Updated October 15, 2020: One of the recent additions to Soho's hip and happening high rise, H Code, The Diplomat has since become a watering hole for people hankering for after-work drinks. The bar is the brainchild of award-winning mixologist John Nugent (formerly of Lily & Bloom) who is known for his innovative twists on old classics. True to the nature of a diplomat, you’ll see Nugent being friendly to his customers, helping them decide on orders, and chatting with them at every opportunity.
At first glance, the exterior of the bar looks stiff and corporate; this all changes as you enter the premises and become immersed in the bar’s light and welcoming atmosphere. The interior is replete with leather seats and brass finishings, and while taking these in, it’s easy to miss the intricately detailed ceiling tiles that bear the bar’s logo. Should your inner diplomat have important business to attend to, a lavish hallway with shades of pink and copper will lead you to the posh washroom. Behind the bar hides a secret pink VIP room that you can only enter through a referral from regular patrons.
The bar’s menu is easy to navigate and reasonably priced compared to neighbouring bars. We started with the signature Diplo Daiquiri; house rum blend, pineapple, anise, and salt ($95) followed by Pearl, made with vodka, Campari, French herbs, Mr Black Coffee Amaro, pineapple, and almonds ($95). The two drinks are okay to whet your appetite, made for easy drinking but aren’t standouts. To gain a better appreciation of the signature menu, ask the staff about the famous diplomats who inspired the drinks.
What seem to be the real crowd-pleasers are the reimagined classics. "Oh, I should have gotten the same drink as yours!" "That is the best cocktail I've tasted!" you'd practically hear people envious of each other's drinks when it reaches their table. We ordered the Boulevardier ($120) that uses a rye-bourbon blend. It is rich, sweet, bitter, oaky, and holds its flavours even after you’ve finished your grub. Other reimagined classics on the menu are whisky sour, sazerac, and an espresso martini. You can also find a mini-sized martini called 50/50, Negroni, and Gibson ($50) on the menu – one for the road, or just when you want to try a sip and then move on to the next. Their savoury Gibson has vodka, fino sherry, dry vermouth, and uses a Japanese pickled shallot called rakkyo – instead of the usual pickled onion – adding a deep layer of sweet and sour notes. Their latest entry, Tuxedo #852 ($50), a riff on the classic Tuxedo (made with gin, dry vermouth, pear brandy, maraschino liqueur, served with a tiny pear) is so good that you'll wish they served it in large portions. If you just want a beer, The Diplomat offers their house signature American Pale Ale ($60), crisp, with hoppy, citrus-floral notes.
The food menu offers various options with influences from different cuisines, perfect for late-night bites or to chow down while drinking your way to their bar menu. We finished the truffled mac and cheese ($90) faster than we could down the drink. Each piece of macaroni is evenly coated with the melted cheese, and the shaved black truffle adds an earthy flavour and aroma to elevate the dish to delicious heights. This writer does not eat meat, but other members of the Time Out team agrees that the burger offering is one of the best burgers in Hong Kong, a quarter pounder grilled with crisp edges and topped with cheddar cheese, sandwiched between two sesame buns, served with tomato slices and pickles on the side – best to eat especially when you're feeling peckish after a few drinks. If you're able to get into the pink room, make sure to stay until midnight to catch the complimentary cookies served hot from the oven.
All in all, The Diplomat is a good American-style cocktail bar where anyone can enjoy good grub and classic cocktails whilst head bopping to the loud music coming from the speakers. A night here with friends always guarantees a good time.