Our Town Now

An occasional column by Mo Wong Goon, not to be taken too seriously

Photo: Peterlamphotography.com

New name for ex-Steamers

Kim Minards, South African boss of Enoteca Group which has taken over Steamers, says the new “gastropub” may be called The Botanist. Ask staff at her other Sai Kung place, The Conservatory, and they say, yes, that will be its unusual name. Kim would appear to be thinking green — it will be “pubby and gardenny”. Take a look at The Conservatory, which we think is the best designed of the new restaurants in town.
We have a thought for Kim: Given the animals that hang around in Sai Kung bars, shouldn’t the new place be called The Zoologist?

“I didn’t spill a drop”

Typhoon Hato got scary when the wind gusts began howling through the trees. But most of us were secure in houses or apartments. What about the people who live on boats?
Ralph (not his real name) stays on a junk moored near the pier at HHYC. The day before the storm, Ralph, who likes a drink or 16, told us he would remain on board throughout the typhoon. We said it had been nice knowing him.
Ralph’s an entertaining character – shaven head, artfully dyed moustache and beard. Everything is funny to Ralph, regardless of how much he has had to drink. He’s an appealing character.
During the storm, Ralph said the junk was swinging this way and that, smashing into other boats and the pier. Its fenders were busted. But Ralph stayed on board, intrepid mariner to the end.
We asked Ralph if during this mayhem, he stopped tippling.
“No way. I didn’t spill a drop.”
A good keen man.

Burger battles

The Diner has raised the bar for burgers in this town to skyscraper heights. Its premium burger — “four 6oz patties piled high” — is named just that, “The Skyscraper”. Only $349. We asked a waiter how many customers had heroically tackled a Skyscraper. “One”. The Diner’s other burgers range from $129 to $199. Because of the prices, Mrs Goon refuses to go there.
There is a lot of competition in Sai Kung to tempt the tastebuds of burger munchers. Cena offers burgers that are quite satisfactory if you are not the obese type who can’t stop eating. Cena burgers cost $80 to $110. The place for value-for-money burgers, we believe, is Burger Deli. This tiny mom-and-pop business cooks a variety of burgers that run with cheese and are topped by bacon and are just as tasty as you could ask for. Burger Deli’s prices: $50 to $80.
The Diner faces stiff competition as well as overheads that would make you wince. The operator of the restaurant previously on that site, Eric, a shady character who didn’t want anyone to know his full name, said the rent was $150,000. (The only way SAI KUNG BUZZ could get him to pay his advertising bill after 12 months of pressuring him was to threaten to publish his full name and photo.) If the owners of The Diner, Marcus and Sarah Thomson, are paying that much rent, plus salaries plus electricity and all the rest of it, they are going to have to sell a lot of burgers. We wish them well.
The Diner has a lot going for it: the only real American rock and roll concept in town, decor such as a split 1950s Cadillac in which you can sit and milkshakes. Glorious milkshakes. This is the Thomson’s big selling point, milkshakes, alcoholic and virginal. If you are into milkshakes hot foot to The Diner. Drinks are reasonably priced and brunch and lunch menus for $99 have been introduced by Sarah and Marcus to get bums on seats on slow weekdays.

New craft beer bar for Old Town

It is confirmed: A new craft-beer bar will open in the Old Town next month. Rumours and teasers have been floating around on social media for some time. Nikolai Smirnoff, a former Casa Group staff member, has told us he is behind the project. The bar will be named Momentai, which for those new in town, means no problem in Cantonese. Niko said he can’t tell us the location “until the keys are handed over”. We think this could be a good move.
Beer and wine prices in Hong Kong are said to be the second highest in the world. In core Sai Kung bar operators struggle under the rent burden. Sites in the Old Town of good size can be leased for $23,000 (Fiesta Fiesta). This would allow a bar owner to charge, say, $30 a pint for basic beers (Carlsberg, San Miguel), as some bars do on the Island. In these places the cash registers never stop. Gentrifying See Cheung St in the Old Town, already home to three quality coffee shops, would be a good place for a low-cost bar-pub.

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