A secret Hong Kong comes alive at night

Posted by On 12:32 AM

A secret Hong Kong comes alive at night

Mon., July 16, 2018

It’s late at night in Hong Kong’s Central District. An ex-pat friend guides me through a wet market, where stalls sell fruit and vegetables during the day. At this time of night, however, the market is deserted, not a soul in sight. Behind one of the empty stalls is a black door. There’s no signage, only an elaborate doorbell.

We ring the bell. A minute later, a man in an impeccable suit opens the door, just slightly, and asks if we have a reservation. We don’t. “One moment,” he says. The door closes. We wait, then it opens again, and the man ushers us inside and down a flight of steps into a darkened room. Known as 001, this posh speakeasy has a vintage library vibe, with plush velvet armchairs, demure jazz and, I’m pleased to discover, an excellent whiskey selection.

The Forty Four cocktail at Stockton Bar. Discovering Hong Kong’s “secret” bars, hidden speakeasies and rooftop patios is part of the fun.
The Forty Four cocktail at Stockton Bar. Discovering Hong Kong’s “secret” bars, hidden speakeasies and rooftop patios is part of the fun.

This is typical of Hong Kong, with its “secret” bars, hidden speakeasies and rooftop patios accessible through a mall or office building â€" and finding them is part of the fun. On a previous visit, I spent a long time walking up and down a deserted street before finding the red door that leads to Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria, a basement gin bar housed in a former ping pong club.

While Lan Kwai Fong in Central is known as Hong Kong’s nightlife and entertainment district, the narrow streets and back alleys of neighbouring Sheung Wan and SoHo ar e home to a sophisticated cocktail scene one would expect to find in Manhattan or L.A.

It’s easy to miss Stockton Bar, with an entryway down a dark alley and up a short flight of stairs. Inside, there’s a 19th-century parlour vibe, reminiscent of a London gentlemen’s club from the Victorian era, with classic wood paneling, vintage furniture and whimsical touches. While I’m there, the bar is featuring a ‘minds undone’ cocktail series, paying homage to the great writers of our time. I try Hidden Lady, inspired by Truman Capote, which has a whole lot of ingredients including vodka, sake and orange sherbet.

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Stockton Bar.
Stockton Bar.

Quinary, on Hollywood Road, is known for its molecular cocktails, including its signature earl grey caviar martini; it makes the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, an annual ranking by 500 drink experts across the globe. Nearby on Aberdeen Street, The Old Man pays homage to Ernest Hemingway with creative cocktails named after his novels (such as The Sun Also Rises). And Coa is an industrial-chic Mexican-inspired cocktail bar, featuring tequila and mezcal cocktails like the horchata de pistachio.

Worth dropping in for the atmosphere alone is The Iron Fairies, designed by nightlife guru Ashley Sutton. This bar and live music venue resembles an ironsmith’s workshop with plenty of raw iron, leather, brick and timber â€" not to mention 10,000 butterflies dangling from the ceiling on thin copper rods and thousands of small iron fairies scattered on low, circular tables. It’s yet another intriguing addition to Hong Kong’s evolving nightlife scene.

The Iron Fairies.
The Iron Fairies.

But Hong Kong isn’t just about cocktails; there’s a growing number of craft breweries here, such as Young Master Brewery, Moonzen Brewery, Hong Kong Beer Co., Yardley Brothers, Lucky Dawgs and Lion Rock Brewery.

The Roundhouse.
The Roundhouse.

To sample local brews, try Hong Kong Island Taphouse in Causeway Bay, with up to 40 local craft beers on tap; Second Draft (also in Causeway Bay), with local and international beers; or 65 Peel in Central, with local craft beers on draft and Neo-Cantonese food. Roundhouse Chicken + Beer in Wan Chai and Roundhouse BBQ + Beer in Central also offer local brews.

To find out more about Hong Kong’s nightlife, visit discoverhongkong.com.

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