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Taylor Shellfish: Why Sai Ying Pun’s High Street is ‘the best food street in town’

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Kenneth Lee, manager of Taylor Shellfish Farms Restaurant, says there’s a real neighbourhood foodie vibe in High Street

If you’re starting off at the harbourside in Sai Ying Pun then High Street seems like quite the climb. But it’s worth crossing the likes of Queen’s Road West and First, Second and Third and puffing your way – with the help of a few well-placed escalators  – up to what Kenneth Lee, manager of Taylor Shellfish Farms Restaurant, calls ‘the best food street in town’.

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You’ve got amazing Korean fried chicken at Uncle Padak, top pub grub at Craft Brew & Co, incredible French bistro fare at Metropolitain and a couple of local restaurants that are perpetually plagued with pesky lines of customers outside their doors. Add to this Flying Pig Bistro, Ollies, High Street Grill, Pizzeria Italia and a good bucketload of other popular joints and you do indeed have what Lee, whose Taylor Shellfish Farms Restaurant is one of the most cherished of the lot, calls ‘a real gem of a street for the neighbourhood’.

“It’s the best food street in town,” says Lee. “There are so many options to choose from. And so many of the restaurants are casual and relaxing. There are excellent wines on offer in these restaurants, too, and we’re no different. We only serve the best vintages to go with the best shellfish. As a result, we find the majority of our customers are couples because of the wine and oysters and because we’re an intimate venue. We add something romantic to this excellent food street in Sai Ying Pun.”

Lee, who was born, raised and educated in Hong Kong but went to university in Leeds, UK, says that the restaurant, which has made a name for itself due to its quality oysters that sit on the bar counter, opened just a year ago. But, he adds, Taylor Shellfish itself is much, much older. In fact, the company was established in 1890 in Puget Sound in Washington, USA. Five generations later, it has restaurants, stores and farms across the world, each selling the highest grade oysters, clams, mussels and other shellfish primarily from the USA but from other countries too. Including here in Hong Kong, with a farm and store in Sha Tin and two restaurants on Hong Kong Island.

““Sai Ying Pun is a melting pot of cultures, we have regular local and expat customers from across the world. We always chat and get to know our customers so they can see us as friends as well as people who serve them excellent seafood!”

Taylor Shellfish Farms Restaurant in Sai Ying Pun opened only a matter of months after the 2015 launch of its first Hong Kong restaurant in Tai Hang. Lee joined the newest joint as manager soon after, following many years of work on oyster bars in premium local supermarkets. “I’ve always had a passion for oysters,” he says. “Well, a passion for all seafood, really. I love food and I love to learn about it, however learning about shellfish is my favourite pastime. And actually working with oysters is a real pleasure, from shucking them to preparing them and, of course, tasting them!”

Lee may not have been taught how to be an expert when it comes to oysters but he’s learned over time to appreciate the qualities of bivalves and the 35-year-old helps his diners with the tasting notes so they can choose which ones are best for them. “The main reason I think guests come here to our restaurant,” he says, “is because they love our oysters. We have so much choice, with our shellfish coming from across the world, although mainly from the USA. They know how much we love oysters!”

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Lee cites the seafood risotto with lobster sauce and French smoked eel dishes as two really popular signatures at the restaurant, however he also says that all of the oysters, primarily sourced from the USA, France, New Zealand and Australia, which beautifully adorn the bar counter are hugely popular with guests. These are the eatery’s true signatures. There’s also a steamer in the restaurant which cooks the seafood within two to three minutes. Lee says this is ‘a really fast time’ and creates ‘wonderfully soft and juicy shellfish’. It was bought in Canada and is a rare find in Hong Kong.

“People like our restaurant,” says Lee, “because of the seating and the environment and the location in Sai Ying Pun and the fact that Sai Ying Pun doesn’t have many places that offer oysters and certainly don’t offer fresh quality oysters like ours. Or premium mussels and clams, for that matter.”  Lee says the Taylor Shellfish Farms restaurant in Tai Hang has more tourists that visit the venue rather than the ‘locals, neighbours and couples’ who tend to dine in the High Street space, which also boasts a large garden area out the back for parties and celebrations.

“Sai Ying Pun is a melting pot of cultures,” he says. “We have regular local and expat customers from across the world. Obviously, many French people dine here as they love quality oysters but we cater for everyone. Our neighbourhood has welcomed us over the past year and we welcome them to our restaurant. We always chat and get to know our customers so they can see us as friends as well as people who serve them excellent seafood!”

Taylor Shellfish Farms Restaurant is at Shop C & D, G/F, Lai Yin Court, 80-86 High St. Call 2549 3130 and visit taylorshellfishfarms.com.

Thank you to Taylor Shellfish for sponsoring our The Beating Art of Sai Ying Pun exhibition, which is currently on the walls of theDesk. Come in on any weekday until June 16, 9am-5pm, to check it out.

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