Our guest blogger for today is freelance writer Jenna Xue, who looks great in hats and introduces us to one of her favourite CWB hangouts…
In the commercial and shopping district of Causeway Bay lies a subversive café dedicated to good eats, imported treats (Chinese herbal teas, Japanese baby formula, artisan jewellery) and Maoist paraphernalia. The People’s Recreation Community is a haven for local hipsters, weary expats, and fastidious readers of Chinese politics and history. The intimate café (only 4 tables) offers a bevy of beverages, including coffee, an extensive tea list, and fruit drinks, and also a selection of sandwiches, salads, and desserts (the menus are all printed on old 1950s propaganda booklets). The café also doubles as a bookshop that harbours both books and zines banned by the Chinese Communist government and also literature that espouses Communist ideals.
The place has a politico-artsy vibe to it. It’s the kind of place where you can nestle with a book or Macbook by yourself or engage in social issues and philosophical discussions with other like-minded mavericks over coffee after, say, a splurge at Times Square just across the street. With its tightly-crammed interiors, Communist-red walls, old Chinese décor (think calendars with tissue-thin tear-away paper, peony-printed tin canteens, and vintage Cultural Revolution posters), and shelves of old books, the venue is the quintessential lovechild of an underground radical exiled from the mainland and a Western bohemian yuppie (espresso-based drinks start at $36 and pots of tea start at $98).
All the vintage goodies and vintage-reproductions with Mao’s iconic face are over-priced – Mao pins and Little Red Books can be purchased at Temple Street or any Chinese bazaar for a fraction of the price – but they symbolize a cultural epoch of a city that wrestles with its own identity: to be or not to be…Chinese? The café touches upon the nuances of a place like Hong Kong; it’s dedicated to preserving and restoring a rich tradition but it’s also eager to explore the rewards of a market-driven economy. How often can you say you’ve had biscotti and espresso while reading quotations from Chairman Mao?
The People’s Recreation Community offers a unique and inviting atmosphere. As the title suggests, it’s a community. If I were planning a rebellion, this is where I’d go to recruit troops…but then again, this is also the place I go to after a grueling cardio work-out at Lane Crawford and Club Monaco. The employees are friendly and enjoy sparking up a conversation about whatever, particularly about their reading selection, and if you can’t read Chinese, the café offers two computers and free wi-fi for those who are interested in something with less gravitas. Try the caramel cheesecake – it’s no political phenomenon that millions died for but the Oreo-cookie crust is simply to die for.
The People’s Recreation Community
1/F 18 Russel Street, Causeway Bay (opposite Times Square), 2836 0016
Open Monday – Sunday 9am until Midnight
You can contact the fabulous Jenna Xue at [email protected].