Hidden depths: a sampling of Hong Kong bars
Hong Kong’s bar scene caters to a broad range of clientele. Boorish expats drink in Lan Kwai Fong, huddling on street corners over cigarettes and pints of lager. Posh chancers turn to The Captain’s Bar, the Chinnery or Sevva. Creative types end up in temples of self-congratulation like Piqniq, Woobar or Feather Boa. But only the finest Bacchanalians find their way into one of Hong Kong’s hidden bars.
I assume so, anyway, since I was among their clientele this week. I was invited to Room 309, a speakeasy in the Pottinger Hotel that serves a range of strange ─ but rather moreish ─ cocktails. I settled on an Old-Fashioned, flavoured with peanut butter and banana.
The only access to this bar is through an unmarked door, inaccessible to anyone without a keycard. How does one obtain such a keycard? Is it won through connections with captains of industry? Is it earned through blood and sweat and a trial of wits? Actually, you just have to ask next door.
The bar itself is charming, despite the social distancing policy that many places in Hong Kong still apply, albeit haphazardly. It sells a range of colourless cocktails, an increasingly popular gimmick at pretentious watering holes that some ‘mixologists’ argue is a way of fighting stereotypes. I suspect I fought one too many stereotypes that evening, although the hangover the next morning was more typical than stereotypical.
On a recent drink at The Pawn, a more normal watering hole, I told a friend about Room 309, attempting to wow him with the mystique of ‘a hidden bar’, accessible only to the finest people in Hong Kong (or anyone that goes next door and asks). He pulled out his phone and started typing.
“They’ve got a website showing their address … and the menu,” he said. “It’s not very well hidden.”