Central Hong Kong at dusk. Picture: Getty
Source: National Features
I’D BE the first to admit that Hong Kong can’t rival Bangkok or Tokyo for night revelry and wild goings-on.
Its inhabitants are more into restaurants than bars, the live-music scene is almost non-existent and expatriates create much of the drinking scene.
But I reckon anyone wanting a fun night out in safe surrounds could hardly be in a better place.
Start at the party epicentre, Lan Kwai Fong in Central, and you won’t be disappointed. Confusingly, Lan Kwai Fong is both a street and a whole district packed with more than 100 venues, from funky gay dance spots to elegant champagne bars and noisy beer halls.
On the corner of two of the district’s most happening streets, Stormies is chiefly a beer-guzzling men’s bar, just the place to swap sports news and sway to good-time 1980s and ’90s music.
Nearby, retro Al’s is a popular hangout for after-office workers and lovers of 1950s diner fare, old-time music and a sociable atmosphere. Later at night, Al’s gets a lot rowdier, especially when its infamous jelly vodka does the rounds and people start dancing on the tabletops.
The choice for the more ladylike should be Italian cafe La Dolce Vita, whose beautiful wooden bar is the place for champagne or cocktails.
Meanwhile, Di Vino has a wider selection of wines by the glass than just about anywhere in Hong Kong. This small venue is probably best in the early evening.
Italian-inspired bars are a little predictable, but Lan Kwai Fong can be weird as well as wonderful.
Balalaika is a Russian-themed hoot. Decked out like a hunting lodge, the fun and sociable restaurant comes with folk art, antlers and occasional balalaika players. If you can afford it, the VIP room looks like a mad tsar’s palace and is your chance to try outrageously expensive caviar.
Across Hong Kong harbour, Knutsford Tce is Kowloon’s answer to Lan Kwai Fong, though not as out-of-control. Restaurant and bar tables spill across the street, which is closed to traffic, making it easy to bar hop.
I have a soft spot for the endearingly kitschy Bahama Mama’s, the nearest thing to a beach bar in Hong Kong.
Twinkling fairy lights drape faux palm trees. A rowboat and surfboard hang from the ceiling, and old hurricane lamps and diving helmets add to the Caribbean theme.
Elsewhere in the city, bars are more scattered, so chat to locals or obtain recommendations from your concierge.One of my new favourites is 1/5 Nuevo, a classy cocktail lounge in Wan Chai with a sophisticated and romantic decor of suede sofas and subdued lighting. It’s more relaxed than some venues, with good chill-out music and a Friday night DJ spinning RB tracks. Enjoy fruit mojitos, sangria and wine by the glass.
Signature cocktails are unusual, such as apple vodka with gingerbread syrup. Accompanying Spanish-influenced bar snacks are outstanding. Admittedly, 1/5 Nuevo is a little pricey, so aim for the 5pm to 9pm happy hour, on every day except Sundays.
I reckon if you’re going to splurge, best save yourself for one of Hong Kong’s spectacularly glamorous, up-market bars that capture those famous neon-shimmering, money-flaunting harbour views.
Many of these such as the legendary Felix Bar are in top hotels, which are very much part of the scene in Hong Kong.
Recently, several newcomers have refreshed the scene. Eye Bar on the 30th floor above a chic new retail centre features huge wrap-around windows and that Hong Kong rarity, an outdoor deck.
If you get peckish, Eye Bar is part of Nanhai No.1, a restaurant that has earned a Michelin star for its contemporary Chinese, seafood-focused cuisine.
Another hot scenic spot is Ozone. Perched on the 118th floor of the newly opened ICC Building, it’s one of the world’s highest bars, unless you travel in the pointy end of an A380.
It, too, has an outdoor terrace, though screened by large panels of glass to keep you from being blown into the harbour along with your plates of Asian tapas.
Ozone is roughly at the same altitude as The Peak across the water, which has always been the classic Hong Kong viewing point, reached by rack railway.
The best bar view in Hong Kong isn’t from above but rather from across at the Lobby Bar of the InterContinental in Kowloon.
The city’s only waterfront hotel takes advantage of its location by draping its lobby in glass looking right over Victoria Harbour towards the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island.
The writer was a guest of Qantas and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
- Getting there
Qantas has A380 flights from Sydney to Hong Kong four times a week. First-class suites have flat Skybeds. Visit qantas.com.au, ph 13 13 13.
- Drinking there
1/5 Nuevo, 9 Star St, Wan Chai. Visit www.elite-concepts.com, ph +852 2529 2300.
Al’s, 27-39 D’Aguilar St, Central. Ph +852 2521 8714.
Bahama Mama’s, 4-5 Knutsford Tce, Tsim Sha Tsui. Ph +852 2368 2121.
Balalaika, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central. Ph +852 3579 2929.
Di Vino, 73 Wyndham St, Central. Ph +852 2167 8883.
Eye Bar, 30/F, 63 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui. Visit www.elite-concepts.com, ph +852 2487 3688.
La Dolce Vita, 9 Lan Kwai Fong, Central. Visit ninetyseven group.com, ph +852 2186 1888.
Ozone Bar, 118/F, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1 Austen Rd West, Kowloon. Visit ritzcarlton.com, ph +852 2263 2263.
Stormies, 46 D’Aguilar St, Central. Visit igors.com, ph +852 2845 5533.
- Staying there
InterContinental Hong Kong is the city’s only absolute harbour-front hotel, with two Michelin-starred restaurants, swimming pool and health spa. See intercontinental.com, 18 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, ph 1800 669 562.