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This Tai Kwun bar nails the atmosphere but could do better with its premade cocktails
Should prison be fun? It’s a question worth considering given how successfully Behind Bars banishes memories of what is, no doubt, painful incarceration. The amusingly named cocktail bar is Tai Kwun’s first such establishment, and the only one until Ashley Sutton’s art nouveau concept, Dragonfly, opens later this summer. With its playful neon lighting and toe-tapping soundtrack – the work of Angus Wong, the man responsible for monthly LGBT party Behind – the venue is a stylish, if somewhat tactless, repurposing of the former Central Police Station compound’s prison cells.
The space itself is relatively narrow. On the right-hand side is the bar with one cubbyhole for placing your order and another for picking up your drinks. Opposite are former cells transformed into a series of cosy alcoves with tables and seating.
The cocktails have been put together under the tutelage of JIA Group’s group bar manager, James Barker, who most recently did sterling work helping to revamp the drinks menu over at Duddell’s. There are six to choose from, as well as a handful of wines and beers, and all cocktails are premade. This is immediately apparent when we order an All Day and a Night ($90), a mix of Absolut vodka, Kahlua, cacao and cold brew coffee. An espresso martini in all but name, the flavours are properly present and correct but, having been prepared earlier, there’s no creamy foam, resulting in a disappointing texture. The Clock With No Hands ($120) – Chivas Regal 12 Year whisky, Ancho Reyes, maple syrup, black tea and chocolate bitters – suffers less from the factory line production methods. A souped-up old fashioned, the Ancho Reyes provides an inviting spiciness while the maple syrup comes on gently for a pleasant finish.
Our last drink is the least satisfying and we visibly wince as we sip on a Ghetto Penthouse ($90) made up of Beefeater gin, clear citrus juice, cream soda and rhubarb. The citrus notes are far too sharp and overwhelming, which is a shame given the pleasant essence of cream soda on the nose.
Behind Bars is certainly a unique concept in Hong Kong. We can foresee the bar being a couple’s hotspot – the former cells, together with the funky lighting and excellent playlist are sure to make this the perfect place to end a date at Tai Kwun. The cocktails suffer from being premade and they don’t come cheap despite not using any premium spirits, but there are certainly worse places you could do time.
Prison Yard, Block E, Tai Kwun
10 Hollywood Road
|Opening hours:||4pm-12am Mon-Fri, 4pm-2am Sat|
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