Wanchai has recently been experiencing a bit of a battle of the bakeries (we’ll chat soon about the battle of the burger joints).
Not more than 5 years ago, there were only local bakeries selling their sweet breads. Then Passion made its debut and was a great hit with everyone looking for something more upmarket, like an authentic croissant (Not just rough folded in the shape of a croissant aka Swiss bakery… that was just disappointment in a paper bag) or a sourdough loaf. Kayser soon muscled in and now have two bakeries within 300 meters along Queens Road East.
Now, we have a several cafes and bakeries that serve baked goods and pastries… La Station, Le Pain Quotidien, Bakehouse and most recently Big Grains on Tai Wo street (turn left at Hang Seng bank on Johnston Road).
The price of the croissant has steadily risen at each new bakery. Originally $14 at Kayser, it’s now $16 at the new Passion and LPQ. Then $18 at Bakehouse and $23 for the classic at Big Grains.
All the bakeries appear very busy and are doing brisk business with clientele either dining in or taking away. Big Grains is the only bakery with no seating section so it’s like a traditional chinese bakery with a modernised display and selection.
At $27, you’re halfway to a meal deal at a local Hong Kong Cafe. Will one of these croissants be as satisfying?
Then there’s this strange bun called “chocolate soil” charming name.
A selection of creamy sweet treats in the refrigerated section.
A new take on the Swiss roll at traditional bakeries. More cream less sponge it looks like. Check out the price for a whole roll… that’s maybe 4-5x of what the traditional bakeries like ABC, Happy Cake, A1 bakeries charge. Is it really that good? Giving Japanese bakery Yoku Moku some competition..?
Who can forget cookies? These are ovo lacto vegetarian. So if you know of anyone who is on a restricted no-egg no-dairy diet, this would be the first bakery in Wanchai to cater to them 👍. Watch out for the nuts though, and sticker shock when paying the bill.
Why don’t corporate websites publish their opening hours?
This morning rogue #1 requested a clementines. She said: “I like the ones ethat are easy to peel and without seeds. Can you go to uynh Spencer to buy them.”
Geez. Ok so rather thanks ttidisappoint a four year old, I checked that the local fruit shops didn’t have anything similar (ok they had the Japanese Mikan xxrgr fversion at twice the price) and hopped on a bus to the nearest M&S food hall.
I recalled that opening hours were later on Sundays and public holidays than the rest of the week but I couldn’t remember if it was 8am instead of 9am or 10am instead of 9am.
I looked up their website only to find this.
Hmm. Ok address yes but no opening hours. Urgh. Am I going to wait around for an hour or get there just on time?
It was 8.45am on a Sunday morning and I waited 17 minutes. The auto glass doors rolled open for me at 9.02am and two other waiting women (who arrived just after I did).
I picked up 3 packs of easy peelers and 1 pack of Satsumas at 49 HKD each. Three freshly baked croissants at 13 HKD each.
The clementines were a hit with the kids on our hike, I distributed them at the summit and the wonderful perfumed scent of small citrus fruits filled the air.
So now you know when the opening hours are for M&S in Queens Road East..!
Marks and Spencer has now updated their corporate website to include the opening hours of each store around the world. But… it’s not correct..! So please continue to refer to my version 😉
My neighbour E moved to Hong Kong six months ago. We went on a nice tour of the market together and decided to catch up for coffee again a few days later. She wanted to know where she could purchase a knife sharpener and I said I would take her.
We went to King Tak Hong for the knife sharpener (they have a fancy new knife cabinet on the second floor) and I bought 4 stainless steel ladles for my mother.
It was a beautiful day and I suggested we head over to Star Street and have a drink at Elephant Grounds Cafe. I had been meaning to go try it for the longest time. It was supposed to be open by the time Art Basel came round earlier in the year but was delayed.
“I’ve been there” E said endorsing my choice, “the coffee is excellent.”
We took our seats at the bar counter and I parked my pram on the ledge. I noticed that there was a bowl of water for people who bring their pooches, but there weren’t any dogs around so I assumed it’d be ok.
The menu is whimsically designed both in terms of looks and the actual items for consumption.
Here’s the first menu I saw.
Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen any cafe do a list of hot chocolates. Usually it’s just one type of hot chocolate, take it or leave it.
The breakfast menu is reasonably varied, something for every tastebud.
And here’s the drinks list.
Not bad eh.
I had to see the breakfast selection at the front counter.
Mmm… yum. A few sweet choices and croissants. I decided to have a hot chocolate and a simple butter croissant.
I have to say it was delicious. The croissant was light and fluffy with just the right amount of crisp. The hot chocolate was the right temperature and not too sweet.
E had a coffee and a hot chocolate. From where we were sitting, we had a great view of how the coffee is lovingly and patiently brewed.
E told me that her coffee was delicious. It must’ve been because she finished it off well before I was done with my hot chocolate. Unless it was just me talking too much 😉
If you desperately need a baguette to complement your curry or a sourdough loaf for your bruschetta, this is your stop. This Wan Chai store always have a baguette for you (unlike Passion who has let me down before).
Once, I ran into a neighbour in the elevator who was eating an EK baguette plain, straight out of its paper envelope bag. He yanked off the chewy bits of bread with his teeth.. I’ve never seen anyone eat a baguette that way before but it’s an indication how delicious it must be. Or how hungry he was.
Maison Eric Kayser needs very little introduction, they’ve successfully launched premium bakeries in cities all around the world.
The Eric Kayser in Wan Chai is located prominently on Queens Road East, beside the Indigo Hotel and strategically next to the Wan Chai Market bus stop. It’s impossible to miss.
Sharing the hallway with neighbouring Fortress (electronics and appliances store), the patrons of Eric Kayser benefit from large street facing windows (2 sides) and lots of open space. Occasionally passers-by stop to salivate at the various pastries and breads displayed bountifully in the window.
The interior designer made the best of an internal pillar, creating shelves and a glass case for the creme de la creme of pastries (eclairs, tarts etc).
There’s reasonable seating for about 12-15 people inside the cafe and an additional 6 outside along the hallway. The hallway seating area is my preferred place, the chairs are more comfortable and don’t leave grid like patterns on your bum. When the doors of the building open and close, it feels almost alfresco. The purple monster pram is right at home here and small person enjoys pressing her nose on the Fortress glass walls to watch the demos on the large screen TVs. The Transformers movie and those weird slideshows on animals scratching their butts never fail to entertain.
But how good are their pastries really? I’m not impressed with the croissants (won awards in Tokyo), quite light inside but the outer texture is little rubbery. Perhaps it’s the glaze. It just tastes like bread that has been left out overnight to me. Many of their French style pastries are constructed with the same dough base, so in contemporary language, it’s all a bit “blah“.
Croissant – blah
Peach Danish – blah
Chocolate croissant – blah
Brioche- very blah
Note: If you are going to have one of these vennoiseries then please insist that they heat it up in the oven before you eat it. This extra touch makes all the difference and is not offered voluntarily by the staff.
Small person does enjoy their chocolate croissant when it’s been in the oven.
She doesn’t discriminate much when it’s chocolate.
Worth eating are the prepared sandwiches behind the payment counter. These focaccia breads and toasted baguettes stuffed to the brim with tuna, chicken curry or salads are delicious.
And here are the rest. The eclairs are pretty good but I haven’t tried the others, a tad too sweet for me. There was a lonely box of macarons, but I’d suggest you head to Passion for these.
The Wan Chai bakery makes the most of its corner location, creating pram accessible entrances on both sides. However the split level means that you can’t get down the stairs to pay after selecting your breads. I usually pop the pram by the steps where you can maintain line of sight at the payment counter.
If you’re heading in just to grab coffee and a sandwich, enter via Tai Yuen street, the side facing Indigo hotel. Otherwise for seats, enter via the main building doors on Queen’s Road East.
Whenever I have space in the freezer, a pre-sliced Kayser sourdough usually fill the space.
Can anyone tell me why these master bakers won’t buy a slicing machine in their stores so that the staff don’t need to cut the breads by hand? I can’t finish the loaves in one sitting….Bread slicing is a lot of hard work.
Peak hours to avoid 7.30-9am (working people grabbing breakfast, long lines) and lunch 12.30-2pm. Otherwise it’s mostly French mums loading up on breads for the week and people catching up in between office appointments.
Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty