With deeper pockets, the well-to-do in cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai still have a voracious appetite for fine food and wine. Photo: Getty Images
With deeper pockets, the well-to-do in cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai still have a voracious appetite for fine food and wine. Photo: Getty Images

Lots of things can be said about Hong Kong as an expensive city. Yes, it is a costly city to live in – and if you are rich, you can live in a really luxurious way. Yet it is also incredibly inexpensive in many ways.

Thanks to the Julius Baer Lifestyle Index, we learnt that Hong Kong overtook Shanghai as the most expensive city in Asia. The surging property market, the business-class flights and fine-dining all ranked high in the survey, which measured 22 consumption items among people with over US$1 million net worth in 11 Asia cities.

It must feel better if you are a female. Certain items such as jewelry, ladies’ shoes and skin cream, along with wine, are all priced among the lowest in Asia due to competition. On the other hand, cigars and men’s suits saw the biggest price increase, in contrast to the biggest price decline – for ladies’ handbags and botox.

In regard to the four basic necessities, housing and food are very expensive in Hong Kong, but transport and clothing is quite affordable. However, housing costs now take a bigger portion – in some cases over half of middle class citizens’ disposable income – while food has quickly become expensive as well.

Julius Baer noted that the Asia Pacific has the fastest growing market globally for luxury foods, as rapid economic growth in the region has produced large numbers of high-net-worth individuals and that food consumption has become symbolic and important.

Affluent consumers in Asia are passionate about good food and have the income and inclination to dine out regularly. The average bill for a fine dining experience in Hong Kong was US$287, followed by Singapore ($283) and Shanghai ($280). That is more than double cities such as Bangkok ($139), Jakarta ($129), Kuala Lumpur ($123), Manila ($114) and Mumbai ($113).

That underlines the growing trend of food being “the new fashion”. From molecular gastronomy to fusion flavors, the lure of lavish and highly ‘Instagrammable’ meals has been a prime beneficiary of the explosion of upscale culinary trends.

Julius Baer said younger millennials had risen to become the most frequent fine-diners in Asia at high-end eateries. At the same time, there has been a jump in the number of consumers traveling across Asia to dine at a particular restaurant helmed by a well-known ‘celebrity’ chef. Further proof of this is the Michelin Guide, a selection of the world’s top restaurants, which has become popular in cities throughout Asia.

That is for high-end diners. When it comes to average citizens, their meal bills are much lower, according to the latest MasterCard survey.

The survey showed the average meal bill was about US$37, with Hong Kong ranking at No.7 – far below South Korea ($84), Australia ($76), Singapore ($48), New Zealand ($46). China ($43) and Thailand ($38).

And, eating – expensive or inexpensive – is one of the most important lifestyle elements for Chinese.