The people of Eastwood are busy tucking into chunky French toast filled with peanut butter and lathered in condensed milk, as well as crispy pineapple buns loaded with giant wedges of melting butter, because Kowloon Cafe has landed in the neighbourhood. It’s the third edition of the Hong Kong-style cafe; the first opened in Chinatown in 2019 and the second in Burwood in 2022.
“Kowloon is inspired by the cafes of Hong Kong, which are everywhere, like kebab shops in Australia,” Howin Chui, who co-owns Kowloon with business partners Howard Lee and Gary Tsui, tells Broadsheet. “The food is a combination of West meets East, because, when the UK dominated Hong Kong, the locals developed their own, cheaper version of Western restaurants.”
Western staples, like bread, eggs, Spam and fries, meet Eastern favourites like rice, noodles, curries and stir-fries. The most popular dishes combine sweet and savoury flavours. For example, the current top-seller: HK Style Super Thick French Toast. It’s two slices of freshly baked, thickly sliced white bread, which are deep-fried, then filled with peanut butter, red beans, or Nutella, and served with a side of condensed milk, maple syrup or honey.
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Another cracker is the Crispy Butter Pineapple Bun, which “doesn’t contain any pineapple, or taste like it, but looks like it [pineapple],” says Chui (who also co-owns Senpai Ramen). Two slices of sweet bread are warmed in the oven, then filled with a giant wedge of butter. “It starts melting right in the middle, and the hot and cold texture is really amazing.” Diners can add egg, plus their pick of Spam, ham, corned beef or tomato.
When it came to the drinks list, Chui was big on getting the tea right. So big he went to Hong Kong and paid the best tea-makers he could find for their recipes. The Kowloon team then spent many weeks experimenting. The resulting “best of the best” brews combine multiple types of tea, from bags to powder, and include a variety of milky and fruity drops.
All three Kowloon Cafes share a casual, cafeteria-like feel, with comfy booths, timber-topped stools and green tiling, all backdropped by Mahjong characters and neon signs. Chui developed the design in collaboration with architect and designer Darren Kong. Hong Kong’s greatest hits of the 1980s and 1990s, which Chui describes as the “golden years”, provide a nostalgic soundtrack.
But Kowloon Cafe Eastwood has a point of difference. A forest-green double-decker tram – reminiscent of those that ply Hong Kong’s streets – complete with headlights, windscreen wipers, and handrails, takes up around a third of the space. Chui had it custom-built.
“I have millions of ideas, and some might be stupid, but the people who work with me are willing to try them,” says Chui. “It’s important to find people who believe in you and have the same ambition.
“I don’t think we can say what’s next. But, ultimately, our vision is to be the pinpoint of Hong Kong cafe food in Australia. We hope to have a lot more Kowloon Cafes, in different states.”
11A 27 Belmore Street, Eastwood
(02) 9745 3888