Our second day in Hong Kong was packed to the brim with activities and excitement. The day commenced with an MTR trip out to Causeway Bay. Specifically, to Japanese department store Sogo, where we were meeting some friends with local knowledge. We arrived a tad early and decided to fill our time with (what else?!) shopping. As much as I adore shopping in Hong Kong, my pet peeve is shoe shopping. For some reason, stores are willing to embrace larger western figures (I have no problem finding clothes to fit my nearly 6 foot, medium-sized frame), but shoes? Forget about it! This is my fourth trip to Hong Kong and I've never managed to pick up a pair (the exception being unisex shoes, such as Converse) - the largest size sold typically being a European 39. Any local business people reading: do yourself a favour and stock 40s and 41s - you'll be a hit with the tourist and expat communities and make an absolute mint.
I digress! After an hour of browsing, we met our delightful friends and guides for the day who took us to their favourite sticky rice shop, just 30 seconds walk from Sogo. This place is a bit of a local institution and it's not hard to see why. The rice was sticky, but not gluggy and the filling of (what I think was) Rousong and freshly cooked Youtiao (Chinese donut) was just delicious. Washed down with a glass of fresh soy milk, I was one happy camper!
We were then shown a couple of nearby restaurants (to which we will return later in the week) and taken on a quick tour of Causeway Bay - one of the most popular areas of Hong Kong, with great shopping, food and a really "buzzy" atmosphere. I couldn't resist a shot of these air conditioning units and construction site, only seconds from luxurious Times Square - the contrasts of Hong Kong are incredibly vivid!
From Causeway Bay, our party of seven set off in a minibus to Stanley - one of the most picturesque parts of Hong Kong.
We enjoyed a stroll around the scenic area, which has been significantly developed since our last visit to Hong Kong in 2008. A visit to Stanley Market was, of course, necessary. The vibe at this market is much more relaxed than at other local markets. There is far less pushiness on the part of shop keepers, but also less scope to bargain for prospective customers. We finished our shopping trip and time with our friends with an ice-cream - coconut and pandan for yours truly and green tea for Mum.
Back at the hotel, we gussied ourselves up for a special birthday dinner for Mum at the Langham's renowned T'ang Court. I had booked the meal in a few weeks ago, knowing well its reputation for excellent Cantonese fare. A word of warning: there are two Langham hotels in Hong Kong. Don't be an idiot (like yours truly) and drag your guest to the wrong hotel first! For the record, T'ang Court is located in the Langham at Tsim Sha Tsui - not Mon Kok.
Thankfully, I'm quite the confident navigator of Hong Kong and managed to take us from one Langham to the other in around 15 minutes. Once seated at the restaurant, we were overwhelmed by the old world Chinese charm of the place and the extremely courteous and warm service. I had booked the dinner via email, briefly noting that it was a special birthday dinner for my mother. The staff were aware of this and each one wished mum a "happy birthday and long life". The chef even prepared some complementary "long life" buns (i.e. lotus seed buns) on the house - an incredibly sweet gesture!
But first things first, we decided to splurge on some wine (one of the few real splurges in Hong Kong, because it is expensive - around $45 for a half bottle of white!) and settled on the "set menu for two".
We started our banquet with a baked crab shell stuffed with beautifully tender crab meat and onion, accompanied by a slightly sour sauce. This was honestly one of the most delicious flavour combinations I have tried. An excellent start to the evening.
Next on the menu was mixed seafood in a hot and sour soup. Subtly balanced flavours and silky tofu: flawless!
Our third course consisted of two golden prawns, with sweet and sour sauce (sauce not pictured below). The prawns were bursting full of flavour and the crispy crunch of the deep fried exterior was the perfect complement for the sweet meat within.
Next on the menu was a lamb chop, cooked in garlic and red wine - tender and flavoursome.
Our final savoury dish was a duck and chicken friend rice, wrapped in a lotus leaf. This was the only dish of the evening that we felt could have done with some extra flavour. Thankfully, the assorted condiments on the table provided a quick solution. We added a few spoons of chilli, which elevated the dish to a whole new level.
For dessert, we were presented with three dishes: a chilled mango pudding, a fresh fruit selection and the aforementioned "long life" buns. The mango pudding was a particular highlight, with its succulent slivers of fresh mango and perfect consistency.
What a wonderful evening to celebrate the birthday of a wonderful woman! Thank you to the staff at T'ang Court for making the occasion so memorable.