Now that my exam (yes, just the one) is finally over, I have some time to reflect on my first semester here at HKUST before I fly home for Christmas on the 20th. So I decided to write about the food here on campus; which is actually quite a significant factor when it comes to deciding where to study abroad. There aren’t really any cooking facilities here so unless you’re rich and can afford to travel off campus every day, you’ll be eating at the canteens two or three times daily. So here’s the deal.
The biggest, busiest and most well-known place to eat on campus is the colossal LG7 canteen. I usually end up eating here because it’s cheap, centrally located, and has enough variety so that everyone in your group has something they will like. Even with its hundreds of tables and thousands of seats, during peak times you’ll struggle to find a place to sit. There are three caterers in LG7: Asia Pacific Catering (APC), Golden Rice Bowl (GRB), and Milano Fresh. APC and GRB both serve primarily Chinese food, with some vaguely Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Almost everything they sell falls into the category of meat + rice/noodles/noodle-soup + vegetables + (optional) sauce. The third caterer, Milano Fresh, sells “Western” cuisine, with some Indian dishes and a salad bar. They are generally more expensive with smaller portions, but slightly higher quality ingredients. However, like all “Western” food in Hong Kong, it’s made for the local palate and is nothing like real Western food. The food in LG7 is okay, not bad but not good either. However, when you consider the variety, massive portion size, and low cost (between 20HKD and 45HKD per meal, roughly £2-£5), you’ll understand why people go there so often.
Just up the escalators from LG7, you’ll find a McDonalds along with separate McCafe. The main Maccies staples all taste the same as anywhere else, although HK Maccies does do some interesting promotional items (chocolate pie, salmon burger, strange pancake syrups). HKUST students get a small discount on meals, and they have some decent special prices such as 10HKD McChicken/Filet-O-Fish/McMuffin. Having worked at Maccies before, I tend to avoid it, although the breakfasts are pretty good. I also come here for ice cream sometimes. There is often quite a long line at peak times as they are not very quick at serving customers, and the locals here seem to love a good Maccies, so be warned.
Go up further and you’ll reach the LG1 canteen; opposite the Learning Commons and just one floor down from the atrium. LG1 is much smaller than LG7 and has only one caterer, but serves mostly the same kind of food. Just like APC of LG7, LG1 has a BBQ meat bar where you can get various meats with rice and cabbage for pretty cheap. The BBQ bar at LG1 is slightly cheaper than the one in LG7 so I often come to LG1 when I need a super cheap meal.
Immediately above LG1, accessible from the main atrium, is the Chinese Restaurant. This is one of the very few places on campus where you can get table service. Now, I basically never eat here because the food is only slightly nicer than the canteens, but costs around two to three times as much. The Chinese Restaurant is mainly where people’s families eat when visiting the campus; it gives a much better impression of the university than the jungle that is the LG7 canteen. The Restaurant also sells dim sum which isn’t bad at all, sometimes they do deals on dim sum at lunch time.
Right by the entrance to the atrium, opposite the famous ‘fire chicken’ sundial, you’ll find a branch of Starbucks. All HKUST students and staff receive 30% off everything at this branch, making the prices actually almost reasonable. The reason students get a discount from the caterers on campus is because HKUST doesn’t actually charge them rent. As part of this deal, they have to pass on the money they save in rent payments to the students, in the form of discounts. I think that’s pretty neat. I like the atmosphere in Starbucks so sometimes I come here, get an 18HKD coffee, and get some work done. They also have this very yummy toffee nut latte Christmas drink right now, which I get myself as an occasional treat, even though it costs 50% more than an average meal here.
Head into the Academic Concourse and you’ll soon come across the Einstein Coffee Shop and canteen. The ‘coffee’ part is outside; you can get a range of hot and cold drinks, snacks and pastries which are cheaper than Starbucks but not as nice. They do a small coffee for 10HKD which is quite popular. Inside you can get sandwiches, paninis, and a rotating menu of meals like pasta and curry. It’s quite popular but the portions are small and the prices are above the average. The food is alright I guess. The best thing about this place is that they have loads of outdoor seating in this courtyard; it’s lovely when the weather is nice.
Head further through the Academic Concourse and through into the CYT building, and you’ll find our newly-opened Subway! It was supposed to open ages ago but finally did a few weeks ago. Nestled literally into a corridor outside some classrooms, it is a tiny booth with seating outside only. If you go at lunchtime expect to wait over twenty minutes in the queue, but if you go outside peak times you can get served straight away. They are very stingy with the meat and cheese, but it’s basically the same as Subway everywhere else in the world. The sub-of-the-day is 24HKD, or add 12HKD to get a drink and two cookies. The regular subs range in price from 25HKD to 40HKD.
Continue further and ascend the glass-covered escalators to the fancy Business Building and you’ll encounter a small branch of Ebeneezer’s, a chain of Halal-certified kebab restaurants. The portions are tiny and it’s quite expensive, but it’s the only place on campus where you can get something which slightly resembles a greasy 2 am donner. It’s got nothing on Jason Donner Van of course, but it’s something different. Next to Ebeneezer’s is the Business Canteen. Much like LG1, it is small and contains only a single caterer. It’s mainly used by the business students because it’s just so far away from the rest of the campus that nobody can bother going all the way up there. They do really nice pizza, though, so check it out sometime.
Even further behind the business building, you will find the fanciest place on campus; UniQue at the Conference Lodge (the on-campus hotel). They serve club sandwiches and so on starting at over 60HKD, and have regular buffets which cost hundreds of dollars per head. I’ve been here once for an event and it is stunning; the food is lovely and the decoration is top-notch. I was helping out at the event though so I got a free meal, otherwise, it’s just not worth the exorbitant cost.
Finally, next to the lifts at the bottom of Hall II, and in close proximity to the majority of the UG Halls is the Seafront Cafe. It is the only place on campus which is open late; it actually stays open until 2 am. Here you can choose from a rotating menu of rice dishes, get noodles in soup with your choice of toppings, or order a custom sandwich or omelet. They also have fridges full of drinks, a freezer of ice creams, and some snacks and crisps. People come here a lot to buy food and bring it back to their rooms, due to its convenient location just minutes from most halls. It’s also popular as a spot for people to meet up and drink, as there is plenty of table space and hot food at the ready. It’s also very cheap, with almost everything under 30HKD.
There’s a supermarket on campus called Park-n-Shop which sells fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, milk… You can buy ingredients for sandwiches or cereal but unless you have your own cooking equipment, it’s hard to prepare your own meals here. The only other place worth mentioning is the UniBar, which sells extremely overpriced bottled drinks, shots, and cocktails. They don’t even have draught beer! I’ve never been because I consider the place a joke.
So that’s it! The food on campus is cheap and cheerful, but after a few months, I became very fed up of the same meat/rice/noodles you get everywhere. I’m not that picky, but after Brexit decimated my wallet I’ve been trying to restrict myself to meals under 25HKD, which has limited my selection. I feel sorry for the vegetarians on campus, though, as there are very, very few options for them. The UK vegetarians have it the worst I suppose.
Tune in next time when I discuss the meals I’ve had in my first semester, but OFF-CAMPUS! If you’re a prospective HKUST students and you have any questions about the food on campus, or anything else really, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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