With a nightlife scene dominated by so many run-of-the-mill ‘sleek and stylish’ bars and clubs, visiting a place like Le Boudoir seems almost like taking a trip down the rabbit hole. Located at the bottom end of four dizzying flights of scarlet stairs, this underground bar is the latest project from the team behind perpetually packed French bistro Pastis.
Stepping into the space for the first time, it’s difficult to really pick out much in the dim lighting. At first glance, the only thing that stands out is the long, polished bar counter lined with a neat row of high stools. But slowly, the effects of the dazzling surrounds sink in. As the name suggests, Le Boudoir is fixed up like the lavish private bedchambers of the bourgeois ladies in 18th century Europe. But in a more stylised approach, the bar fuses traditional opulence with modern kitsch and psychedelia. The space is wrapped head to toe in vintage wallpaper embellished with framed Renaissance-era paintings, art deco mirrors and a tasteful mishmash of random paraphernalia, including an antelope head and golden Buddha statues.
A faux velvet canopy drapes above two Victorian-style sofas in the small lounge area. One could almost imagine a modern-day Marie Antoinette reclining against the ornamental framework. In the same space, a jumble of curiously miniature, jewel-toned velvet chairs set around equally petite black and gold checker-top tables succeeds in making one feel like an enlarged Alice trapped in the most surreal storybook wonderland.
Under the crystal chandeliers (three, to be exact), Le Boudoir’s mixologist, Max Traverse, works back and forth from one end of the long bar to the other. A sartorial-oriented Frenchman who moved to Hong Kong from London just a few months ago, Traverse looks and acts every bit the classic bartender. Fitted out in a clean white dress shirt, black trousers, and a simple black tie held neatly in place by a silver tie clip, he mixes up a slim menu of elegant cocktails, especially designed for Le Boudoir’s clientele of girls, gays, and the general French community.
Served in a round coupe glass, the Elle for Leather cocktail ($150) is just one of the tantalising champAgnesed concoctions on the menu. The starting sip is tart and fruity, dominated by the flavours of fresh raspberries and lemon juice. The drink mellows out into a smooth and sweet finish, redolent of crème de cassis, crème de framboise and Asolut vanilla vodka. Other signatures include the Boudoir Collins ($85). This elevation of a classic is prepared with fresh mint leaves and elderflower cordial to impart a fresh, grassiness to the Beefeater gin-based drink.
Unsurprisingly, Le Boudoir also pays homage to French bohemian culture with a selection of drinks prepared with absinthe. Among the best is the Lucky Star ($95). Made with a formula of rum and white sugar with the green, wormwood spirit, this on-the-rocks cocktail is as simple and unassuming as it is lethal. More intoxicating still is the Devil’s Rocks ($85) – a smooth mix of Jim Beam bourbon, fresh ginger, lemon and orange that tastes like candy on the tongue, with subtle notes of cinnamon spice, courtesy of Jerry Thomas’ bitters.
At the heart of it, Le Boudoir is less of a bar and more of an experience. While we glorify the detailed décor, quirky atmosphere, and menu of delicious cocktails, it’s Le Boudoir’s daring originality that makes it such a great and interesting venue. And for now at least, this underground space is in a weird and wonderful league of its own.
B/F, 65 Wyndham St, Central, 2530 3870.
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