Hong Kong boasts a traditionally tough scene when it comes to the survival of music-centred clubs. But there’s a new trend that could ensure longevity. Anderson Muth chows down and limbers up as he investigates the rise of the dining-meets-nightlife trend
Entering 2016, venues that are exclusively dedicated to music continue to struggle to make ends meet in Hong Kong. Rising rents combined with the city’s endless turnover of dancefloor denizens can strain even the most practical of business models and relying on bar sales is a continual challenge when there’s always a 7-Eleven selling cheap drinks nearby. Since a complete overhaul of the city’s capitalistic leanings is somewhat unlikely, a more practical solution is obviously required.
Fortunately, several new venues have opened up of late with a similar business model. These nightspots take the essence of a club – live music in some capacity with an accompanying dancefloor – and then inject a fully functioning restaurant into the mix. It’s hardly revolutionary, for sure, but thanks to thoughtful design and some unique concepts, this wave of similarly minded new venues is breathing fresh life into the music scene while also providing independent promoters some much-needed choice.
Leading this blend trend are two venues atop the QRE Plaza building in Wan Chai – MyHouse and Mahalo Tiki Lounge. The former is dedicated to both vinyl and wine (featuring an expanding record library and an extensive list, respectively), while the menu prioritises high-end Italian in the form of shareable appetisers with pasta and grilled meat for the mains. Regarding the tunes, with Arun Ramanathan – better known in DJ circles as Arun R – as music director, expect tasteful grooves of all varieties. Current regulars behind the wheels of steel include Barnaby Bruce, Johnny Hiller, Roy Malig, Taku Hirayama, Steve Yau, Ivan Sit, Fun Key and Romi B. Quite an impressive roster of Hong Kong-based talent, to say the least.
A few floors up, on the partially exposed rooftop, is Mahalo Tiki Lounge. If you’re in need of an analogy, this is a remixed version of Honi Honi, with an open setting and the same dedication to quality cocktails. Through a partnership with Central’s new Hawaiian joint Pololi, fresh Hawaiian food is available at Mahalo during the week, which means tuna and salmon poke as well as skewers and guacamole. With ample space to dance in, next to a rare DJ booth in the round, as well as collaborations with promoters like FuFu, Jackrabbit and the George Lukas Reggae Movement, there’s plenty more on offer for clubbers here than at a typical lounge.
For the dedicated Centralists, though, there’s an ace new food and dancing option in Paradis Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, which has just opened up on Wyndham Street. Menu-wise, it’s French-gone-Caribbean, leading to interesting takes on ceviche, croquettes and clams. Musically, there’s some crossover with MyHouse since Romain Faipoux – aka Fun Key – has just been announced as the new curator. Soulful and Afro-house should dominate your post-dinner dance, with equal emphasis on the tropical and percussive to pair with the venue’s Colonial-era vibe. Faipoux himself is behind the decks on Thursdays, with Roy Malig and Arnaud D handling the prime weekend slots.
Of course there are plenty of slightly more well-established options in this same vein, such as Bibo and Mitte in Sheung Wan, Ping Pong 129 in Sai Ying Pun and Hotshot in Repulse Bay. But it’s refreshing to see the new injection into the scene. Hardly a death knell for the traditional club setting, this increase in diversity shows how music can actually fit smoothly and snugly into almost any creative concept you can conjure up. So get those stomachs and feet moving simultaneously. Dining-and-dancing is here to stay. We hope.
MyHouse 26/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Rd E, Wan Chai, 2323 1715;myhousehk.com. Mahalo Tiki Bar 29/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Rd E, Wan Chai, 2488 8750; mahalotikibar.com. Paradis 3/F, 46-48 Wyndham St, Central, 3182 0105; paradishk.com.