For the past seven years, Aussie expat Suhanya Raffel has called Hong Kong home. The former deputy director of both Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales moved to Hong Kong seven years ago to become the executive director of M+, Hong Kong’s new museum of visual culture and another jewel in the crown of a city that blends cutting-edge architecture, cuisine, hospitality and natural beauty. “It’s one of the great global cities,” says Raffel.
Now in the position of museum director, Raffel has spent the past seven years getting to know her new home. We asked her to tell us how she would spend just 48 hours in the city, and these are her must-see spots.
Mosu is an on-site restaurant at M+ to refuel after a big day spent exploring the grounds. You can also enjoy panoramic views here of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. Executive chef Sung Anh picked up a Michelin star when Mosu opened in San Francisco, before later permanently closing and relocating to Hong Kong. “It’s fusion [cuisine],” says Raffel, acknowledging that the inventive fusion menu is representative of Hong Kong’s culinary scene. “Hong Kongers really appreciate very fine experiences across the spectrum, including food and wine.”
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Din Tai Fung
Starting a day in Hong Kong with food is a great way to fully immerse yourself in local culture. “The culture of hospitality and food is a really important part of living in Hong Kong,” says Raffel. “A greeting is also about saying, ‘Have you had enough food for the day?’ It’s a way [to talk] that immediately speaks about nourishing.”
For a proper introduction to how the locals eat, Raffel suggests heading out for steamed dumpling. There are plenty of casual eateries that line the backstreets of Wan Chai, or follow Raffel’s lead for something a little more upscale. “There are many great places, but I often go to Causeway Bay and the Din Tai Fung there,” says Raffel. “It’s actually Michelin-starred now and very delicious.”
Wong Chuk Hang district
“There are a whole lot of commercial galleries in Wong Chuk Hang up in the industrial estates that are fantastic to explore,” says Raffel. The neighbourhood has moved on from its industrial past to become Hong Kong’s centre of art and design. Galleries dot the streets among a new wave of trendy cafes and restaurants and an afternoon of gallery hopping is essentially a crash course in the city’s contemporary arts scene. “Rossi & Rossi, Axel Vervoordt, De Sarthe gallery, Blindspot – there are beautiful spaces throughout that side of the island,” says Raffel. “It’s really worth exploring.”
Ping Pong 129
Once a table tennis parlour, Ping Pong 129 has now converted into something entirely new. “It serves very good Spanish tapa and it’s an excellent gin bar,” says Raffel of the former sports venue in Sai Ying Pun. The unassuming spot also features plenty of local artwork, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a drink and a snack while you take in the art scene.
Settle in among the high ceilings and neon signs to try local gin (like the fabulous Perfume Trees) and classic plates of cheese toasties, spicy potatoes, fried almonds and cured meats, or browse the latest works displayed in the in-house art gallery.
M+ was designed by architects Herzog & De Meuron (also known for London’s Tate Modern) and opened in the West Kowloon Cultural District in 2021. It positions itself as housing an "interdisciplinary collection of visual culture that brings together design and architecture, moving image, and visual art works from Hong Kong, mainland China, elsewhere in Asia, and beyond." That includes four permanent collections, including one of the largest collections of contemporary Chinese art in the world. The gallery is housed in a concrete podium, topped by a rooftop garden and a 14-storey tower, surrounded by a park. M+ is on a 40-hectare site, so wear your comfiest shoes: you’re going to do some walking.
With so much to see at M+, Raffel recommends the Madame Song exhibition in the museum’s West Gallery as a great place to start. It’s a detailed look at the life of a Chinese pioneer in fashion, film, and art. “Her story is really superb,” says Raffel. “She’s our Coco Chanel.” You’ll also find works from avant-garde architects Archigram, the Sigg Collection of Chinese contemporary art, and the Kiyotomo Sushi Bar, a piece of Japanese architectural history transplanted right into the museum.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Hong Kong Tourism Board. Discover where to start your Hong Kong journey here.