Updated, January 25, 2023: Darkside is now led by the hotel's director of bars, Simone Rossi, after the departure of Arcadius Rybak, who left the hotel to focus on his new bar and restaurant consultancy firm Good Vibes Only Consultancy. They just released the latest edition to their conceptual cocktail menu series; this time, it's inspired by mahjong. Order drinks based on your preferred ingredients from the Four Gentlemen or your favourite seasons, but if you're unsure, you can just roll the dice and let the mahjong box choose the drink for you.
Old review, June 26, 2019: Overlooking Victoria Harbour and the refurbished Avenue of Stars, the Rosewood Hong Kong occupies the prime space vacated by the New World Centre and adjoins the soon-to-open K11 Musea. The luxury property is a feather in the cap for Kowloon, and its flagship bar, DarkSide, pays tribute to this neighbourhood’s history — Kowloon is often (for better or worse) called ‘the dark side’ for simply not being Hong Kong Island.
At first glance, the venue appears to have brought the best elements of both sides of the harbour together. The insulated atmosphere of Hong Kong speakeasies like 001 meets the space and comfort of bars like Aqua Spirit in the art deco-inspired form of low lights, plush chairs, velvet drapes, large windows and a stage with a live band playing easy listening music. If you’re looking for a view, however, you might be disappointed, as it is obscured by the hotel’s driveway.
The food and drink menus are filled to the brim with options, including port or cognac from the barrel, a wide selection of premium spirits such as whisky, madeira and Armagnac, and classics with twists (Martini vs Vesper. The venue even boasts its own Rosewood-branded pilsner and IPA, as well as decadent bar snacks, including an elevated version of the egg tart ($90) and the Bikini Sandwich, which is comprised of Parisian ham, Emmental cheese and black truffle.
We opt for one of the six signature cocktails, the No Rules, and order the wagyu beef cheek tempura to go with it. The No Rules – a tribute to the lawless and legally independent Kowloon Walled City – combines gin, mango, cypress and lanolin (yes, really) and is pleasantly refreshing. The mango plays well with the gin as an alternative to lime or lemon, even if the fruit is almost too sweet in the drink. The tempura, however, isn’t as successful. The richness of the wagyu is nearly overwhelming. A delicious idea, to be sure, but the mushroom aioli it’s served with is very much needed.
We move on to another signature drink, the 40 Square Feet, which takes inspiration from the rum-based Negroni, adding plum, bitter chocolate and ambergris to Campari, bitters, dark rum and sweet vermouth. The bold, bittersweet elements from the chocolate, plum and Campari come through first, while the rum plays a passive role in what is otherwise an extremely balanced drink.
DarkSide contrasts with some of its Kowloon counterparts in that it doesn’t rely on a theme or gimmick and it doesn’t focus on any particular iconography. Though Kowloon – especially Tsim Sha Tsui – does not lack quality venues, DarkSide’s wide array of options and discreet, high-class environment make it a great place to pop in for a drink when you’re on this side of the harbour. By Nikki James