Shenzhen is starting to shake off its image as Hong Kong’s poor cousin, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the city’s thriving F&B sector.
But is it really worth the trip to Shenzhen just to eat out? Many people – attracted by fresher ingredients, improving standards, and more variety – seem to think so.
“Things began to improve in the mid- to late 80s,” says Chan Ah-kin, Chinese chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen.
“The quality of ingredients has greatly improved, and the quality of Chinese food in Hong Kong can no longer complete with it.”
John Tsang, director of Chinese production at the Sheraton Shenzhen Futian Hotel, agrees. He attributes Hong Kong’s falling culinary standards to simple economics.
“Rents in Hong Kong are too high,” he says.
“One of the reasons that the standards are declining is to offset higher rents. They are having to higher fewer people to work in the kitchen, and they can no longer afford the best ingredients.”
Ruan Wenhui, executive Chinese chef at Marco’s, which is located in the Crowne Plaza Shenzhen, believes that there are basically three reasons why Shenzhen is a great place to dine.
First, the ingredients tend to be fresher because everything in Hong Kong has to be imported.
Second, there is more variety as there are far more restaurants serving regional cuisines from around the country.
And finally, the cost of eating out in Shenzhen is cheaper than in Hong Kong. With prices running roughly 20 to 30 per cent lower than at comparable restaurants in Hong Kong, it would seem hardly worth the time, effort and cost of getting to Shenzhen just to save money.
The real attraction is the variety and the authenticity of the restaurants serving regional Chinese cuisines that are not widely available in the former British Crown Colony.