House of Orient, Central Hong Kong’s newest Chinese restaurant, promises to take diners back in time to the city’s early days as a cultural gateway.
So, many of us know that Hong Kong has a rich history as a trading port. The Fragrant Harbour was named a free port in 1841 and quickly became a vital crossroads between east and west, one that was deftly navigated by the compradores, intermediaries between local and foreign trade and agents that walked the tightrope between kingdoms and dominions.
Now, 180 years later, House of Orient at Central Hong Kong’s Entertainment Building aims to bring back the compradore spirit by returning to the roots of Hong Kong’s East-meets-West culture with a curated selection of the finest teas paired with exquisite, handcrafted dim sum.
Hong Kong was once a global hub for tea production and trade, and the new restaurant hopes to revive some of this heritage, sourcing high-quality tea leaves from across China, including Baihao Yinzhen, Phoenix Oolong, Laoman’r Pu’er from Yunnan’s Bulang Mountain and Bulang Court Ripe Tea, among many other varieties. Even for more familiar tea blends, House of Orient has made a special effort to source leaves that are of the utmost quality.
This includes premium Lapsang Souchong, which is also known as the ancestor of the world’s black teas. Originally from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, this tea was imported to the West as early as 1604 and became a favourite with the British Royal Family. More than 200 years later, Scottish botanist Robert Fortune smuggled Lapsang Souchong tea plants out of China and brought them to India, where they developed into the now world-famous Darjeeling tea.
Following various historical documents, the House of Orient tea team traced the origins of Darjeeling back to the Wuyi Mountains and the original plantation where Fortune had stolen tea plants from. The plantation is still run by the same family, whose members have continued to cultivate Lapsang Souchong, which the restaurant has dubbed Darjeeling Zero so that guests can experience firsthand the world’s original black tea and the hundreds of years of history behind it.
Of course, you’ll need something to go with that tea and we suggest the dim sum of chef Wong Chi-sang, who taps into his 40 years experience at the likes of Michelin-starred Guo Fu Lou and Fook Lam Moon. In fact, Fook Lam Moon was founded by Chui Fook-chuen, who in his younger years had worked as a chef for prominent comprador Sir Robert Ho Tung.
The Ho Tung family also employed a Western chef, who Chui worked alongside and was inspired by. The chefs began experimenting, fusing elements of Chinese and Western cooking and creating dishes like baked stuffed crab shells, a modern rendition of which featured at House of Orient, alongside the likes of Black Pepper Beef Pastry; Phoenix Eye Dumplings, an evolution of classic shrimp har gow; and Thousand-Layered Custard Cake.
Inspired by the iconic British afternoon tea, the restaurant’s afternoon tea service features nine delectable dishes, including Shrimp Toast, Huangqiao Sesame Cakes, and Curry Spring Rolls, as well as Mini Green Bean Cakes, Mini Lotus Paste Pastries, Mini Mung Bean Pastries, Deep-Fried Taro with Red Bean Paste, Phoenix Oolong Osmanthus Cakes and Coconut Cakes, which are served on dinnerware and teaware produced by Hong Kong’s century-old Yuet Tung China Works. A favourite of the wife of former colonial governor Sir Murray MacLehose, these exquisite pieces can also be purchased in House of Orient’s retail store.
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