For this Smirnoff Start Pure City Guide we’re visiting Hong Kong, the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ city known for its impressive city skyline; shout out to you, ever growing population! Whilst you’re enjoying reading about ‘the world’s most vertical city,’
be sure to fix yourself a ‘Hong Kong Dragon’ (recipe below) and unleash the dragon.
And what do all those impressive buildings contain? Why, all of your new favourite places to go, of course. Emilie of Something Bespoke has taken time out to show us around her adopted city. A city which, by maintaining a separate legal and financial system entirely, enjoys relative freedom from China and has a culture heavily influenced by its colonial past and continued openness to the world. As such, Hong Kong is an officially bilingual (Cantonese and English) region and really is, in so many ways, the epitome of East meets West:
Café Deadend (THE LOCAL HAUNT)
Address: 62-72 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan Hong Kong
Phone: +852 6716 7005
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am-6pm
Dead end is the midday meeting spot where creative’s workings from the many studios in the area come together for a feed. Tucked up the (dead) end of Sheung Wan’s Square Street, its half café, half bakery housed in beautifully designed Nordic style interiors. Incredibly friendly owners, its tiny so lunchtime can be busy, but it’s worth the wait. Be sure to order the beef sandwich or the ham and cheese toastie. Seriously good stuff.
Konzepp Gallery (THE BOUTIQUE)
Address: 50 Lower Ground Floor, Tung Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2803 0339
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 12-8pm
This exceptionally curated boutique is the jewel in the crown of the emerging arts district of North Sheung Wan. Konzepp stocks a diverse selection of international brands in men’s, woman’s and lifestyle categories, including French via Australia fashion export, Jewellery maven Estelle Deve. On weeknights it’s not uncommon to find a cluster of cool kids and cute boys drinking beers on the street celebrating the launch of the new next hot thing. While you’re here do yourselves a favour and take a stroll around the rest of the hood, so many cool unheard of shops and cafes to discover.
Salon Number 10 (THE NIGHTCAP)
Address: 10 Arbuthnot Road, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2801 6768
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 7pm-2am
This is the best mid week speak-easy spot. It’s very under the radar; great for a sophisticated hang and gives you the feeling you have stepped back in time to a chic bygone era. Gracious hosts charm in three piece suits, blues jazz classics croon from the speakers and later in the evenings tipsy guests have been known to get on the piano as the tables are pushed aside for dancing. It’s the traditional salon vibe, very mixed patronage, at one table will be old ladies dressed like Iris Apfel sipping Martinis, the next flamboyant Filipinos, with the young French jet set kids gathered around the bar. It’s a fun old-fashioned vibe that offers a change of pace from the rest of the HK scene as well as being the BEST place to indulge in a G & T. Ten out of Ten! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself…)
Les fils à maman (THE RESTURANT)
Address: LG/F, 75 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2871 0045
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 12-2:30pm + 7pm-10:30pm, Saturday 12-2:30pm + 7pm-11pm, Sunday 12-3pm
Sneak down an alleyway off Hollywood Road and you will find this great little French place, the fourth edition for the owners who run restaurants’ of the same name in Brussels, Paris and Lyon. Nestled within a hidden public garden, this eatery shares its location with HK’s best Dive Bar, Club 71 (a great place for a drink while you are waiting for your table). Glowing from within, it’s delicious classic French cuisine with cosy, beautifully executed French-prov interiors. It’s the perfect spot to take a date or catch up with a group of friends, try the specials, order too many bottles of wine and hang out for the full three courses.
Yardbird + Ronin (THE ‘IT’ SPOT)
Address: 33-35 Bridges Street Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2547 9273
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 6pm-12midnight
This addition to the list is not going to win any awards for originality because no rundown of Cool-HK is complete without a shout-out to the crew at Yardbird. Falling under the leadership of Matt Abergel, former headchef at Zuma and Lindsay Jang, this restaurant offers gourmet yakitori. The menu features a delicious selection of Asian-classics-with-a-twist, a must try being their signature dish “KFC” aka the Korean Fried Cauliflower. Whilst the food is progressive its by no means pretentious, all dishes being designed for groups to share.
At Yardbird you will get the feeling you’re a hanging with bunch of cool dudes hosting a dinner party. Its all about super friendly service, cute boys at the bar and sweet retro hip hop on the speakers. You cant book so be prepared to kowtow to Tara, the beautiful (yet firm) Maitre-d when she tells you it’s a 45 minute wait. Hang out and indulge in some pre dinner drinks downstairs in the alley or (quietly!) on the front stoop.
Hazard warning; if you’re a lightweight never let on if its’ your birthday. House policy requires some pretty heavy Saki consumption for the birthday boy or girl in question.
Hot tip; Sister spot ‘Ronin’ will be opening any day now in Sheung Wan, offering just 16 dining spots it will be a slightly more intimate version of Yardbird featuring Izakaya cuisine focused on fish and seafood. Spiritual aficionados take note, the Ronin team have curated an extensive collection of rare spirits including over 50 varieties of whiskeys, many discontinued from closed down Japanese distilleries.
Honi Honi (THE COCKTAIL BAR)
Address: 3/F Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Road, 852 Central District, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2353 0885
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday 5pm-2am, Thursday to Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday 6pm- 2am, Sunday 3pm-10pm
Tiki Madness! This is a recent addition to the Soho bar scene and SO much fun. Tucked up in what appears to be a pretty corporate looking high-rise, you exit the elevator and are immediately thrust into a lush bamboo oasis that’s miles away from the urban sprawl below. Run by two charismatic Frenchmen, the cocktail list is extensive, featuring treats like group share whole watermelons laced with spirits, rum based cocktails in monkey head mugs and mojito’s to die for. With an extensive terrace, (rare in this city) its all about the retro upholstered banquette seating, buzzy tunes and novelty beverages. Its giggly good fun, a bar I guarantee you will both fall in love with and fall right out of.
Fly (THE NIGHTCLUB)
Address: G/F, 24-30 Ice House St, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2810 9902
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 5pm-late, Saturday 9pm-late
FLY is the solid favourite for fun HK nightlife, its always pumping and packed to the rafters. Very mixed crowd, the common denominator being a love of music and getting loose. Fly is famous for two things; The Model Table (Boys: think leggy Russians for da-days) and its weekly party, Wasted Wednesday. Its Hong Kong debauchery in a nutshell. The other pumping night is Mixtape Friday featuring music that depending on the crowd and line-up, builds from swaggy hop-hop to late night D&B. Post FLY head to their sister club Volar, where the party keeps going until well after bedtime.
XXX (HK UNDERGROUND)
Address: Basement, 212 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan Hong Kong
Whilst HK is famous for its nightlife; venues who actually know good music are pretty few and far between. XXX is a glamour-less basement buried within the old spice markets of Sheung Wan. Essentially, the local equivalent to Sydney’s ‘Good-God small club’ – its cool, underground and ready to rave. Run by local party starter DJ Enso (by way of San Fran) you will likely find (among many others) Kid Fresh, Yao & DJ/Unicorn Eve Speciall on the decks. Expected tunes, depending on the night could be anything from drum ‘n’ bass, house, oldies, electro, techno, hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall. If your really lucky, you might get covered in glitter, offered skittles vodka or witness a certain Ms Speciall ‘express herself’ in an ode to the one and only Wesley Pentz. You never know. Shit can get weird. The place gets going post midnight, is BYO and will be charging between $12-$15 on the door.
The Flying Pan (THE GREASY RECOVERY)
Address: G/F 9 Old Bailey Street, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2140 6333
The Flying pan is a Hong Kong institution, it’s disgusting and unnecessary and completely tacky. Except when its 6am or 3:30pm and suddenly it’s the best idea you have EVER had. Modelled on a retro mid-American 50’s diner its open 24 hours and boasts an EXTENSIVE menu, offering eggs every which way, waffles with bacon, hashbrowns and enormous cups of icy coca-cola. There are two locations across town, so weather your dragging your bashful self from Buddha Lounge in Central or somewhere far seedier in Wan Chai (of which we know nothing about) The Flying Pan is a no-judgement-passed establishment that will greet you warmly with open arms, at any hour.
Brickhouse (MID WEEK DINNER AND DRINKS)
Address: G/F, 20A D’Aguilar St, Central & Western, 852 Hong Kong
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday 6pm-2am, Thursday to Saturday 6pm-4am
In keeping with the global hipsters penchant for all things Mexicana, we would be remiss in forgetting this hip taco spot in the heart of Hong Kong Island. Down a back alley off the frenetic Lan Kwai Fong nightlife strip, it’s a casual oasis with good food, great tunes, super cool staff and relaxed vibes. Open late (2am on weeknights and 4am weekends!), you can rock in at all hours, settle in for a feast and order a round of their signature cocktail; A potent concoction of jalapeño vodka, raspberries, pomegranate and lemon juice, ominously known as The Diablo.
Bespoke Asia is a cutting edge events agency based out of Hong Kong.
Emilie, 25, heads up Creative Production. This is her weekend city guide to cool HK.