- Molecular dining was the cuisine du jour when SCMP’s fine dining awards launched in 2013 – since then we’ve seen the city bloom into a culinary destination of global renown
- The Chairman, Dynasty, T’ang Court, Tin Lung Heen, Gaddi’s, Petrus and 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana have all proved repeat winners, with Estro, Chaat and Roganic taking 2022’s top prizes
For the past 10 years, South China Morning Post’s 100 Top Tables has celebrated our city’s innovative dining scene, charting its successes through economic highs and lows. Launched in 2013, long before the pandemic slowed the world almost to a halt, 100 Top Tables was a way to pay tribute to Hong Kong’s fine dining offerings, boost our city’s culinary stature and acknowledge the crucial contributions made by enterprising restaurateurs, diligent chefs and their dedicated staff.
Ten years on, the Post is proud to continue this tradition. “100 Top Tables highlights Hong Kong’s exceptional culinary culture with an annual guide, curated by our editorial panel for connoisseurs of fine cuisine and executive dinners. This 10th edition honours and celebrates Hong Kong’s F&B industry, which raises international standards of excellence every year, despite the world’s ongoing challenges,” said Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post.
Winnie Chung, editorial director of specialist publications, agrees. “Since we started 100 Top Tables a decade ago, Hong Kong’s dining scene has been through many transformations, but one thing has remained constant: the chefs’ creativity and passion for their profession, and the industry’s resilience in the face of challenges, especially in the past few years. Our chefs have continuously strived to hone their craft and to offer the best in fine dining to Hong Kong, bringing a diversity of cuisines and tastes to diners,” she said.
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“Just as the dining scene has evolved, so too has 100 Top Tables. Three years ago, we added individual awards to honour the best chef, pastry chef, rising star, ambience and service. Last year, to acknowledge the burgeoning bar scene, we also added a category for best bars. This year, we are proud to mark our 10th year with new nods to the best wine list, the best bartender bar none, as well as our sustainability hero.”
The landscape of the dining scene in Hong Kong was a little different back in 2013. Molecular dining was the cuisine du jour and many chefs who were alumni of Spain’s matchless molecular establishment El Bulli came to Hong Kong to present avant-garde cuisine to local palates. Most notably we had View 62 by Paco Roncero, Bo Innovation by self-dubbed “demon chef” Alvin Leung, and who can forget the spherical olives at Catalunya?
The 2017 census revealed that with 15,000 licensed restaurants in our city, Hong Kong had one of the highest restaurant per capita rates in the world. That statistic, in combination with the highest per square foot rental prices in the world, makes for fierce competition in the restaurant industry. We’ve sadly said goodbye to many excellent name restaurants – Chez Patrick, Pierre, Spoon by Alain Ducasse, View 62 by Paco Roncero and others besides.
But while we’ve bid farewell to many awesome concepts, many others have opened in their place, and it’s also worth noting that many restaurants in our first book remain in our 2022 guide. Serial winners include The Chairman, Dynasty, T’ang Court, Tin Lung Heen, Gaddi’s, Restaurant Petrus and 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, just to name a few.
In 2019, we started acknowledging individual chefs and restaurants for their achievements with awards for best chef, best ambience, best service, rising star and best pastry chef. Previous recipients here include 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana’s Umberto Bombana, Manav Tuli from Chaat, T’ang Court’s Kwong Wai-keung and the staff of Roganic for best service. To mark the innovation and ingenuity that restaurants had to show during the pandemic, last year we presented a one-off best delivery gong to French fine dining establishment ecriture, for its ability to translate a fine dining experience to an opulent at-home experience.
Macau continues to play an important part in our city’s diet as – before border restrictions at least – the short ferry ride adds another slew of top-notch fine dining options. This year we continue to name the best restaurants in our sister SAR to prepare diners with a comprehensive list of eateries to hit up as soon as quarantine restrictions relax.
In 2008, the Hong Kong government repealed taxes on wine imports and soon after oenophilia was in full force. From an era when many of the city’s best known Chinese restaurants had no wine list at all and expected patrons to bring their own, by 2013 wine-paired menus became a staple rather than a novelty. Man Wah, the Chinese restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, led the way, using the hotel’s buying power to build a collection of 47,000 labels, with 70 per cent hailing from Europe at the time. What made the collection extra special was the selection of Chinese yellow wines, some dating back to 1960, according to the feature about wine in the inaugural 100 Top Tables.
Hong Kong’s bar scene has been keeping pace with the cocktail revolution around the world, most notably when Please Don’t Tell (PDT) opened at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in 2018. Its launch coincided with the second wave of Hong Kong cocktail bar openings, inspired by pioneers Quinary and Stockton, which had opened in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The worthy offerings of our thriving bar scene became so numerous we found it fitting by 2021 to list the 10 best bars in our guide as well.
For our 10th anniversary, we’ve added awards for the best bartender, best wine list and a sustainability hero, alongside those we already gave out to honour the efforts of the town’s restaurateurs, sommeliers and bar staff. This year’s winners include Maxime Gilbert for Best Chef, JIA Group’s Estro for Best Ambience, Chaat for Best Service, Aven Lau for Rising Star and Tirpse’s Rin Horiuchi for Best Pastry Chef. Our inaugural award for Best Bartender goes to Argo’s Lorenzo Antinori, while Amber wins Best Wine List and Roganic is honoured with our first Sustainability Hero award.
It has been a tough few years for the restaurant industry around the world, and particularly tough in Hong Kong right now, due to the strict social distancing measures during our latest, fifth wave of the pandemic. It is down to their incredible resilience and tenacity that every one of our awardees deserves our heartfelt thanks and encouragement. We can only hope that by our 11th edition, the word pandemic will be just a bad memory. Congratulations to all who made it onto these pages.
Read more about this year’s 100 Top Tables winners.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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