The Rosewood Hong Kong is a firm fixture on the Kowloon waterfront now, a staggeringly handsome obelisk paying homage to its owners, the Cheng family. Headed by Sonia Cheng, the 65-storey hotel and residence tower was designed like a family estate, with The Legacy House being the trophy room dedicated to her grandfather’s accomplishments.
Perhaps quite self-evident in its moniker, The Legacy House is all about honouring the past generations of the storied family, which began in the 1950s at the hands of the late Cheng patriarch Cheng Yu-tung, who founded New World Development. As Sonia says, “The Legacy House pays homage to my Grandfather, his place of origin and all that he created during his significant lifetime.” Cheng came from humble roots in Shunde, which is considered the cradle of Cantonese cooking and is “famous for its bounty of produce and for its gastronomy.” This bustling blip in the Pearl River Delta specialises in freshwater seafood (particularly varieties of carp), buffalo milk, and shellfish, with intricate methods allowing the trickier river fare to shine.
The sultry and art-filled interiors of The Legacy House, designed by Melbourne-based BAR Studio, would feel almost claustrophobic were it not for the impressively high ceilings — lending almost a maze-like feel as you step into the foyer of the restaurant. One side of The Legacy House leads to seven large private dining rooms, each designed with a distinct theme, and each with their own private bars.
The main dining room on the other side exudes a more semi-casual vibe, with a naked marble bar and stations where you can watch your roast duck getting carved or your dim sum being prepared behind glass partitions. Above, hand-blown gingko leaves by Lasvit dance in formation, offset by brass light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Filling the room are minimalist square tables (rather odd for a Chinese restaurant), trendy belt-strapped banquettes, and to one side, a breathtaking terrace that looks over the harbour.
On each table, art and craftsmanship is prized in the details — from the criss-cut crystal condiment bottles to the wafer-thin water tumblers, the gold-rimmed, Qinghua-style plates to the dainty brass cutlery.
We dined in one of the seven private rooms — each of which pays homage to a landmark moment in Dr. Cheng Yu-tung’s extraordinary life and career. All along the walls we noticed glimmers of gold — in the light fixtures and in motifs reminiscent of gold bouillons — suggesting this room commemorated Cheng’s Chow Tai Fook jewellery empire, and his pioneering step of establishing the 999.9 fineness of pure gold, which later became a government-approved industry standard in 1984.
Here, the gargantuan round table was lined with leather, which meant we raised and lowered our glasses each time with a satisfyingly muted thud. However, the display dishes here featured a smoky brown motif, which gave off the slight illusion of unclean plates if you weren’t looking closely.
Food & Drink
During the day, the food at The Legacy House showcases more Northern Chinese cuisine (think xiaolongbao, hand-pulled noodles) and dim sum, while casting a spotlight on a proper Shunde menu for dinner.
Aside from an extensive wine list of over 800 (mostly Old World) wines, the cocktail menu — filled with concoctions named only in Cantonese — relies heavily on Asian ingredients. There’s a vodka-based cocktail on the menu made with taro, lychee and pandan, along with an osmanthus and prosecco spritzer. We try the Zhen Shan, a light highball refresher: Using vermouth as the base, it’s sweetened with vanilla and infused with a hint of smokiness from Lapsang Souchong tea, before being topped off with lime and ginger beer. It tastes somewhat like a Moscow Mule made with mezcal.
We start off our meal with an appetizer trio of honey glazed barbecued pork, peeled cherry tomatoes marinated in Huangjiu, and a packed deep-fried pastry, filled with pork and crab meat, shrimp, yellow chive, and water chestnut. Out of these three starters, we swoon over the sweet, fresh juiciness of the plump cherry tomatoes, essentially a chilly splash in each bite that’s perfect for summer. Though the char siu is billed as “the best barbecued pork in Hong Kong,” we’d have to politely disagree — it could have done with more char and been served a lot hotter, though the fat-to-lean-meat ratio is on point. The deep-fried pastry is tasty, but rather forgettable (and expensive, given the small amount of crab meat at HK$120 for two pieces).
Next comes the showstopper — Peking duck, which is roasted daily in-house in a custom-made oven. Carved tableside and served the traditional Beijing way, the airy, crispy skin is meant to be eaten first on its own with sugar, before wrapping the meatier slices in steamy flour pancakes. The meat is tender, gamey and flavourful, indicative of a well-chosen fowl. The remainder of our Peking duck, once the best parts of meat are sliced up, is whisked away to make a hearty dish of wok-fried minced duck with lettuce wraps.
Next comes an appetiser of deep-fried spicy beef, nuts and honey — reminiscent of a Kung Pao chicken dish. Tender and juicy wagyu morsels are glazed and covered with crunchy peanuts on the outside, tickling the taste buds with the numbing tang of Sichuan peppercorns. While not a traditional recipe, this dish is a true crowdpleaser and a must-order in our books.
One of the time-honoured Shunde dishes is the minced fish soup with fungus and tangerine peel. We thoroughly enjoy the soothing thick soup — almost a stew — that’s perfect for colder weather. It’s packed with spoonfuls of white meat and the light aromatic hint of dried tangerine peel — though at HK$200 per portion, it’s not quite worth the splurge.
Neither is the Daliang-style wok-fried milk, stir-fried with crab meat, egg white and bird’s nest. Yes, Shunde’s fried milk dishes represent the pinnacle of art and skill in the traditional kitchen, and head chef Li Chi-wai demonstrates mastery in achieving the toothsome consistency of bouncy yet creamy slivers of protein. However, at HK$480, this is a costly indulgence without the payoff, with the bird’s nest adding little overall flavour.
Mud carp, or dace, is also a prominent ingredient in Shunde kitchens; as a fish filled with little bones, it’s typically served minced. The stir-fried fish noodle dish is a great example of this, with the meat rolled by hand into long cylinders and boiled into noodles. They’re then tossed together with bean sprouts, mushrooms and dried sole, with each mouthful packed full of umami and fiery wok hei.
A dish of stewed water bamboo shoots with conpoy dried shrimp, chinese celery and fungus rounds out our meal with a healthy dose of veggies, although it’s nothing to write home about.
Our dessert was the chilled sweet mango soup with sago and pomelo, paired with a single piece of deep fried Daliang milk. Another Shunde classic, the creamy, luxurious sweetened buffalo milk native to the region is coated in a thin batter before meeting the deep fryer. We prefer this to the savoury version of fried milk that arrived earlier in the meal. Normally a separate order offered as a daily special, there’s a quota of this dish as the milk needs to be frozen before frying — so make sure you call ahead and pre-order so as not to be disappointed.
The wok skills and fresh ingredients required in crafting Shunde delicacies certainly shine through at The Legacy House — yet some comforting classics lack the refined presentation to match the elegant surroundings. The humble context of the cuisine feels incongruent. Even when you’re dining in the main room, the more casual atmosphere makes it tough to justify the high price point of the menu’s star items, featuring such exquisite ingredients such as bird’s nest, prized dried seafoods and fresh shellfish — or even a Peking duck that costs nearly double what it normally does elsewhere.
Yet, since The Legacy House is indeed a monument to one of Hong Kong’s most revered and successful businessmen, perhaps he wouldn’t have thought twice about paying a premium for his beloved home cuisine. The next time you’re wondering what it’s like to live like a Cheng for a day, you’ll know where to drop in for dinner.
Opening Hours: Lunch from 12–2:30pm; dinner from 6–10:30pm.
Recommended Dishes: Roasted Peking duck, deep fried spicy beef, nuts, and honey, minced fish soup with fungus and tangerine peel; Daliang-style fried milk.
Price: Approximately HK$800–900 per head before drinks. Cocktails are priced at HK$130 each.
Noise Level: Quiet, leading to some uncomfortable silences (the faint music doesn’t add much ambience).
Service: Attentive, although staff’s English explanations could do with some brushing up.
The Legacy House, 5/F, Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 3891 8732