Following our first year in Hong Kong (and my first post on living in HK and the great – or sometimes not-so-great! – outdoors), come along with me for a spin through the (classier side of the) drinking scene!
Hong Kongers (and expats – I suppose that now includes me) LOVE to drink. I mean, LOVE. I used to think that New Yorkers enjoyed drinking, but turns out, our decade-long experience there was a mere warm-up to the drinking scene in HK.
On LKF and bottomless brunches
My suggestion is to avoid Lan Kwai Fong (also known as LKF – and no relation to me, thank you very much). Or go once or twice, and get it out of your system. For better or worse, you can drink out in the open here, so the streets in LKF are filled – correction: jam-packed – with drunk, often quite wasted, people every weekend. But if that’s your scene, then hey, go for it, enjoy!
If you’re a weekend daytime drinker, you’re in luck – bottomless boozy brunches are a real thing here. Restaurants make most of their $ on alcohol (even if ‘bottomless’), so it’s no surprise that many have opted to add this to their mix of offerings, with usually great success. Since ‘status’ is also a big thing here, well-heeled diners and drinkers can opt to really indulge themselves, and apparently show off to others, by upgrading their lowly bubbly to Dom. It doesn’t impress me, but hey – if you got the goods and the time to spring for it, why not?
Otherwise, in my humble opinion, there are more interesting and slightly more refined ways to get your tipple on and enjoy a libation or two without getting hammered.
Get your cocktail on
My recommendation? Take advantage of the fact that HK certainly knows how to maximize outdoor spaces (let’s face it, there’s not a lot of indoor space for most of us here) and/or amazing cityscape views. There are dozens upon dozens of sprawling terrace and rooftop cocktail dens – or alternatively, upscale penthouse-level bars – with pricey but usually pretty damn tasty cocktails. My personal favorites are Café Gray Bar at the Upper House Hotel (call ahead for a window-side table), Blackbird, and slightly-out-of-the-way Sugar. But the options are seemingly endless and include other crowd favorites such as Sevva and Armani/Privé (go mostly for the expansive views). Hutong also offers nice cocktails with a lovely, bird’s-eye view of HK Island – and you’ll be reminded that you are actually in China, with its amped-up, hutong-reminiscent interior.
And mixologists here do finely craft their cocktails. Earl grey tapioca ‘caviar’ martini spiked with elderflower, anyone? Such alcohol-spiked creativity can be yours at HK’s premium cocktail lab, Quinary, another of our regular gathering places.
Another very worthy cocktail den is the ‘hidden’ bar directly behind Ham & Sherry, our regular weekend haunt (with long waits that help you justify grabbing a cocktail or 2 at the bar before you dine) – made all the more fun by the retro, grade school notebook-style menus that you are encouraged to color!. If you’re into (or curious about) sherry, this is also the place to go. Ham & Sherry boasts the largest selection of sherry in HK, after placing the winning bid at El Bulli’s sherry auction, held when that restaurant decided to close its world-famous Spanish doors. While sherry often conjures images of grannies and great-aunts (and not in a good way), Ham & Sherry is nobly making the effort to change that perception – and with its cool, laid-back vibe, fantastic cocktails, delicious tapas, and friendly service, it just might succeed.
Contemporary Cantonese restaurant/bar/art salon, Duddell’s, offers potent cocktails often with an Asian spin. The upstairs space is particularly nice – elegant, cool, artsy, eclectic but with a sophisticated slant – and with an outdoor terrace to boot. And if you’re art-inclined, you may also enjoy the revolving displays in the gallery downstairs.
Wining in HK
So the cocktails are often pretty great. And with the notable absence of an import tax on wine, there is yet one more excuse (I mean, reason) to imbibe generously. Beyond HK’s countless cocktail venues and extensive wine options at many restaurants, the city also plays host to innumerable wine festivals (I may have attended 1 or 2 myself…).
HK even has its very own winery, The 8th Estate, producing wines on-premises from imported grapes (those grapes are flash-frozen, but before you judge, even Canada makes ice wine, so why not?). As they were recently forced to downsize their Ap Lei Chau location due to rent hikes, they are no longer offering wine tastings, tours, or private events. I cannot yet vouch for the quality of their wines, but for the sheer surprise of this urban winery, it might be worth a shot – and you can conveniently order online for home delivery within HK.
Suffice it to say, if you enjoy drinking, HK will not disappoint. If you don’t, there are plenty of exotic mocktail options for you, too.
So what about the food? Stay tuned for my next post on the culinary scene in HK!
And continuing with my series on One Year In: What It’s Like to Live in Hong Kong, keep an eye out for my near-future posts on immersing in HK’s culture, the people, and the evolution of Hong Kong!
[As you may have guessed from this post, I’m not much of a beer drinker, so I’ll have to defer to others for their top beer spots. Cocktails, wine, beer, or otherwise – please share your favorites below!]
All images © 2014 deb fong photography