Macau: you might know it as the gambling temple near Hong Kong where newly minted Mainland millionaires flock to spend their hard-earned RMB. It's true that behemoth casinos now dominate Macau's tiny peninsula and island, but step away from all this, and find that the former Portuguese colony retains its fascinating and diverse heritage.
Just yards from the ridiculously ornate billion dollar casinos and hotels in Cotai, you'll find winding alleyways, colonial villages and temples that have remained unchanged for decades. The same goes for many of the local eateries, many of which have garnered intensely loyal followings that have kept them open for years.
1. Loja Sopa de Fita Cheong Kei (祥記麵家)
Price: RMB50 per person
Still going strong since opening in 1958 with vintage interiors to match, this iconic 'snack food' eatery arguably serves the best shrimp roe noodles in the city. With an intense flavor beloved by local Macanese palates, these noodles are also famous for being made in the traditional ‘bamboo pole’ method.
Although an incredibly laborious method of making noodles – so much so that it’s estimated that just a handful of practitioners still exist in Hong Kong and Macau – it yields noodles remarkable for their excellently chewy and satisfying texture.
This place is very popular, so anticipate a line if you come during peak dining hours on weekends or holidays. Happily, the line is pretty fast moving – it’s good etiquette to eat fast and leave quickly when you’re done.
What to get:
- Shrimp roe noodles (蝦子撈麵)
- Crispy wontons and fish balls (金沙炸鯪魚球併炸雲呑)
// 新馬路新埗頭橫街4號地下, G/F, 68 R. da Felicidade Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (By Kam Pek Community Centre bus station) Open daily, 12pm-12.30am. ([+853] 2857 4310)
2. Lord Stow's Bakery (安德魯餅店)
Price: RMB30-50 per person
Just off of Eanes Park in Coloane Village, a sleepy colonial hamlet far from the casino strip, is the famed Lord Stow’s Bakery. Established by Englishman ‘Lord’ Andrew Stow in 1990, this compact little bakery draws in a steady stream of egg tart pilgrims to this day. We recommend getting a box of these beauties and eating them there and then (make sure to ask if you can purchase warm tarts straight out of the oven!), before strolling over the Eanes Park square for dinner at Restaurante Espaco Lisboa.
If a visit to Coloane Village doesn’t fit with your schedule, there’s other branches of Lord Stow’s Bakery to be found around Macau. See www.lordstow.com for details.
What to get:
- Classic egg tarts (蛋撻)
// 1 Rua do Tassara, Coloane Village 市中心撻沙街 1 號地下 (By Coloane Village bus station). Open daily, 7am-10pm. ([+853] 2888 2534)
3. Restaurante Espaco Lisboa (里斯本地帶餐廳)
Price: RMB150-250 per person
Quiet and low-key, Restaurante Espaco Lisboa serves homey Portuguese dishes in a converted two-story house at Coloane Village. It’s true there are grander Portuguese restaurants in Macau, but when it comes to eating like a local, this place has it down. Portuguese owned and with a Portuguese chef, it’s no wonder Espaco Lisboa has been around for years.
If you can, sit on the small balcony on the second floor, which has a pretty view of the ocean, and make sure to order a few bottles from the extensive Portuguese wine list.
Coloane Village is slightly out of the way, so make the trip worth your while with a post-dinner stroll through the picturesque village and promenade.
What to get:
- Coconut and spiced 'African chicken'
- Portuguese baked rice
- Steamed clams
// 8 R. das Gaivotas, Coloane Village 水鴨街8號地下及1樓. (By Coloane Village bus station). 12.00-3pm, 6.30-10pm ([+853] 2888 2226)
4. DJ Kitchen (四海美食)
Price: RMB30 per person
Situated on the beautiful pedestrian-only section of Rue da Felicidade, this cheerful hole-in-the-wall café serves some of the best milk tea and milk coffee we’ve tried anywhere. There’s literally two upturned boxes for seating, so make this a quick pit stop to refresh yourself in between tourist spots. Having garnered quite a loyal following on Facebook, the enigmatic owner-barista of this place plasters the wall with photos of happy (and refreshed) customers of yesteryear.
What to get:
- Iced milk tea (冰奶茶)
- Iced milk coffee (冰咖啡)
// 26 R. da Felicidade, 澳門福隡新街26号 (by Almeida Ribiero bus station) ([+853] 6353 8717)
5. Leitaria I Son (義順鮮奶)
Price: RMB30 per person
Another spot that looks like a time portal back to 1982, this vintage leitaria (creamery) is famous for three things: milk pudding, papaya milk and milk pudding with red beans. How have they made a living for decades off milk pudding? Answer is it’s delicious and you can’t get it almost anywhere else.
The milk pudding itself is mildly sweetened, not at all sour and very refreshing. Papaya milk on the other hand is made with fresh fruit and full fat milk – it sounds strange but trust us, it’s uniquely delicious.
There’s no English menus here, but ordering shouldn’t be a problem – simply point to the bowls of milk pudding displayed pride of place by the window.
What to get:
- Double skin milk pudding (馳名雙皮燉奶)
- Papaya milk (木瓜鮮奶)
// 60 Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro 新馬路60號 (by Almeida Ribeiro bus station). Open daily, 9-12am. ( 2857 3638)
6. Sin Lei Char Chan Teng (勝利茶餐室 )
Price: RMB50-100 per person
Remarkably innocuous-looking from the outside, you’d never guess some of the most popular pork chop buns in the city are served inside this busy little diner. Famous for being one of the most iconic Macanese foods, the pork chop buns here are delightfully crisp, juicy and tinged with spices. It’s a must order at most tables, but also popular are Sin Lei’s home-style comfort food dishes, such as cheese-baked rice, curry with rice, ho fun (fried beef noodles) and spaghetti. You’re definitely going to need to wash it down with Macau/Hong Kong favorites: Ribena with lemon or chilled Horlicks.
Expect a queue here and the service to be efficient and brusque – no special treatment for foreigners!
What to get:
- Pork chop buns (豬扒包)
- Beef fried noodles (乾炒牛河)
// 94 Rua dos Mercadores新馬路營地大街94號 (by Almeida Ribeiro bus station). Open daily, 7.30am-10pm. ([+853] 2857 3745)
7. Pastelaria Koi Kei (鉅記手信)
Price: dependent on purchases.
You literally won’t be able to walk two streets without seeing a branch of Macau’s most successful bakery franchise, Pastelaria Koi Kei, which makes a killing from Mainland tourists looking for sweet treats to bring home as souvenirs. They may have lost some of their charm (especially when packed full of tourists elbowing you out the way), so we recommend this quieter branch just next to the A-Ma Temple.
Considerably less crowded thanks to its location, you’ll be free to browse the selections of almond cookies, cured meats and egg rolls as you please. Sampling the goods is also encouraged – an added bonus if you’re not sure what to buy.
What to get:
- Cured pork, beef and veal jerky (烧肉干)
- Egg tarts (蛋挞)
- Almond cookies (杏仁饼)
- Almond pastries (雪花杏仁片)
- Phoenix Egg rolls (凤凰卷)
// This branch of Pastelaria Koi Kei is next to the stunning 15th Century A-Ma Temple (Ma Kok Miu). Barra Square, Rua de Sao Tiago de Barra and Calcada da Barra澳门半岛南端妈阁山西面山腰上 (by A-Ma Temple bus station). Open daily, 7am-6pm, free admission. ([+853] 2836 6866)
For a complete list of Macau's heritage sites, click here.
8. The Macallan Whisky Bar & Lounge
Price: RMB150-250+ per person
Ok, ok, we know we said this article would be ‘casino-free,’ but we have to make an exception for the Macallan Lounge, one of our favorite bars to drink whisky in Macau.
If like us you’re not a member of a private member’s club already, this dark and classy spot feels like you’ve snagged entry to one for an evening. Recline with a cigar on the Chesterfield couches in front of the hearth. Sample a whisky flight whilst deciding who should be the next Republican presidential candidate. Sit at the bar and drink your way through the cocktail menu. It’s a great place to relax for an evening after a hard day’s sight seeing.
Prices here sure ain’t cheap, but if you’re just stopping by for a Macallan’s (or three) on the rocks, this place is a good choice. Be sure you don’t get lost in the enormous Galaxy Hotel, where the bar is housed; it’s so big it has its own bus stop.
// 203, 2/F, Galaxy Hotel, Avendia Marginal Flor de Lotus路氹城聖德母灣大馬路 (by Estrada Da Baia De Nossa Senhora Da Esperanca/Galaxy bus station). Open Sun-Thurs: 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat: 5pm-2am. ([+853] 8883 2221)
Notes on dining:
- Tipping is becoming increasingly common Macau. Casual eateries will not expect one as such, but expect more formal restaurants to add a 10 percent service charge to your bill.
- Small, local eateries may have limited English and Mandarin skills, but most will be happy to accommodate and assist.
- Anticipate queues at peak dining times or holidays. For small eateries they will usually be fast moving.
- Don't take restaurant recommendations from your taxi driver. Some are in cahoots with certain restaurants that bribe drivers to bring in tourists. Similarly, avoid asking staff at your hotel – they tend to recommend pricier places and/or their own in-house dining facilities.
- If you're looking for alternative local dining options, go by our rule of thumb: if it's busy, it's for a reason.
- Direct flights
There are currently eight flights per day from Shanghai to Macau's international airport, with a duration of two hours and 45 minutes. Visit Ctrip.com for more information.
- Via high-speed ferry from Hong Kong
The Cotai ferry makes 80 trips between Hong Kong and Macau every day from 6.30-3am. Prices start from RMB126. See the ferry schedule here.
The TurboJet Ferry makes trips between Hong Kong and Macau every 15 minutes from 7-11.59am. Prices start from RMB126. See the ferry schedule here.