To live in Hong Kong today is to constantly feel nostalgia for the past. Even as we collectively marvel at the glittering skyline and the myriad developments that have transformed our SAR into a global capital, ask anyone if they long for a time when rents were cheaper, politics were less volatile, and life overall just felt easier — you’ll quickly hear “yes”. And while classic Hong Kong cuisine — the stuff of dai pai dongs, bing sutts and cha chaan tengs — used to reign supreme, these days it’s not always easy to find these comfort foods, especially not in a stylish setting.
Enter Lee Lo Mei, the two-storey newcomer that’s steeped in nostalgia for the Hong Kong of yesteryear. Here, everything from the dishes to the drinks to the decor will transport guests to a bygone era. In a cheeky move, ZS Hospitality Group named its fourth and final venue on Lyndhurst Terrace to sound like a rude bit of Cantonese slang, though its Chinese name (李好味) translates to “Lee’s Good Food”, a nod to both culinary director Joe Lee and head chef Max Lee.
The ground floor is a 1,000-square-foot bar that opens onto the street and offers a prime spot for people watching. Visitors will immediately identify the retro theme from the illustrations of mahjong pieces and birdcages adorning the walls, to the throwback movies projected to the right of the bar. The beverage program includes Hong Kong-inspired signature cocktails (HK$128) such as the N*8 Elixir (pisco infused with chrysanthemum flower, ginger and lemongrass) and the Bloody Victoria, a Bloody Mary that replaces vodka with gin and adds anchovy-spiced salt and Shaoxing-rice-wine-infused kaffir lime leaves and chili to the mix.
More than just a place for cocktails, the ground-floor bar caters to a post-work happy-hour crowd with the usual drink specials and a menu of generously portioned bar snacks, available Monday through Saturday from 3pm–7pm. These include a crispy, deep-fried chicken leg served with sweet potato fries (HK$88); a take on traditional toast topped with kaya paste, peanut butter and ice cream flavoured like HK-style milk tea (HK$68); and the H.K. Breakfast (HK$68), a gourmet version of local egg sandwiches, made here with tramezzini bread, Japanese eggs, a slice of ham and lots of melted cheese.
Upstairs on the first floor, the decor is even more retro, with old movie posters, traditional candies and old-school signage covering the walls, and dai pai dong-style stools for seating. The menu is divided into four sections: small plates, big plates, claypot rice bowls and desserts. The kitchen’s approach, in case you haven’t already figured it out, is to take classic Hong Kong dishes and improve them with high-end ingredients and contemporary cooking techniques.
The idea is not to recreate these classics so much as it is to tap into nostalgic flavours and update them for modern tastes. Therefore, you’ll see taro dumplings made with duck confit (HK$88), steamed cheung fan stuffed with foie gras and black truffle (HK$138), and Hong Kong-style ho fun topped with luxurious A4 wagyu beef. Claypot rice bowls come in two versions: one with black ink and Canadian spot prawns and squid ink (HK$238), the other with salted egg yolk and a sauce made from pork-head meat. There’s also a showstopping cold dessert, simply called “black”, which features black sesame prepared in a variety of ways; it arrives at the table releasing cold vapours and waiting to be Instagrammed.
With its throwback eats and design, Lee Lo Mei aims to take Hongkongers on a culinary trip down memory lane, and its unique proposition is serving street food in a clean, convivial environment. Not only will it appeal to locals looking for a taste of the past, but also to anyone who has an interest in learning more about traditional HK food but lacks familiarity with it. If you’ve ever wanted to treat out-of-town guests to the highlights of our street food but didn’t want to actually take them to dine on the street, that’s no longer a problem — Lee Lo Mei has got you sorted.
Lee Lo Mei, G/F & 1/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2986 7688, leelomei.hk
This article is sponsored by ZS Hospitality Group.