• Garden Meow Cafe welcomes passersby with a purr on the ground floor of the refurbished PMQ.
  • A cat in neon browses a book.

In Hong Kong, the cat’s meow

lifestyle November 16, 2018 01:00

By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul
THE NATION

3,827 Viewed

At PMQ, where cops and their spouses once slumbered, felines frolic with pet-deprived diners and dreamers



Pet cafes are all the rage now in Hong Kong, especially in the livelier districts such as Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. They’re places to lounge with adorable canines and felines while enjoying all kinds of delectable food, drinks and desserts.

Garden Meow Cafe on the ground floor of Block B Hollywood at PMQ – the old residence for policemen and their wives – now purrs with cats and their human customers.

 

PMQ is a hub for designers and other creative types, whose workspaces occupy the same historic buildings after considerable upgrading for modern uses. The former residential units are now mostly studios and shops, although some visiting designers also camp there overnight. On top of Block B is a rooftop restaurant.

Around half the tenants are designers of clothing and household products, with the rest conceiving fashion accessories, food and furniture. They share exhibition space and event facilities.

 

All sorts of illustrated books and magazines provide newcomers with guidelines to the feline world.

Vivian Yang, a Taiwanese who co-owns Garden Meow Cafe with a Hong Kong partner, explains that most local apartment dwellers aren’t allowed to keep pets, and she happens to be a cat lover, so she set up a place for furry friends and their cuddle-deprived human admirers. Folks are welcome to bring in their own cats, she says, “but they mustn’t disturb the other customers, because then I’d get negative reviews”.

 

All sorts of illustrated books and magazines provide newcomers with guidelines to the feline world.

The first cats you see are guarding the front door – they’re neon lights in the shape of cats. Then, beyond the traditional fabric curtains at the doorway, is a small library of books and magazines in Chinese and English filled with feline art and illustrations. 

All the pillows and mugs are invariably decorated with similar art and on the floor out front is a depiction of one cat skateboarding and another one reading, two activities not closely associated with cats but sure to put you in the mood for fun or relaxation.

 

Tree branches and cat amulets adorn the walls.

The café has a cosy yet eclectic atmosphere, mostly wood-trimmed and with vintage tables and chairs both inside and outside. The walls are covered in real tree branches and dry leaves, several banners and more cat-inspired signs and posters. A beckoning cat of the Japanese-Chinese variety says your money is always welcome here. 

 

Vintage tables and chairs add to the homey feel.

Between the bookshelves and dining area are displayed an ancient transistor radio and antique turntable, the property of the owner, a long-time collector of vintage gadgets. The counter bar is lined with many bottles of craft beer on sale. It all feels endearingly charming, evocative of simpler, homier times.

 

Follow the fur from one room to another.

“Most of our customers are either local people or tourists from America, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand, because Hong Kong is now promoting PMQ heavily,” Yang says beneath a crop of hair dyed green. “The books and magazines are there to read or buy.”

Taiwanese cuisine dominates the menu, appealing dishes such as drunken chicken with cold noodles. The tender meat of the chicken is a great match for the smooth and lightly flavoured thin white noodles.

 

Taiwanese-style Ginger and Wine Sauce Chicken

 

Taiwanese Manchu Noodle Soup with beef tendons is packed with spicy flavour, as is the Ginger and Wine Sauce Chicken with rice. I’m most astonished with “Walk Over the Cloud”, a bright-blue soda-and-cream drink topped with fluffy cotton candy. It’s pretty to see – obviously begging to have its picture taken – and sweet to eat. 

 

Walk over the Cloud

 

Also available is Taiwanese brown-sugar-milk tea with rectangular herbal jellies, plus all that beer in bottles and cans imported from around the world.

This isn’t Yang’s first animal café. She’s lived in Hong Kong for many years and opened a pooch palace five years ago, then another place that boasted an owl and another with a giraffe theme. 

 

Banners and posters sing the praises of the pussy.

“I have a passion for pets,” she says with evident understatement. “I open cafes with themes that match my favourite animals. The giraffe cafe was the most popular. The one with the owl is located in Wanchai district, where there are trees along the footpath. The cat idea came along when I noticed that a lot of Hong Kong people can’t keep pets in their apartments.”

Yang is planning to open another pet café. The only question is which animal gets the nod this time.