Private kitchens started about 15 years ago when chefs and restaurant owners were trying to sidestep the city’s notoriously high rental prices for ground level spaces and began moving upstairs into residential and even industrial locales.

They acquired licenses as private clubs in order to avoid the regulations and fees placed on public restaurants.

“As time passed, (kitchens) just became the cool thing to do,” said critic Adele Wong, food and lifestyle editor for HK Magazine.

“People love to find out about lesser known restaurants … places that look like holes in the wall but are actually great (food and beverage) dining destinations.”

While there is no way to count the number of kitchens, because many are extremely secretive, it’s reasonable to say there are hundreds in the city, Wong said.

Club Qing offers three different set menus ranging from HK$380 to $1,780 (US $48 to $225) a head for dinner, as well as a lunch menu and a la carte items. Each menu features between six and eight different courses broken up by servings of traditional Chinese tea.
“We have over 40 different kinds of Chinese tea,” said the kitchen’s manager Kennis Ko, who is a tea connoisseur and often travels to China to visit the tea producers. “They each have their own character and that makes (the meal) very enjoyable.”