There are many hidden bars in Hong Kong, did you know? Or are they just so well hidden you had no clue? Well, that’s what Time Out is for. In fact, the whole ‘hidden bar’ or 'speakeasy' thing can sometimes feel like a gimmick or a substitute for actually serving decent drinks. The few establishments like that have given the rest a bad name because some of Hong Kong’s very best bars are ones that are a little secretive and not so easy to find. Read on to discover the best.
Hong Kong’s best hidden bars
One of the most low-key Hong Kong’s hidden cocktail bars, 001 is easy to miss unless you know it’s there. A recessed black door set behind the market stalls on Graham Street, a dim spotlight and doorbell are the only signs that you’re in the right place. Fortunately, 001 doesn’t rely on its gimmick as a hidden bar to pull in punters. The cocktails here are excellent and there’s a strong selection of spirits too. At times you can even find the elusive Pappy Van Winkle bourbon in stock, provided you’re willing to pay the high price, of course.
The Diplomat is a speakeasy concept hidden in Soho’s H Code, promising renewed classics of American cocktails, expertly crafted by award-winning mixologist John Nugent (formerly of Lily & Bloom). Despite its small-scale of 18 seats, The Diplomat boosts a classy yet intimate interior. The drinks are relatively affordable while the cosy gastropub’s burgers, fries, and truffled mac and cheese are to die for. What’s worth noting is that they offer $40 mini cocktails for the lightweights, non-drinkers that want a taste, or if you just wanted a little extra for the road.
Tucked away in the Landmark, this speakeasy houses over 250 showcasing premium gins from around the world (the largest collection in the city until John Anthony opened) and also shakes up an array of creative cocktails. You wouldn’t think a bar in the Landmark could be too secretive but the exterior of Dr Fern’s looks like a doctor’s clinic, with little give away the libations being poured within. Appointment not required.
Like a matryoshka doll, Frank’s Library is a bar hidden within another bar, in this case, Foxglove. The bar’s concept is based on travels of fictional Englishman Frank Minza, the cocktail menu inspired by his globe-trotting adventures. Expect premium cocktails a cut above Foxglove’s usual offerings and potent barrel-aged tipples. Try the Catch of Tea, a tempting mix of Teeling small-batch whiskey, Tieguanyin tea syrup, citrus acid, and chocolate bitters, garnished with a spray of tea tincture, dehydrated lemon wheel and a tea ice block.
Tucked away on the fourth floor of an anonymous Wan Chai commercial building – on Lockhart Road no less – this immaculate Japanese-style bar is headed by ‘bartender-in-chief’ Masahiko Endo. Impeccably attired in a white dinner jacket and bow tie, Endo has been winning bartending competitions since 2008. There are more than 600 whiskies on offer and a fantastic cocktail menu. We recommend starting with a Smokey Manhattan, a wonderful Maker’s Mark-based take on the classic. The Laphroaig-rinsed glass adds a strong campfire flavour, nicely countered by a sharp fruity edge bleeding off the skewered cherry.
Hidden at the back of MO Bar in the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, accessed through a mock phone booth, PDT has established itself as one of the best bars in the city – let alone one of the best ‘hidden’ bars. The cocktail menu is thoroughly excellent, a wonderful marriage of classics from PDT’s original home in New York and new creations that are sensitive to local tastes and ingredients here in Asia. Oh, and don’t forget the hotdogs and Takoyaki Tots – possibly the very best bar snacks in the city.
Presented as an imaginary space within The Pottinger – every floor in the hotel only has a maximum of six rooms, so 309 shouldn’t exist – Antonio Lai’s latest winning offering sits next to another establishment of his, The Envoy. Guests must ask for keycard there first before they can ask its secretive neighbour. Once you’re inside expect a menu of classic cocktails like the gimlet and old fashioned given new spins – quite literally, in a centrifuge – to produce a range of transparent wonders.
With Stockton having been around for a number of years now, it seems a little redundant to claim it’s ‘hidden’ anymore, but for the uninitiated, it’s still easy to miss. Found up a dark passage near the end of Wyndham Street, Stockton is decorated like an Edwardian gentlemen’s club, all leather sofas and stuffed dodo birds. The drinks menu has been given a revamp with a new menu revealed just this month inspired by Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Riffing on the evolution of alcohol throughout the passage of time, expect cocktails served in neolithic rocks, made with unusual ingredients like malic acid and much more.
Currently the newest of Hong Kong’s litany of hidden bars, The Wilshire is also one of the best. Located at the back of Mexican restaurant 11 Westside – yes, well past the restaurant’s bar – this is a rare example of an American bar done right in this town. The surrounds are plush and comfortable, with a pool table slap in the middle of the action, and the menu is mercifully compact and straightforward. What you get is a handful of offerings featuring classic flavours coupled with modest but refreshing twists – see The Business ($140), a combination of gin, lime and honey – a gimlet revisited – that’s refreshing and perfectly balanced between sweet and sour.