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The Gough Street Revival

We look at the history of Gough Street and why restaurants are choosing the trendy street to put down their roots.

February 15, 2022

Gough Street has long been one the most beloved streets of Hong Kong. Through gentrification, the street went from being filled with printing presses and beef brisket noodle shops to becoming a trendy street of the likes of West Village in New York.

At first, the historical street seemed more design-focused, with stores such as Agnes B, Timothy Oulton, Homeless and Petit Bazaar all calling Gough Street their home. But the street also provided an eclectic mix of restaurants and cafes, from Tim Oulton’s stylish debut restaurant Gough on Gough and detox-friendly Da Ma to family-run Shanghai Lane and the long-standing noodle shop Kau Kee restaurant—which to this day has been around for more than 40 years.

Photo: Natasha Tang

With many of the stores and restaurants closing during the protests and the beginning of COVID, the street grew quieter, though HongKongers still enjoyed sitting on the steps sipping coffee or wine on the adjacent streets and watching games of jian zi unfold every day in front of modern mediterranean restaurant BEDU.

Photo: CENSU

These past few months a whole new roster of restaurants has appeared, bringing energy to the once sleepy street. Joining the many restaurants offering Asian fare is CENSU ('folding fan' in Japanese), which brings a rustic vibe and traditional izakaya-style cooking by chef Shun Sato, previously at Ho Lee Fook, Fukuro and Belon among others. May Chow returns to her roots with the opening of Little Bao, bringing the old classic baos as well a brand new brunch menu featuring a mouthwatering caramelised brioche french toast doused with coffee liqueur-infused maple syrup.

Breakfast Bao | Photo: Little Bao

When it comes to latin fare, diners can choose between Spanish tapas bar Chueca, named after Madrid’s central district, which boasts the largest outdoor bar in Central along with Spanish nibbles—from lobster rice to creamy flan de nata (caramel flan)—or new kid-on-the-block Chicano helmed by Gabe Perez—previously at Black Sheep—and chef Edgar Vigo who treat guests to authentic Mexican cuisine inspired by Gabe's abuelita’s cooking including Grandma’s meatballs, tacos, churros…the whole enchilada.

Looking for a drink away from the Soho crowd? Cocktail bar The Eav’s Place (by invitation only for now) flaunts an impressive flower display along with tantalising cocktails.

Photo: Little BEDU

And finally for the busy city dwellers on the go, BEDU’s take-away sister venue, Little BEDU, offers set menus with dips such as smoky hummus and beetroot labneh or mains such as cumin-roasted chicken skewers or garlic prawns.

The latter being brother and sister duo Alex and Laura Offe of Meraki Hospitality’s latest venture, we question Laura on the changing tides Gough Street has gone through.

Photo: BEDU

How have you seen Gough Street change since BEDU opened?

From what used to be a hub for printing presses, the street has always been a destination for restaurants and creative start-ups alike. You can find everything from street food landmarks like Sing Heung Yuen, Kau Kee’s beef brisket noodles to Asia’s no.1 Restaurant - The Chairman, and queues for specialty ramen. More recently we’ve welcomed independent and chef-led concepts like Posso and Censu which have been great additions to casual dining options in the area, not without mentioning World’s Best cocktails from COA.

I would also say, it’s absorbed some of the foot-traffic from Soho, where heavy social distancing enforcement has pushed patrons into NOHO. Gough Street has always been known for its residential and neighbourhood nature, and for many businesses along the street that embrace this, it’s given us a level of resilience through tough times.

Photo: Natasha Tang

Why did you decide to stay on Gough Street to open Little BEDU?

The core identity of BEDU was always to be a neighbourhood restaurant. Located away from the main buzz of Soho, we’ve established a little community of supporters that have kept our lights on throughout the events of 2019 – and again through the hardest times of the pandemic.

When a space opened up towards the tail end of Gough Street, it offered itself as a takeaway shop front and also as a creative base for BEDU's kitchen team. We decided to shift the successful lunch menu that BEDU had built over the last 3 years, to a takeaway only offering. It was extremely important to continue to offer​ this conveniently, just a minute’s walk away. This also gave the team at BEDU the opportunity to shift their focus towards sourcing ethically and as locally as possible by partnering with farms that were adopting regenerative farming methods.

Photo: Natasha Tang

Have you seen a difference in the neighbourhood since the influx of new restaurants?

 Hong Kongers have been land-bound for almost two years now and parts of what was spent on travelling is now being spent in restaurants. Gough Street and its adjoining streets offer a smaller, more intimate and cosy dining offering. Much in line with the shift in the city’s population, we’ve welcomed a new wave of regulars and first timers that are local diners as opposed to expats.