Where are the affordable dinners?

August 09, 2023 11:35
Photo: Reuters

I wrapped up my happy three-week trip in Toronto with a fond memory of delicious Asian meals, long overdue gatherings and autumn-like nice weather – and returned to Hong Kong.

Still jetlagged, I was able to meet some good old friends – first day from the United States, second day from the United Kingdom and third day from Australia - who made a quick summer visit to this city.

Next in line are guests from Shanghai, Boston and London, where, if I may borrow the word from a friend, one would take a year to visit all her friends in the phonebook.

Of course, local residents are going out for summer vacation after a three-year absence mainly – based on my impression – to various Asian destinations most notably Japan.

That sprang an interesting question: are there more people coming to this town? Or rather more people going out this year?

One doesn’t need to be a scientist to figure out that retail outlets and restaurants are bleeding.

Times Square, the iconic shopping arcade in Causeway Bay, saw a two per cent drop in revenue in the first half, according to the interim result by its parent Wharf REIC. Worse still, Wharf chairman Stephen Ng remarked that overall retail sales may continue to be under pressure, following a somewhat "disappointing" post-Covid recovery in the second quarter.

Consumption is just not returning because of the poor economy, and also because of the strong US dollar, to which Hong Kong dollar is pegged.

That also hurt Castelo Investment, which has closed nine restaurants such as Jaspa’s in Kennedy Town and Sai Kung and Wagyu Lounge in Happy Valley, delivering shocks to the residents that they could survive the pandemic but just not long enough.

One answer that can explain the somewhat awkward economic situation comes from my retired sister who goes to Shenzhen almost every week for food and shopping.
Thanks to the border opening, the easily accessible rail transport and particularly Meituan restaurant discount, she finds many restaurants at a small fraction of the meal bill she pays in Hong Kong.

I am still not adjusting too well to the 25 per cent or even 30 per cent of the restaurant bill I checked in Toronto. But looking at my two dinner bills with my visiting friends in town this week, I think I might suggest we shall have a longer dinner, take a high-speed train for a more spacious yet less costly restaurant.

-- Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer