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The Hong Kong food invasion

Popular Hong Kong brands are making a splash and setting up shop in Singapore, with more set to come next year

Among the slew of imported food brands that entered Singapore this year, those from Hong Kong have made quite a splash.

Wonton noodle specialist Mak's Noodle at The Centrepoint and Jenny Bakery in Ang Mo Kio, which sells butter cookies, have drawn long queues.

More Hong Kong food brands are coming next year, including Kam's Roast Goose, A La Bakery and the famous Tai Cheong Bakery.

They join other recent Hong Kong entrants such as The Coffee Academics cafe, which opened last week at Scotts Square; and The Butcher's Club Burger restaurant at Clarke Quay.

Other popular Hong Kong brands that have set up shop here in recent years include Koi Kei Bakery in Temple Street; The Peninsula Boutique at Ion Orchard; vinegar and sauce shop Pat Chun in South Bridge Road; and dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan, which just added its sixth outlet at CityLink Mall last month.

Singapore-born television producer Robert Chua, who brought Tim Ho Wan here in 2013, will open Hong Kong restaurant Kam's Roast Goose before the middle of next year. While the location has not been confirmed, he says that it will probably be in Orchard Road.

It was supposed to open this year but he says he is still sourcing for good quality geese. He was in town last weekend to meet the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. Only geese from the United States and Hungary are allowed here, but Mr Chua says that they are "not good enough" and does not rule out farming the birds in Malaysia.

After opening Kam's Roast Goose, he is also likely to bring in A La Bakery, which specialises in French bread and pastries.

Should he open A La Bakery here, Mr Chua, 69, emphasises that it will maintain the same quality by using only French ingredients in its products.

Noting that the food and beverage scene in Singapore is similar to Hong Kong's, he believes the brands can thrive here.

"We hope to have the same success of Tim Ho Wan," he says. "Like in Hong Kong, Singaporeans are also very sensitive to quality. They appreciate good food and quality."

Another bakery making its way to Singapore is Tai Cheong Bakery, founded in Hong Kong in 1954.

It has entered into a joint venture with Food People, a company set up by Mr Wei Chan, managing director of The Pine Garden bakery, and Mr Han Jin Juan of Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant. Both are fans of its signature egg tarts.

The shop will also sell bolo buns, doughnuts, egg rolls and selected pastries, as well as local cha chaan tang dishes.

The location and opening date have not been confirmed.

Mr Rich Bakery, another butter cookie brand from Hong Kong, is also looking to set up shop in Singapore next month. The company is in the midst of confirming a location, and are already getting ready supplies for Chinese New Year.

Sales of its cookies started on Groupon in October, with self- collection at official distributor Asia Food Mart's premises at TripleOne Somerset.

The Butchers Club Burger will continue its expansion with at least one more outlet and it will launch its private dining restaurant The Butchers Club at MacPherson by the end of this month. The restaurant will have sausage-making and butchery classes, and in the first half of next year, there are plans to introduce the steakhouse concept Steak Frites by The Butchers Club.

Others who have opened here believe that there is still room for more brands to join the fray.

Ms Jennifer Liu, founder of The Coffee Academics, is well aware that Singapore's coffee culture has been gaining ground over the years.

She says: "Local consumers are discerning about their coffee and seem to enjoy the 'thrill of the hunt' for new hidden cafes sprouting across hipster neighbourhoods and heartland locations all over the island.

"However, I feel that there is still a demand for speciality coffee that is personalised and served in an intimate and stylish setting."

The 3,000 sq ft outlet has seven stations including a cupping corner for coffee classes and events; a custom-blend concierge for creating bespoke blends; and a roasting corner.

Businessman Bernard Lim, 55, says: "I love Hong Kong roasts and dim sum, and we do have good ones here. What I'm excited about is Kam's Roast Goose.

"That's something we don't have here. I hope that when it opens, more goose restaurants will follow suit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'The Hong Kong food invasion'. Print Edition | Subscribe