WE HAVE SCOURED HONG KONG FOR THE BEST PLACES for a sip of wine, sherry or crafted cocktails. Anywhere for a discerning drink with a good vibe basically, to save you time from crowdsourcing on Facebook. Here are the best places to grab a drink.
100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
T: (852) 2858-6066
Rustic, coastal vibes comes to the concrete jungle. This Hong Kong outpost of Bali’s popular Potato Head Beach Club will introduce the need for a getaway. There’s neither a beach nor pool on the premises, but beach bums would still love all the retro wooden furniture, Indonesian rugs and relaxing island music streaming from the stereo.
Situated in Sai Ying Pun, home to great coffee and cool art galleries, there’s plenty to explore under its roof. It is home to a retail store, a hidden vinyl room, and Kaum, where the locals go for authentic Indonesian cuisine. And inside Kaum, you’d find Eksotika, a bar that doubles as a cafe in the day.
What to Order
There’s a conscious effort to incorporate Indonesian flavours into the menu at Eksotika. The Indo Bloody Mary is spiked with tamarind, sambal and fresh red chilli. The Tropics Old Fashioned, on the other hand, is made with roasted pineapple skin syrup and coconut fat-washed bourbon. Start with the Barong Zombie, a heady cocktail based on rum, absinthe and arak, a coconut-distilled liqueur that is Bali’s equivalent of moonshine. You can only order two, but we reckon that’s enough.
Bueno Aires Polo Club
Level 7, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
T: (852) 2321-8681
Buenos Aires Polo Club, a buttoned-up Argentinian steakhouse, is a Hong Kong establishment, and it’s a much-needed oasis. Step inside and you will be transported to an exclusive gentlemen’s club from the early 20th century.
Popular for their weekend brunch, the space is decorated with all the trimmings of an upscale restaurant — elegant racing green, dark leather banquettes, a beautiful brass bar and vintage odds and ends. The service is attentive without being obtrusive, and the steak cuts here are, of course, the real deal.
The Argentine Black Angus steaks are succulent and excellently charred, and the starters are more than just support acts, particularly the empanadas, which are juicy, crunchy and never greasy. Just don’t start without an aperitivo or a cool glass of red. There is enough tipple to represent most of South America.
What to Order
The steak, obviously — the 450 grams chateaubriand cut is melt-in-your-mouth, flamed to perfection. Wash it down with a cocktail. If you’re looking to fall off the wagon hard, try the Rojo, comprising of several glasses of mezcal, vermouth and campari, or Mi Gran Cigarro, a heady whiskey-cognac drink smoked with tobacco.
But if you’re looking for something simpler yet sophisticated, there’s roughly 130 labels of wine waiting. You will find largely South American varieties from Salta, Mendoza and Patagonia. Old world stalwarts like Italian and French are also available.
6-10 Shin Hing Street, Central, Hong Kong
T: (852) 2813-5787
At Coa, mezcal reigns supreme. The folks here talk about mezcal the way some people ramble about art, but with a deep appreciation for tradition and its producers. The spirit, once elusive and widely eschewed by bartenders, has grown in reputation as Mexico’s best, right after tequila.
Fun fact: Like tequila, mezcal is made from thorny agave, but unlike tequila, the process of making it is far more laborious. You roast the agave in underground pits over a wood fire, which results in its characteristic smoky flavour.
Taking over the premises of the old Neo Bar in Sheung Wan, you’ll find Coa along Shin Hing Street — in between Hollywood Road and Gough Street — near other great venues like Aberdeen Street Social and The Old Man. It’s a welcoming and intimate space of bare concrete walls lit by candles and filament bulbs. Like what it has to offer, it’s simple and unpretentious.
What to Order
If you’re new to the spirit, that’s okay. Jay Khan, agave spirit enthusiast and bar veteran, will see to your on-boarding. Request for a tasting flight — the Arte Mezcal 2015 is refined and complex — before you make an informed decision on your cocktail. A popular option is the Caffeinated Negroni, made with Don Amado Rustico mezcal.
Granted, this is the best place for mezcal, but there’s also a wide range of tequila, raicilla, tuxca and charanda. Give them all a shot, but don’t leave without a glass of Tepache, a refreshing traditional drink fermented with pineapple skin, sugar and cinnamon. Order the quesadillas if you’re hungry. Unmissable.
Ham & Sherry
1-7 Ship Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong
T: (852) 2555-0628
Tapas joints are great for many things. They are fun, laid back and perfect for dining with the fussiest of friends. Soak up the buzz at Jason Atherton’s Ham & Sherry, a Spanish bistro decked out in blue and white mosaic with giant hams dangling from the ceiling. Right on the hip Ship Street in Wan Chai, the adjunct of 22 Ships stocks everything, from the best jamon in town to the rarest kind of sherry.
What to Order
There are over 50 kinds of sherry offered here, ranging from bone-dry fino to a special selection of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez that came from the cellar of el Bulli. The options may feel daunting, but the sherry sommelier on hand will be happy to help narrow it down.
Ask him what pairs best with the seafood paella or plate of charcuterie that you ordered. There’s cava, wine and gin and tonic, if you prefer, but it’s pretty clear who’s the star here. Carry on with the night at Back Bar, its adjoining sister cocktail bar that serves a mean Dumpling Martini.
Level 6, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road, Central, Hong Kong
T: (852) 2820-8560
The Lobster Bar & Grill is one of those hotspots in Hong Kong you should namedrop. It entered the city’s hotel scene in 1991 — the Island Shangri-La — and it remains a game-changer, grand in its Edwardian pomp and glamour.
You’ll be hard pressed to find another that matches the same amount of service and devotion to seafood and cocktails. A healthy mix of hotel guests and locals drum up the atmosphere, which remains convivial even on busy nights. Fridays and weekends bring the best crowds. That’s when the jazz combo kicks in.
What to Order
The establishment prides itself on making excellent drinks, including time-worn classics and forgotten cocktails like the Hunter, which is really a simple stir of bourbon, cherry liqueur and bitters. There’s a list of quirky originals as well, and they experiment more with flavours and traditions.
We like The Smoke Cloud, a cross between a whisky sour and Manhattan that requires bourbon, port, raspberry, grapefruit and egg white. It’s heady but refreshing, and goes swimmingly with their crab cakes and grilled Boston lobster.
Level 32, EAST, 29 Taikoo Shing Road, Hong Kong
T: (852) 3968-3738
Location isn’t a problem when you’ve nailed down all the essential ingredients of a great bar, and Sugar is testament to that. Sure, it might be located in the far east of Hong Kong Island, away from the city centre, but it doesn’t stop the punters and professionals from coming. It’s a great place to decompress.
Find it at the top of East hotel in Quarry Bay, which is also home to the colourful Monster Building — known as Yik Cheong Building — a cluster of five densely stacked residences. Here, you’ll arrive to comfy low-slung deck furniture, Balearic house music and a killer view of the island. Come before night falls, order a giant sangria, and watch the sun go down, past the mountains and high-rises of Kowloon.
What to Order
Pizza, skewers and a variety of titbits are available on the menu. The cocktails are simple, but more importantly, unadulterated. The bartenders cut no corners and will make you a mean whisky sour if you’re craving one. Sangrias and Mai Tais come in generous, sharing portions, and lovers of gin can order The East Side, a refreshing blend of Hendrick’s, lemon, mint and cucumber.