Tai Fung Lau – a wonderfully old-fashioned Pekingese restaurant in Hong Kong

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A wonderfully old-fashioned Peking restaurant in Hong Kong offering roast duck and one of the last employing charcoal-fired hot pots at your table.   We spent a week in Hong Kong.  We wanted to sample the various Chinese regional cuisines and chose Tai Fung Lau Peking Restaurant to sample traditional Peking cooking, especially roast duck.  It’s located at 29-31 Chatham Rd, Windsor Mansion, Tsim Sha Tsui, but can be a little hard to find.  Take Salisbury Rd. east past the Marriott Hotel and turn left on Chatham Street.  Go past Mody Road then turn left on Hart Avenue.   Tai Fung Lau is on the left less than a block from Chatham Road.  Hart Avenue is really as much an alley as a road.  Get the taxi to drop you off at Hart and Chatham.  It’s always best to get the name and address of the restaurant printed out in Cantonese to show to the taxi driver.  Phone 2366 2494.  Make reservations well in advance.  Alternatively, get there quite early, say 5:30, promise that you’ll not linger and you may be served, even on an otherwise fully booked night.

We opted for the roast duck. Next time we’ll try the hot pot.

The restaurant itself was unpretentious, one of those places that has not changed in years. Those looking for impressive décor may wish to go elsewhere.  For us it was a refreshing change from some of the overly ornate Hong Kong restaurants. It’s one of the few places left that provides a charcoal fired hot pot at your table when you order a hot pot meal.  For those unfamiliar with hot pot, is a way of dining where the guest is provided with tidbits of raw ingredients; meat, fish and other seafood and vegetables.  These are cooked by the customer at his table in a bubbling pot of hot broth and eaten seasoned by various garnishes and sauces supplied as part of the meal. Almost all restaurants now use electric or other modern hot pots but not  Tai Fung Lau.  You get an impressive old fashioned charcoal fired hot pot with a high chimney rising over your table.   It’s quite a unique dining experience.

Roast duck – a speciality

So there’s nothing nouvelle about Tai Fung Lau.  Quite the opposite.  You get good traditional Pekingese cooking, large portions and modest prices at Tai Fung Lau. Perhaps that explains its popularity.  It’s interesting that some Hong Kong residents pan Tai Fung Lau on the Hong Kong restaurant review site Open Rice because it’s old fashioned whereas Western reviewers on Trip Advisor feel it should be honored and preserved for the very same reason.

We initally selected  Tai Fung Lau because it seemed well rated on Open Rice and cost less than some of the other well know Pekingese restaurants in Hong Kong.  We made our reservations well in advance.  We were a little apprehensive because other Open Ricers had suggested that Tai Fung was not friendly to Caucasian customers.  In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  We were with the greatest courtesy.  Further, menus in English were available and they had a staff members who spoke English to help us with our order.

Nothing nouvelle at Tai Fung Lau

We debated whether to have a duck based meal or hot pot.  We decided to get a half duck for the two of us.  The duck was very, very  enjoyable.  We also had the leek tart, chicken soup, vermicelli salad with noodles.  The chicken soup was not our favorite. We would have liked to sample other dishes but there’s a limit to how many dishes two diners can order, especially since the portions were generous.  We look forward to returning to Tai Fung Lau on our next trip to Hong Kong and giving the hot pot a try.

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