If an awkward dining experience is your kinda thing – here’s the place for you

REVIEW: Spring Deer, Nathan Road, Tsim She Tsui, Hong Kong
by Toby Jeffery

DMU students have been exploring Hong Kong as part of the unique #DMUglobal scheme. But not every Chinese restaurant lives up to expectations

A butch Australian man sits at a bar overlooking the golden beach of Hong Kong’s Big Wave Bay. After taking another sip of Tsingtao beer, he explains to a couple of gormless students that the best place to eat Chinese food in the whole region is off the vibrant, bustling Nathan Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district. He’s been going there for twenty years.

Spring Deer restaurant does not stand out on Mody Road. To get to it, you must first be confronted by numerous gentlemen trying to sell you a tailored suit. Then, if you don’t walk straight past it, you enter and take the first, conspicuous stairway on the right.

You are greeted, sort of, by the host, who will ask if you have a booking. If you don’t, then you wait. Three small stools in a tiny corridor, facing all of the awards that the restaurant has obtained over the past few years. You sit there, anxiously. The food must be amazing.

We turned up only fifteen minutes after Spring Deer had opened and were lucky to get a table for two. The condition was that we were to return the table after an hour. We were hurriedly led to the table and sat down.

The service was, at best, terrifying. We had three different servers during the hour. One was a tall, intimidating lady wearing a black blazer and trousers, and a ruffled white shirt. Her role was to forcefully pour our drinks and approach us relatively frequently to complete the most menial tasks, including, but not limited to, moving the napkin from the table to our laps. Her expression almost suggested that even our being there was a nuisance to her.

Our favourite, however, was the waiter who would often come and pay us a visit. He would say nothing. He would walk to the table, and then pause, just for a moment or two. He would look around. And leave. He was our favourite because his service stood out. In comical value.

Let’s talk prices. Bear in mind that there is a Michelin-starred Dim Sum restaurant just up the road from Spring Deer that offers dishes which rarely cost more than £2 each. Here, I ordered a small dish of sweet and sour pork, for just under a tenner.

I hate to draw comparisons with the Chinese food that is available to take away in the UK, but it is easily possible to order an even larger portion of sweet and sour pork in batter (albeit much thicker, greasier batter) for around half the price of what I paid in Hong Kong. When it comes to value for money, I think I’d rather have the takeaway. The meal didn’t even come with rice, or noodles. That cost extra.

I’m sure that if you were willing to pay a fair amount for a full meal, you would get some good food in return. The quality of the pork wasn’t that bad. In fact, we did witness one table having the freshly cooked meat carved in front of them, ready for their unique dining experience. I guess that would be a nice touch.

But it’s not the food itself that left us scratching our heads upon leaving. My dining partner summed up the atmosphere of the meal in one simple, panicked expression when our new friend, the waiter, was walking towards us, again: “Ah, he’s coming!”.

I’ll remember that more than the food.

 

 

 

Hidden Hong Kong: Stanley fishing village

By Ross Barnett

Quite often tourists, including myself, arrive in Hong Kong with the preconception of a concrete jungle. While this certainly is correct – the city’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre, stands at 484m tall, over a 150m taller than The Shard in London – it does have areas of natural beauty.

stanley google maps

Map Data (c)2018 Google

It doesn’t take long to escape the frantic pace of one of the most vibrant and modernized cities in Asia. Little over an hour long on the No. 6 bus from Central station takes you to the tranquil town of Stanley, in the south of Hong Kong Island.

As it is a bus, be prepared for traffic delays as getting out of the congested centre of the city can prove difficult – it took us over 40 minutes before we reached the edge of the city – but the erratic driving will keep you on the edge of your seat!

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Beach at Stanley

Nevertheless the bus journey is scenic and great views can be enjoyed as the bus motors along the winding road overlooking the neighbouring Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. There’s a constant reminder about the extravagance of Hong Kong, particularly as bus travels under the resounding gaze of the impressive Repulse Bay Towers. The roads become narrower and the buildings become smaller as our destination approaches.

Formerly a fishing village, the clamour of tourism has seen it develop from a market town selling fish to one selling knick-knacks at affordab

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Beach at Stanley

le prices, making it perfect to get a last minute gift for a family member.

Handmade crafts, kimonos, Chinese lucky cats as well as the usual items available at souvenir shops. For someone who loves browsing, it is very easy to lose track of time and spend the day wandering around the narrow streets.

The market is quieter than Temple Street and usually finishes trading at approximately 6pm. It is best to head to the market in the early afternoon as the closer to 6pm it gets, the more intent the sellers become in packing up and therefore are less interested in haggling.

Away from the market, three temples are situated in Stanley,

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Stanley village

Pak Tai Temple, Kwum Yam Temple and Tin Hau Temple. Pak Tai Temple sits on the hill offering excellent photography opportunities. Consisting of just one room, the temple was locked when we there, but the burning of incense was smelt from outside the quaint little building. Steps from the temple lead down towards rocks – another peaceful place to hear the waves crash up against coastline and watch the sunset.

The picturesque setting allows life to be brought down to a slower pace compared to the centre of the city. It’s a perfect getaway for relaxation and the many beaches and bars along the promenade provides a great opportunity for people-watching.

The people in the town are friendly and willing to answer questions however their English can be quite broken. While sitting in a bar as the sun set, one of the locals who had lived in the village for over 50 years told me that everything he needs is right here.

This isn’t the Hong Kong that appears on all of the tourist posters and adverts and while no amount of words could accurately convey the splendor of the little town, it will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Three days on from our visit, it’s still hard to believe how this sedate seaside village is only a suburb in a dynamic city dubbed the ‘Gateway to Asia’ with world leading financial district.