Header image courtesy of @le.bistro.winebeast (via Instagram)
Besides the Eiffel Tower, cobblestone streets, and the Louvre, one of the most enduring images of Paris has to be the bistro. Although they started out as simple, unfussy eateries serving affordable wine and hearty home-cooked dishes—stews, steak tartare, and coq au vin, to name a few—the classic bistro has transcended its humble origins to become an internationally recognised icon of France. Nowadays, you can find bistros from the streets of Tokyo to North America and yes, even in Hong Kong. From picture-perfect recreations serving traditional recipes under cheery red awnings to elegant “neo-bistros,” here are the best bistros in Hong Kong.
Opened by Michelin-trained chef Tiffany Lo, Jean May is a relaxed neo-bistro whose simplicity belies its fine-dining pedigree. Located on Gresson Street in Wan Chai, Jean May’s clean, pistachio green shopfront is an immediate visual clue that this is not a chequered-tablecloth-and-pastis kind of homage to bistro dining, but rather a modern interpretation serving natural wines and light, elegant takes on French classics.
Although the wait can be a little daunting, especially for a casual meal—weekends are booked out up to two months in advance—we reckon the freshly shucked oysters with pickled cucumber, radish & dill ($58 each), hand-chopped steak tartare ($178), and duck à l’Orange ($328) served with candy-sweet slow-roasted carrots are worth it. Its wine selection is similarly thoughtful and well-curated—if you don’t know where to start, the vin du jour is always a good shout, and goes down great with the hand-cut triple-cooked pommes frites ($88) and their new shimeji frits with parmesan and parsley.
Jean May, Shop A, 14 Gresson Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 3590 6033
Founded by chefs Johan Ducroquet (formerly of Le Bistro Winebeast) and Gregory Alexandre of Fleur de Sel, Bouillon is a “bistro Parisien” in the charming, artsy neighbourhood of Poho. During weekdays, its hearty two-course lunch menu (starting from $228) has office workers queuing around the corner for its winning combination of bistro classics and “rascal dishes.”
Dishes range from the simple and satisfying—oeuf mayo, foie gras terrine, steak with black pepper sauce—to more modern bites, like the scallop carpaccio and griddled black prawns with leek marmalade. For a cheeky liquid lunch, wash it all down with the excellent selection of vinos, which largely come from organic, sustainable, and family-owned wineries.
Bouillon, 6 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2886 0056
This bright and airy modern bistro has been a Wan Chai favourite for years, with an ever-popular three-course set lunch (starting from $218) that continues to draw crowds of office workers. Following the appointment of chef Léa Cantalloube—who previously worked at VEA, Mono, and Paris’ Le Cinq—the menu has taken on more of a fine-dining bent.
While crowd favourites like the foie gras terrine ($188) and steak tartare ($188) are still on the menu, elegant new signatures like the pigeon & foie gras pithivier ($388), scallop carpaccio with truffle vinaigrette & sea urchin ice cream ($198), and roasted lobster with lobster claw ravioli
($388) have emerged. To explore the best of Le Bistro Winebeast’s new menu, go for the four-course tasting menu (starting from $598)—given that Winebeast was originally founded as a wine store, the labels are plentiful and excellent, so you can’t go wrong with the wine pairing ($200).
Le Bistro Winebeast, Newman House, 35–45 Johnston Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2782 6689
Located along Tsim Sha Tsui’s bustling Austin Avenue, Scarlett is a spacious two-storey bistro and wine bar serving a wide variety of French and Mediterranean comfort food, from the savoury foie gras crème brûlée ($168) and quenelle de brochet (a Lyonnaise pike fishcake; $158) to coastal fare like seafood paella risotto ($248) and grilled octopus with confit bell pepper ($188).
Its lunch set (starting from $148) is one of the most economical ways to enjoy a delicious French meal, with dishes like pork rillettes, roasted chicken leg with French fries, the famous steak tartare “à la Montmartre,” and crêpes flambé. For a splurge-worthy dessert, go for the classic 1910 Paris–Brest ($98)—choux pastry, hazelnut and almond cream, and almonds.
Scarlett, 2 Austin Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 3565 6513
Following eight years on High Street, this much-loved Sai Ying Pun bistro underwent a stunning refurbishment recently, transforming its beautiful old school Art Nouveau shopfront by refreshing it with a coat of bright, unmissable teal. Inside, the Paris metro-inspired touches—steel beams, tiled floors, vintage lamps—remain, with a fresh new mural of the Metropolitain sign in case the restaurant’s name and menu didn’t give away the theme.
Blessedly, the food is still just as good, with dishes like coquelet jaune rôti ($198)—spring chicken oven-roasted in sage butter—and navarin d’agneau ($228), a lamb shoulder stew with spring vegetables beckoning us into the autumnal months. Pop along on weekends for a leisurely brunch, with the three-course brunch set (starting from $328) including mixed starters to share, a main course, and espresso served with a selection of sweets.
Metropolitain, Aspen Court, 46 High Street, Sai Ying Pun | (+852) 6271 6102
Named after a type of bistro that’s ubiquitous in Lyon, Bouchon is a cosy eatery that has been serving hearty French fare in Soho for 10 years. Patio tables and a red awning mark this otherwise narrow shopfront’s space, with elegant French doors that open the welcoming, warmly lit interior up to the street during busy evenings.
During temperate months, the small patio in the back provides the perfect al fresco backdrop against which to enjoy dishes like garlic snails (starting from $98), mussels “marinière” (starting from $218), and duck confit ($268). For a satisfying midday pick-me-up, check out their set lunch menu (starting from $138) or weekend brunch (starting from $158), which offer bistro favourites like French onion soup, steak frites, and crème brûlée among others.
Bouchon, 49 Elgin Street, Soho, Central | (+852) 2525 9300
Located on the foodie-favourite Davis Street, just around the corner from the waterfront, Bistro du Vin brings relaxed French dining to Kennedy Town. Beyond the bright red shopfront, a cosy, comfortable setting decorated with vintage French newspapers and tchotchkes awaits. A concise menu of rustic bistro fare—clams in white wine shellfish broth ($180), duck rillettes with toast $100), and roasted bone marrow ($190)—served on vintage French crockery adds an extra element of authenticity, while the show-stopping bouillabaisse (starting from $600) with fish, clams, and lobster, and prawns is sure to satisfy cravings.
Bistro du Vin, Shop D, 1 Davis Street, Kennedy Town | (+852) 2824 3010
Named after the anise-flavoured liqueur found in bistros all over Paris, this red-awninged Lan Kwai Fong stalwart is perhaps best known for being a popular hangout for local office workers, particularly European expats who spill out onto Wyndham Street during peak times.
While you can often find a party (and plenty of the titular liqueur) at Pastis, the food itself is not to be overlooked—during the day, it is a prime location for a quick and delicious meal, with homey bistro fare like croque monsieur ($98), beef bourguignon ($218), and even a comforting truffle macaroni au fromage (a.k.a. mac and cheese; $108) served on the high tables.
After work, the charcuterie board ($118) or cheese and meat platter (starting from $148) provide some much-needed sustenance, especially if you’re knocking back a pastis (or two!) or heading downstairs to Pastis’ hidden sister bar, Le Boudoir.
Pastis, G/F, 65 Wyndham Street, Central | (+852) 2537 5702