"Cafe Weismann" vs "Cafe Wiseman"

Submitted by seemex on Fri, 01/12/2018 - 02:25

I see there are two spellings and I'm interested in the changeover or any stories. A relative of mine, Ellen HJ King, is listed as the license holder in 1914 with the spelling of "Cafe Weismann" I think it was locate at Queens Road Central. Before her was Reichert, and further back, the original Hans Weismann who operated as a bakery and caterer. He sold out and returned to Germany in about 1908 I think after some over enhtusiastic expansions had left him short of funds. Apparently it was taken over by Lane Crawford and the spelling was changed to "Wiseman". Does anyone have information about this old Hong Kong venue's earier days? The period I am interested in would be pre-lane Crawford...early 1900s to 1930s. Are there any photos of the place kicking around from that era?

Weismann's Cafe.JPG
Weismann's Cafe.JPG, by Seemex


Formal opening of the tiffin rooms under Messrs Weismann Ltd. took place on 19 April 1905. Address: 34 Queen's Road Central. China Mail 20 April 1905 refers

The change from H. Weismann to C. Fiedler occurred in March 1908. Premises still located at 34 Queen's Road Central.

A change in address occurred in April 1909 with premises at 14 Des Voeux Road Central.The name change from Weismann to Wiseman would appear to have taken place in 1915 with D. Goodall as licence holder.


Hi Moddsey,

                    It seems there were a few locations over the years, one at #8 Robinson Rd, Kowloon as well as the one at Queens Rd and also the license appears to have been held under different names. I've gone back through the SCMP archives and there are quite a few mentions, along with some interesting display ads listing the menu and prices. One ad listed tiffin for 85 cents or $18 per monthly. In 1908 dinners were $1 or $20 for the month (30 meals) The good old days! :)




Carl Smith's article, The German Speaking Community in Hong Kong,1846-1918, has some background on the cafe:

Cafe Weissmann

The Cafe Weissmann opened in 1904. In 1914/15 the name was changed to Wiseman, a less Germanic spelling. Lane, Crawford and Co. had acquired a controlling interest in Wiessmann Ltd. so its Cafe was not considered to be alien enemy property. The licence for spirits was transferred from Reinbold Ekhardt, who had held it from 1909, to Ellen H.K. King. 

According to Jarrett, the author ol the column "Old Hong Kong" in the South China Morning Post (23 Sept. 1933) Hans Weissmann was a ship's baker who began business near the Bowrington Canal. If this is accurate, he must have begun his Hong Kong career at the Hong Kong and China Bakery Co. It was a limited company with the controlling interest being held by Lane, Crawford and Co. Mr. Weissmann opened a restaurant in a small room in the Beaconsfield Arcade in 1904, but he soon moved to the south east corner of Queen's Road and Wyndham Street. Here, in addition to his "Refreshment Room", he had a "Tiffin Room" at No 1 Wyndham Street. At the same time the business became a limited company (DP 20, 27 Apr 1905). The management of the restaurant was taken over by Carl Fiedler in 1908. A year later the business was moved to No 14 Des Voeux Road Central. Mr. Fiedler was not long after replaced by Rembold Ekhardt, who conducted the business under various names until 1914.

Cafe Weissman became Cafe Wiseman in 1914. No. 14 Queen's Road was redeveloped in 1926 as the Exchange Building. Lane, Crawford and Co. had its store there and for several years Cafe Wiseman became the Lane, Crawford Restaurant and for several years in the 1930s it was known as the Exchange Restaurant, but in 1935 the name reverted again to Cafe Wisseman (details of management, location and name are from notices of the Spirit Licensing Board published in the Hong Kong Government Gazette). 

An incident took place at the Cafe in September 1914, just after war was declared, which placed three German nationals under suspicion. They were observed throwing down a copy of the China Mail and stamping on it because it contained a report that the British had compulsorily bought two battleships then being built for the Turkish Government (Co 129/ 413, Information from Provost Marshall regarding Germans on list, 8 Oct. 1914).

The article first appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Vol. 34 (1994 )

More new earlier information.

Earlier spelling was in fact "Café Weissmann". And for a month it was located on the premises of the godown at 140 Wanchai Road, Wanchai in early 1904. Or on re-reading, the premises in Wanchai was used to make confectionary but it does establish the links with the Hongkong and China Bakery Company and Lane Crawford in its early days  




Saturday, 25th. June.








The Robinson Piano Company sued the proprietor of the Café Weissmann for the cost of four oven doors and certain firebars valued at $100.

Mr. H.W. Looker, of Messrs. Deacon, Looker and Deacon, solicitors, said in his opening statement that the Hongkong and China Bakery Company sold a plot of ground at Wanchai. On which their bakery stood, to the Robinson Piano Company, and before it was taken over the Bakery Company leased it for a month to the defendant. Inside of the premises was a good eal of machinery and apparatus for the making of bread. Some of this was purchased by defendant, who, however, distinctly refused to buy the ovens fixed in the walls of the gowdown at 140, Wanchai Road. Inside of these were a number of firebars forming part of the fixtures of the building. Subsequently four oven doors and a large number of the firebars were taken away by Mr. Weissmann, through his servants, and when called upon to retrun them, or pay the plaintiffs $100, he practically refused to do so. He was written to about it, and replied that it was rather insolent suggesting he had taken things which did not belong to him.

Mr. Duncan Clark, of Messrs, Lane, Crawford & Co., liquidators of the Hongkong and China Bakery Co., and Mr. S.D. Hickie, assistant at the Robinson Piano Co., gave evidence in support of plaintiff’s claim. Mr. F.X. d’Almada e Castro, solicitor, proceeded to argue defendants’ case, pointing out that Mr. Weissmann denied having removed the doors and firebars. Even if he had done so the premises were not the property of the plaintiff at the time the articles were alleged to have been removed.

The Puisne Judge said he was satisfied the things were removed by the act of the servants of defendant, and that they had no right to take them away. He adjourned the case in order that certain documents might be produced.”

Source: Hong Kong Daily Press, page 3, 27th June 1904

Interestingly for the same day in The China Mail, there is an extensive advertisement for the 'Cafe Weismann' (spelt this way) with the address as 34 Queen's Road Central opposite the post office. The advertisement ran from 1st June 1904. I note moddsey's earlier contribution of a formal opening date in 1905 but it seems the cafe have occupied the same address at least for a year prior with a full range of refreshments and meals on offer.

Source: The China Mail, page 5, 27th June 1904


I see the second one from The China Mail June 27th 1904, but not the Daily Press ad of the same date. I also haven't been able to find another mention of my great aunt, Ellen King's involvment. I'm still chipping away at it and look at anything that may produce family leads. Slim pickings these day although I do make the odd giant leap forward every few years!

Brian Hunter Beesley