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Where to go, what to drink when you get there...
Bars in Hong Kong (China)
Member Name: sgreenland
Bars in Hong Kong (China)
Date: 21/03/05, updated on 26/03/05 (7497 review reads)
Advantages: Grouped together, Something for everyone
Disadvantages: Expensive drinks
Whether you're a long-term resident or a short-term visitor, this should provide you with (at the very least) a decent primer on your drinking options - and will hopefully lead you to some fantastic evenings out!
Regular updates will be posted as bars open and close, so check back before you travel! And if you've heard of a place that I haven't reviewed here, let me know...and I'll try to visit and write about it!
Hong Kong's pubs are largely aimed either at expats or at the locals - there's not much mixing that goes on here, sadly (with a few notable and happy exceptions). There are three main areas where expat-focused bars can be found: Tsim Sha Tsui, over on the Kowloon peninsular side of the harbour, and on Hong Kong Island itself there are two concentrations, Lan Kwai Fong (in Central, the main business district) and Wan Chai. I'll be dividing the review up by those areas...
Firstly, though, a word on prices. Pints (and mixed drinks, glasses of wine, etc) in expat pubs are usually in the region of HK$50 each (which is currently a little over £3). Happy hours usually run from about 5pm-8pm and will be 2-for-1 or possibly (if you're lucky) half-price. You tend not to be allowed to share a 2-for-1 in Hong Kong with a friend - instead, they sell you the first beer and you get a ticket that you can redeem later for a free beer, meaning you have to drink them both yourself!
Oh, and for the English: there are no licensing hours in Hong Kong. Most pubs close between 2am and 4am, depending on how many people are still there...and there are also a couple of 24-hour joints. And lots of pubs will have staff that come round and take your drinks order, rather than make you queue at the bar - unless the place is packed, in which case standard rules apply (i.e. head for the bar and use your elbows).
TSIM SHA TSUI
Lots of hotels over here, so there are quite a few bars that cater to expats and business travellers. Some of the older and better-known ones have closed down recently - SARS and its attendant loss of business did for them! The Kangaroo Bar is probably the most exemplary case. But there are plenty that still remain, and offer a very decent night out!
Irish bar in a large basement on Peking Road (with a tiny entrance but a massive sign!). Fills up for sports events, as they usually have a big screen and plenty of TVs scattered around the place, but otherwise it's usually possible to get a table - although it's mostly pleasantly full in the evenings, unlike some places in the neighbourhood which can be almost deserted! Good Guinness (they get it flown in directly from Ireland, rather than having the dodgier Malaysian-brewed alternative) and the standard range of Irish-pub draughts (couple of lagers, Tetley's, Kilkenny and so forth). Good wine list and lots of spirits. The food here is pretty good - very standard Irish menu (the Irish Coddle, basically sausage and potatoes, is very cheap in comparison to the rest and is a great option).
Another Irish bar, this time on Nathan Road (almost at the harbourfront, opposite the Peninsular Hotel). A little bit smaller than as Delaney's, but divided up into smaller areas within the pub so feels very cosy. Otherwise very similar to Delaney's - most people tend to have an irrational preference for one or the other, though! Food here is possibly slightly better, and they have a wider range of beers on tap. Tends to have more people eating lunch than Delaney's, although by no means does it fill up then.
Ned Kelly's Last Stand
Trad jazz pub (the only one in Hong Kong) on Ashley Road. Has live Dixieland band every night, led by a Geordie on a trombone (he takes Mondays off). Their standard is very high, and the place is full almost every night. Sawdust on the floor and unpretentious. The Australian-themed food is quite pricey but the portions are gigantic - value for money, certainly! Beer isn't too expensive either, and there's no cover charge (unusual for a live music venue in HK). But don't come here hoping to have a quiet conversation - the music is definitely centre stage and the focus of the pub.
LAN KWAI FONG
This is a street (or, more accurately, two streets next to each other) with nothing but bars, clubs and restaurants. Having said that, all of the "restaurants" are basically pubs in disguise. At weekends (and increasingly on weekday evenings), the area is pedestrianised and the whole street gets filled with people out having a good time. This means that there are too many pubs to list every single one here! I'll focus on key ones, and will add more as time goes on...
On the top corner of the road - you can't miss it. Runs over three floors (although the top one is allegedly reserved for dining only, at least at the start of the evening) and isn't massive - which just means that there are always people standing outside. Good food and standard range of drinks. One of the best places to arrange to meet people - everyone knows it, and there are no nooks or crannies to lose people in. It comes into its own, though, during a typhoon (when HK shuts down all public services, offices close, etc): the staff offer free shots regularly during the typhoon, and it is THE place to be - it's full within 30 minutes of the official announcement. And because it's pouring with rain outside, the atmosphere gets hot and steamy...
One door down from Stormy Weather. Small frontage but goes a hell of a long way back, with a dance floor right at the end if you can fight that far through the throng. Very standard place altogether - nice booths for a steady evening's drinking, but you'll need to get there early to bag one. Music is standard HK, which means plenty of pub rock and 80s/90s cheesy tunes, unless they have a guest DJ in (see local listings for details).
Directly above Bar George, but the entrance is on the street behind (i.e. above where Bar George's dancefloor ends). Relatively new, and British/Australian themed. The best food on Lan Kwai Fong, and at good prices too. Also the only place in town (I believe) to serve Newcastle Brown on tap, along with a pretty decent range of other beers, a good wine list and so on. Sport on the TV - they show quite a few minority-interest ones, like the Aussie Rules, which are otherwise difficult to find. Pub quiz on Tuesdays. Very good DJ at the weekends for a party atmosphere, although the dance floor is very small! One of the best features, though, is the back bar - it's a balcony that looks out over the street, which means it gets a cool breeze if there's one going and it's perfect for people-watching. Highly recommended.
Opposite Bar George. Karaoke pub. No talent required, but there are often some relatively decent singers who get up to have a crack at old favourites. This is less true as the evening wears on, and the alcohol causes people to lose both their inhibitions and their ability to hold a tune...gets very full most evenings.
Next to Hardy's (see how easy navigation is round here?). Standard bar that spills out onto the street every evening. Lively place, and famous for vodka jelly shots. The bar staff wander through the crowd selling them to people who really should know better, but don't. They're colour-coded (like traffic lights), so there's no excuse for getting it wrong...
Traditionally the seedier end of HK nightlife. That's all still there (although girlie bars won't see space in this review), but along with the dodginess there are plenty of decent (in all senses of the word) bars that are excellent for a drink, quiet or otherwise.
Sister pub to the one in Kowloon (see above), this is a large Irish bar on Luard Road, which is the epicentre of drinking in Wan Chai. Always pretty full, with a range of nationalities (i.e. not just the Irish!) and a friendly atmosphere. Same food menu as in Kowloon (so try the Irish Coddle here too) and Guinness freshly flown in from Dublin. Lots of seating, as there's several more areas on the first floor as well as a pool room. Big screens for rugby and football, and occasionally other sports (Gaelic football and hurling, although usually only on videos as they aren't screened in HK).
Also on Luard Road, opposite Delaney's. Not very big, but currently THE place to be between about 11pm and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, meaning it gets packed out. Decent-sized (for HK) dance floor with party music played by some decent DJs. Drinks can be expensive, but look out for nightly special offers. No food after about 9pm - they clear the tables away to make more space for drinking and dancing. During the day, if the weather's warm, they open up all the panels along the wall and it's essentially alfresco dining.
Next to Mes Amis, this is much more like a British nightclub - the music is modern chart and much more hip-hop, R&B, etc and the atmosphere is much steamier. Basically an upmarket pick-up joint, although no-one there will tell you that. Definitely a meat market, though. Goes on to about 5am.
Dusk Till Dawn
Round the corner from Venue, this is (as the name suggests) a late-night place, which usually chucks out at around 7am. Correspondingly, the atmosphere is less salubrious (more working girls, especially towards the end of the evening when it's filling up with drunken expat males). Very male-dominated at that time of night - many females find it quite uncomfortable. Live music every night, which starts off as basic rock and then moves towards covers of heavy metal bands in the wee small hours.
Opposite Dusk Till Dawn (see how easy navigation is here as well?). Used to be the trendy spot - now clinging on to former glories and often pretty empty. They've just hired some better DJs to try and bring back the good old times. Not recommended unless you can't force your way into any of the other places here.
Round the corner, on Lockhart Road. Again, used to be where everyone went - then they closed the upstairs balcony area (which was an illegal construction and highly unsafe) and now it's a bit poky and full of middle-aged (or slightly older) business execs. But you can still dance on the bar if you want to - and everyone does (they have a handrail for the inebriated).
Also on Lockhart Road but back the other way (past Mes Amis). This pub is open 24 hours per day, which frankly is the only thing to recommend it (if that's a recommendation). Gets lots of sailors when the US Navy and others are in town.
That's about it for now! Updates will be made as and when the scene changes, or when I get requests for more...
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