To get a sense of old Hong Kong, one must partake of dim sum at Luk Yu Tea House in Central.
An authentic vestige of a lost era, Luk Yu is the most famous traditional teahouse remaining in the city. Operating since 1933, the "eating house & restaurant" captures the elegance of the period with black ceiling fans, quaint wooden booths (perfect for couples, business deals or those wishing to be discreet), ornate wood panelling, stained-glass murals, marble tabletops, rosewood furniture, brass spittoons, and framed scrolls on white walls.
Luk Yu is not only famous, but infamous: On November 30, 2002, a wealthy businessman was murdered execution-style by a mainland Chinese hit man. Witnesses said the assassin was calm and cold: he ate breakfast, paid the bill, walked behind his target, shot him in the head, and strolled out of the teahouse.
Despite this dark blemish on its history, Luk Yu is worth visiting.
At one time, the servers—all older men—were famed for their rudeness. Foreigners could count on aloof and surly treatment (if they could even get in, that is). It's not like that anymore. Our waiter was a most genial fellow; when we enquired how long he'd been working there, he replied more than 40 years—and he'd started when he was 14 years old.
Dim sum is served between 7.00am and 5.30pm; the best time to go is before or after the mid-morning and mid-afternoon rushes when the place is packed. Luk Yu has English menus complete with pictures of the food for ease of ordering. The quality of both the food and the tea is excellent. The evening menu is available from 5.30pm until closing time at 10.00pm.
Though dining at Luk Yu isn't inexpensive, it's not outrageous either. Teahouse tradition is about companionship and drinking tea rather than eating—visit when you're not too hungry and sample a few dishes instead of filling up on everything that looks good. Try the ha gaau; sip some Heung Pin.
Relax, take your time, and soak in the ambiance.
To get there, take the MTR to Central and head to Exit D2. Turn right to connect to Theatre Lane, then turn left. Cross Queen's Road Central and walk uphill to Stanley Street. Turn right and stay on the left side of the street.
Luk Yu Tea House is at 24-26, Stanley Street.