Here’s something we all know: when it comes to bars, Hong Kong is a city with a lot going on. Be it live bands, guest DJs, launch parties or drunken gatherings, there’s always plenty of action where the tipples are served up, especially during weekends. Sometimes, though, it can all get a bit much. So here’s something we don’t all know (yet): there’s a new bar in Wong Chuk Hang which - quite literally - rises above all the chaos and gives drinkers who crave conversation and relaxation a much quieter experience. It’s not unique by a long shot but it is a break from the norm.
Above perches on the top floor of Ovolo Southside, a former industrial building which has undergone extensive refurbishment and is now not only the first boutique hotel in the Wong Chuk Hang area but is actually the first New York-style warehouse conversion hotel in the whole city. It heralds the start of a gentrification process in Wong Chuk Hang, which sees a new MTR station opening soon. The hotel is designed by award-winning local architectural firm K Plus K Associates and embraces a bold and provocative style, showcasing a selection of contemporary artwork against a backdrop of industrial-chic design. It’s certainly a break from the norm.
Above’s decor is in line with the rest of the hotel. It’s modern and sleek, comprising a minimalistic, intimate indoor lounge with an open-air terrace which overlooks leafy Wong Chuk Hang and Shouson Hill from these dizzy heights. The inspiring art that peppers the place looks both bygone and contemporary, and fits in well with the modern surrounds. On our visit, the space is pretty quiet - hell, it’s only been open a few weeks - and there’s no food available yet. But we sit at the bar and order some imaginatively named cocktails before an energetic bartender shakes them up for us. First up is the Dirty Uncle ($103), the venue’s signature ‘beer version of a bloody Mary’, made with Corona, grapefruit juice, celery bitters, agave syrup, lime and smoked salt. This dirty little concoction immediately hits the spot. The lime and grapefruit juice help mask the harshness of the Corona and there is a pleasantly spicy afterkick to the whole experience.
Jiggy Jiggy ($113) is next up - another signature with an amusing moniker. Absolut Citron, Cointreau, ginger, lemon, coriander, apple and pineapple juice are mixed up together bringing in sweet and fruity tones, with a refreshing note added at the end with an extra dash of ginger and lemon juice. It’s not as good as the Uncle, though, as the strong ingredients compete with each other and leave too much of a messy medley on the palate. Lastly, we go for the Mediterranean ($123), which combines whisky flavours with European tones. There seems to be a lack of layering here and we’re left not quite sure what direction this cocktail wants to take. This one is not recommended at all.
Above is not yet reaching the dizzy heights of other rooftop cocktail-centric bars in Hong Kong. The drinks may be cheaper than those in, say, LKF but, on the whole, they’re far from perfect. It’s worth visiting to enjoy the artsy space and to get away from the drama of the streets but don’t yet expect to be wowed by the beverages. Perhaps things will get a little better when the food menu is introduced and the team have had time to work on their cocktails. Until then, we’ll be looking up and hoping this venue will one day rise well above the crowd. Stephanie Ko
Above 64 Wong Chuk Hang Rd, Aberdeen, 2165 1000; ovolohotels.com.