Turning an old ping pong hall on the remote and unassuming streets of Sai Ying Pun into a stylish Spanish Gin bar is a stroke of genius. There is nothing more appealing to a crowd of hipsters, creatives and celebrities than a reprocessed space which still features touches of the original and adequately combines grit with taste. Ping Pong 129 Gintonería does this with flair, with the vast industrial interior featuring a long stairway, glorious high ceilings, retro-Hong Kong windows, and a red neon sign – all finished with Mediterranean-resembling tiling and works from local artists like photographer Paul Yeung and notorious graffitist Tsang Tsou Choi (aka King of Kowloon). On our visit the place is packed with hip young things sporting leather jackets, skinnies, funky dresses and pompadours, as well as celeb pastry chef Amanda S, who says it is a breath of fresh air. “I just love this space because it beats going to the crowded streets in Central.” That it does indeed.
Everything about Ping Pong is cool and laid-back – not contrived or plastically manufactured, but thoughtfully curated. The atmosphere and roominess of the space is easily the main draw, with conversations able to take place even over the eclectically selected music. There is ample bar seating and tables to meet the demands of large groups.
Thankfully, equal thought has gone into the drinks as the interior. As the bar’s name entails, the focus here is on gin. Spain has been upping their gin game of late with a whole host of fancy artisanal varieties coming out of the country, many of which Ping Pong will carry in the coming weeks, once they sort out all the importing logistics. We are told that there are going to be 35 varieties of gin. But during our visit, a few days after their official opening, the menu is limited to say the least. But there are a few specials like the Gin Mare ($180), from Barcelona, which they combine with Fever-Tree Tonic, rosemary and lime peel. The beverage is aromatic, full of botanical flavours and the lime peel gives it a refined finish, making it smooth yet bold and palette-cleansing, without the bitterness that sometimes tinges a gin and tonic. Next up on the menu is the Hendrick’s Gin with Wilkinson Tonic and cucumber, which is simple, refreshing, light and sublime – a balanced drink with healthy cucumber accents, which is ideal for summer. We are eagerly awaiting the rest of their drink menu.
In the coming months, Ping Pong 129 also promises us an array of bar nibbles that will range from Spanish hams and smoked anchovies to Padrón peppers and croquettes. There is still much to be anticipated at Ping Pong 129, but there is, without question, already an alluring aura about the bar. The beautiful old and new contrasts in a relatively private location give this joint the charm of a much-loved neighbourhood watering hole vibe that is rare to find in Hong Kong. Charlie Tamoto
Ping Pong 129 Gintonería 129 Second St, Nam Cheong Hse, Sai Ying Pun, 9158 1584.
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129 Second Street, Sai Ying Pun
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