Rugby Sevens takes over the town.
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