There’s Wan Chai – and then there’s the Star Street Precinct. Nestled on the edge of one of Hong Kong’s most bustling neighbourhoods, this serene enclave of narrow streets named after the cosmos is packed full of independent shops, delightful restaurants and low-key bars.
Tucked into the hillside just above Queen’s Road East, the three main streets in the area owe their celestial monikers to a phrase from a renowned Chinese literary text, The Three-Character Classic (saam1 zi6 ging1 三字经). Four more streets complete the area: St. Francis Yard, St Francis Street, Electric Street and Wing Fung Street, plus the small laneway of Sau Wa Fong.
This was a relatively obscure area until Three Pacific Place opened in 2007 with a direct link to Admiralty MTR station and the Pacific Place hotel, shopping and office complex. Swire Properties began acquiring and redeveloping properties around Star Street, collaborating with the government and the architects at Oval Partnership to give its public spaces a thoughtful makeover.
Since then, the Star Street Precinct has evolved into a neighbourhood full of surprises – a laid-back retreat from the teeming streets of Wan Chai. “It’s definitely the vibe and charm” that makes the area special, says Phemie Chong, owner of art gallery and print shop Odd One Out. “It makes us forget we are actually in the heart of the city a minute away from the hustling and bubbling of Wan Chai. It’s our little getaway.”
Here are some of our favourite spots for you to plan your own escape.
History and heritage
1/ Electric Street
Not to be confused with Electric Road in North Point, Electric Street is where Hong Kong’s first-ever power station was located. It began operations in 1890 and was managed by Paul Chater’s Hongkong Electric Company, which is still the only provider of electricity on Hong Kong Island today. The plant supplied electricity to the area’s street lamps, the very first electric lamps in Hong Kong, which is what inspired their toponyms, which come from The Three-Character Classic. “The Three Luminaries are the sun, the moon and the stars,” reads a passage from the text. The power station was demolished in 1922. What remains on the street now is a neatly decorated co-working space, a French restaurant, and a fitness centre.
2/ Wing Fung Street Earth God Temple
Adjacent to 7 Star Street, Wanchai
At the end of Wing Fung Street is a small shrine that serves as the source of various urban legends and ghost tales. The shrine sits at the sealed entrance of a defunct air raid shelter that was constructed before World War II. Unfortunately, the shelter was struck during the war. It was later used as a morgue, which had led many to believe that it is haunted. Eventually, neighbourhood residents built a shrine for the earth god in the hope that its heavenly powers would help safeguard the people from any potential dangers.
3/ Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
1 Star Street, Wanchai
Some of Hong Kong’s earliest Catholic communities are rooted in Wan Chai. The continual growth of parishioners around the area prompted the construction of a new church, which was completed in 1950. In 1997, the church was sold to a developer and the proceeds were used for the development of other parishes. A new church was then built inside a new residential building on the same site. The giant glass doors of the building’s lobby give off a welcoming atmosphere that invites passerby to enter the church’s first floor, whose seating arrangement embodies the church’s all-embracing vision. The church’s design—including the large skylight above the altar and the suspended golden cross—signifies the intricate relationship that links heaven and earth, the past, present and future altogether.
4/ Buddhist Murals
Three Pacific Place, 1 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai
The airy lobby of this upmarket office complex is marked by two enormous murals of Buddhist inspiration. The owner of Pacific Place, Swire Properties, is well known as a patron of the arts, but details of these exact pieces remain scant. Rumour has it that they form a trifecta with the Earth God Temple a block away, bringing good luck to this high-profile office development. The smiling Buddha mural facing Queen’s Road East is said to be inspired by that of Angkor Thom in Cambodia, whilst the Buddhist imagery on the back entrance facing Star Street resonates that of an archaeological site called Mrauk U in Burma.
Art and lifestyle
5/ Odd One Out
14 St. Francis Street, Wanchai, tel. +852 2529 3955
At the end of St. Francis Yard lies a stairway that leads to Odd One Out, a lively art gallery and store dedicated to illustrations and printmaking. “The interest in printmaking and [the] graphic scene—illustration in particular—has definitely grown a lot from the last three to four years, compared to when we started eight years ago,” says founder Phemie Chong. The store caters to that growing interest with a variety of products ranging from postcards decorated with illustrations by independent artists to large-scale paper-print artworks by local and international artists like Don Mak and Onion Peterman. Odd One Out occasionally holds exhibitions of independent artists so be sure to keep an eye for updates on their website.
14 St. Francis Street, Wanchai, Tel.+852 3590 5900
After you have entered Odd One Out, a door on the right leads to another store within the same space. Here, you will find the independent bookstore Mosses, where stocks of limited-edition art books and other rarities can be found. Most of the titles in stock emphasise themes concerning visual cultures. The store is also a space for other artistic and cultural happenings including live performances and exhibitions.
G/F, 23 Sau Wa Fong, Wanchai, Tel.+852 91332698
Hidden down the quiet lane of Sau Wa Fong is an unassuming space home to Glazden, a glass studio founded by Zimon Chow that produces handcrafted glassware and sculptures. More than just a shop, Glazden offers workshops on glass blowing and hot sculpting to create one-of-a-kind ornaments, cups, and other accessories. It also offers handmade memorial glass art pieces that transform cremation ashes into glass mementoes – a unique way of remembering loved ones who have passed.
8/ SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery
Shops 4A & 4B, UG/F, Bo Fung Mansion, 1 St. Francis Yard, Wanchai, Tel.+852 3619 0011
Based in Tokyo, Taka Ishii Gallery opened in 1994 and is dedicated to the promotion of Japanese contemporary artists to the rest of the world. Their Hong Kong location is not only a space for exhibitions but also a stylish concept store whose interior display is altered from time to time by different artists and designers.
15 Moon Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2320 0580
Tucked amidst the various eateries and cafés along Moon Street is Archetypal, a home furniture and lighting store that stocks high quality products from several designer brands. Their showroom hosts a carefully curated collection of imported original designs.
10/ Hair House Barbershop by Adam Chan
G/F, 28 Sau Wa Fong, Wanchai, Tel. +852 9439 9531
Founded by barber and musician Adam Chan, Hair House is a men’s barbershop that continues the now fading tradition of Shanghai-style barbers. Hair House first opened in D’Aguilar Street in Central and later expanded to a second location in Sau Wa Fong. The shop’s vintage décor and electric guitars hanging on the walls evoke a retro vibe fitting for the traditional haircutting techniques practiced by the shop’s team of barbers. For those who fancy a smart haircut for their next date, be sure to book in advance online.
5 Moon Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 3484 2088
Raphaël de Ry, owner of this boutique grocery store, is determined to promote sustainability in a city that is known for generating massive amounts of waste. As soon as you walk into the store, its woody interior already gives off an earthy atmosphere that reflects the store’s goal of encouraging a green lifestyle. Jars of tea, spices and pantry goods sit next to a variety of reusable items, along with sustainable, cleverly designed cutlery, food containers and home accessories. “Our products are sourced across Europe and certified by French companies,” says De Ry. “They are also fair trade products which we value a lot because we don’t want products that only seek to gain commercial profit.”
12/ Novalis Contemporary Art Design
5 Sau Wa Fong, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2856 0978
This design showroom has a specific focus: objects created and inspired by the Memphis Group, a 1980s design and architecture group based in Milan. Known for its embrace of postmodernism, the group’s products are extravagant in form, colour and pattern, with show-stopping furniture, lighting, glass and ceramics, clothing and art objects. “Novalis is the celebration of ideas that turn into objects we are madly in love with,” says Novalis’ owner, William Figliola. “The intent is to make the space a place of experimentation where people can learn about beautiful and unique objects.”
8 Sun Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2549 9254 / +852 9450 5908
Since its opening in 2006, Kapok has offered niche and eclectic products that are informed by owner Arnault Castel’s eclectic taste. Kapok’s flagship store on Sun Street brings together designer goods from Hong Kong and beyond; it is the heart of a network of shops that has grown immensely over the years, with seven locations in Hong Kong, each different in concept and feel.
3 Sun Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2707 9019
Part of Kapok’s galaxy of shops, this boutique showcases New York-based men’s clothing brand O.N.S., as well as goods from other brands that share the same minimalistic yet comfortable style.
1-4 St. Francis Yard, Wanchai, Tel. +2804 2323 / 2804 2727
The global lifestyle magazine’s Hong Kong bureau doubles as a shop stocked with the kinds of designer objects and fashion accessories that appeal to the publication’s cosmopolitan readers. You’ll also find copies of Monocle’s various titles, including the magazine’s popular travel guides.
16/ Sarto Lab
6 St. Francis Yard, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2368 2482
This men’s tailor combines traditional Shanghai tailoring with high quality fabrics sourced from Europe. A sister shop to Central’s high-end Il Sarto, Sarto Lab offers mid-priced tailor-made Italian suits that are relatively informal and bold in terms of style.
17/ White Do
Shop B, 1 Sun Street, Wanchai
Visitors who are not familiar with Cantonese will likely find the shop’s name unfathomable because it is a direct translation of the Cantonese saying baak6 zou6 (白做). The first character means “white” while the second means “to do something”; together, they mean to do something in vain. The wittiness of the shop’s name is well reflected by the shop’s selection of products, which includes a range of handmade apparels and home accessories.
Many of them are from Japan. “We didn’t deliberately buy a lot of these products from Japa,” says co-founder Joel Lo. “But we like things that are handcrafted. When it comes to this, it’s mostly Japan.” The shop also stocks a number of products by the acclaimed British artist David Shrigley, whose black humour goes hand in hand with White Do’s witty spirit. “The mug is certainly breakable, but it’s just British humour,” says Lo as he explains the concept behind Shrigley’s “fully breakable” ceramic mug – a manifestation of White Do’s vision of bringing cheeky, interesting products to Hong Kong.
7 Star Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2861 1145
Established in 1978 in Japan, 45R is known for apparel made with different fabric dyeing techniques. Much of their clothing possesses an earthy texture that feels natural and light to the touch. The brand is particularly well known for its denim collection. This is one of four 45R locations in Hong Kong.
17/ Basao Tea
17 Moon Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2952 3313
The real-world anchor to Basao’s online tea selling business, this shop offers an opportunity to taste some of the many organic teas offered by the company. It also offers homemade desserts, egg rolls infused with a number of different tea flavours – and of course, plenty of different teas to take home.
20/ APT. Coffee
12 Moon Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 3619 4393
APT. Coffee operates much like a tailor shop: instead of offering the usual list of coffee choices, it caters to your own tastes with a carefully designed menu that enables you to select the different flavours, processes and ingredients involved in the blending of your perfect coffee mix. The tailoring does not stop at your cup of coffee, as the café also offers a toast tailoring experience that allows you to enjoy a personalised toast with your preferred choice of bread and toppings.
21/ Elephant Grounds
8 Wing Fung Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2778 2700
This chain of specialty cafés, which has expanded from its base in Hong Kong to locations around Asia, occupies a prime spot overlooking the public plaza outside Three Pacific Place. The menu features specialty coffee as homemade pastries, booze and brunch, which are served inside a bright, woody interior.
Food and drink
G/F, 16 St. Francis Yard, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2755 5523
Standing out amidst the sea of Italian eateries in Hong Kong is Pici, a chain known for its fresh pasta, which is made daily in house and rotates throughout the week. Order a plate of burrata cheese and homemade meatballs before you delve into a plate of carbonara ravioli or classic lasagna.
23/ Brass Spoon
Shop B, 1-3 Moon Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2877 0898
As Hong Kong finally embraces Vietnam’s national dish, phở, there is no shortage of places to try this heartwarming noodle soup. But quality always stands out, and Brass Spoon has garnered rave reviews, including a mention in the Michelin Guide. The restaurant’s stock is made from beef shank bone slow-cooked for more than 16 hours, and the classic beef phở uses US Angus beef.
24/ Tak Yu Cha Chaan Teng
2 Kwok Ming Street
Tak Yu is a classic cha chaan teng serving all kinds of local comfort food, including Hong Kong-style French toast, corned beef and egg sandwiches, and milk tea. The restaurant can be quite crowded during lunch hours on weekdays as office workers nearby look for a quick and filling meal before they continue their day. Amongst the various chic eateries within its proximity, Tak Yu stands out as a down-to-earth representative of Hong Kong’s unique food culture.
6 Sun Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2567 8970Founded by Michael Chan in 2017, Honbo offers American-style smash burgers made with fresh-ground Double Gold beef from Wisconsin and served on homemade potato rolls. Despite the arrival of Shake Shack and Five Guys in Hong Kong, this quietly stylish eatery holds its own for anyone looking for a burger fix.
7 Sun Street, Wanchai, Tel. +852 2623 9983
French-Japanese fusion is well established – but have you ever heard of a restaurant that brings together French and Cantonese cuisine? That’s the approach taken by chef Stephanie Wong, who studied under Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. Roots’ specialises in dishes that are playful and surprising, such as shrimp toast with pickled onions and salmon roe or beef tartare with Yu Kwen Yick chilli sauce.