As you leave the chaos of Hollywood Road’s never-ending roadworks behind you and step over the quaint threshold of Fresca, café manager Ivy Chow will likely be the first to greet you with her beaming smile and the warmest of welcomes.
Despite only setting up shop three months ago, former retiree Chow has managed to foster the kind of homely ambience that is hard to come by in Hong Kong’s very bar-orientated centre, especially since the closure of Life Cafe in December.
The cafe’s cosy interior
Staff photographs line the back wall, quirky handmade decorations scatter the tables, and every arriving customer is treated like a friend at this community of good food and health.
Table decoration, handmade by members of staff
This adorable eatery thrives on serving the very freshest vegetarian food, as Chow either sources her ingredients from the local market in the neighbourhood or from her own garden. From hearty soups (HK35-45) and cashew-based smoothies (HKD48), to vibrant yellow, turmeric pepper infused bread (HD18 for two toasted slices), and hearty cookies (HKD12), Fresca offers an array of wholesome options and an important lesson in the value of good eating.
The vibrant yellow turmeric pepper flavoured bread
Chow was first inspired to establish a healthy eatery when she began growing her own vegetables a couple of years ago, claiming this opened her eyes to the enormous health benefits of home cooking. Various friends in the food industry advised her against setting up a café post-retirement given the all-consuming nature of the task, but these folks clearly underestimated both Chow’s steam and support network.
Having recruited a number of family members – some even coming all the way from Canada to help – Chow saw the gruelling two-year process from inception to creation through – more, she claims, for the purpose of pioneering a concept than making money.
“I didn’t do it for the sake of business,” she insisted. “This is a little movement.”
Chow wants to offer her customers farm-to-table food without the huge expense, which is why she keeps her prices as modest as feasibly possible (whilst still being able to afford the “crippling” rent, of course).
The menu’s staple dish – the triple-stacked ready-to-go “lunchbox” – (HKD65) comes jam-packed with generous helpings of warm grains, mixed greens and a choice of two warm or cold, ever-changing toppings.
The wholesome variety available at the salad bar
One of our favourite things about a visit here, however, is the fact that you can try before you buy. Guests are offered a taste of anything they like, and usually walk away with a few biscuit samples to boot.
Chow let us try bites of the Tahini Zucchini and Eggplant, Korean Bean Paste Tofu, Lotus Root with Plum Sauce, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup… and a chunk of Wholemeal Cookie, just for good measure.
Freshly made Tahini Zucchini and Eggplant
The menu varies according to the season (and what Chow’s been growing in the garden), but always incorporates different regional influences. Each of the seven staff members contributes to the cooking, which means that flavours from Thailand and Canada, amongst others, are all stirred into the mix.
Come try it for yourself.
8.30am – 5pm (Monday – Saturday). Fresca 54A Hollywood Road, Central, 54A Hollywood Road, Central (+852) 2770-2282.