A sleek and chic gay bar that plays it safe. Charlie Tamato checks out Wink in Sheung Wan, the newest addition to the gaybourhood
Hong Kong’s LGBTI nightlife scene was in a bit of turmoil last year, particularly when popular after-hours haunts Psychic Jack and Déjà Vu both shut up shop within just a few months of each other. These closures came as a blow to the gay community as it left only a handful of LGBTI clubs and bars to enjoy in a city which is hardly saturated with late-night queer options. And this year there was little improvement as replacement venues have failed to pop up in the city. But all that is hopefully about to change. Welcome to Wink, the new gay bar in town.
LGBTI advocate, dancer, choreographer and former partner at Sheung Wan’s gay Zoo Bar, Tony Wong is behind the new venue, which he hopes will help revitalise the nightlife scene. Also in Sheung Wan, just off Bonham Street and only a few blocks away from Zoo Bar and gay haven Volume Beat, Wink is going some way to actually creating a gaybourhood in the district.
We drop by the new bar on a Wednesday night to try out some of the specialty cocktails, which are only available Mondays to Thursdays, as well as on Fridays only until 10pm. After 10pm on Fridays and at any time on Saturdays, Wink is packed with too many boys to roll out complex drinks in a timely manner. On this Wednesday, however, the spacious bar is relatively calm with a few professional gays – some with their hags – in their 20s and 30s sipping on an after-hour drink or two in an interior that’s been designed and decorated in a similar fashion to Zoo. It’s all black, minimal and sleek. And on the stereo are ballad covers of pop hits.
We take a seat at one of the high tables and order up an adorable-looking All Day Breakfast ($108), consisting of vodka, yoghurt cream, cream soda and banana liqueur, topped off with cereal flakes and served in a milk bottle. The drink is a delightful breakfast-themed twist on a Hong Kong classic cha chaan teng classic – cream and cream soda. The taste may be a little strange at first with all these textures and flavours but slowly the smooth creaminess melds into one and offsets the strength of the vodka for a pleasant experience on the tongue and in the stomach. Next up is the whimsical Fairground Surprise ($108), which is a mixture of Absolut Citron vodka and banana liqueur topped with a cloud of candy floss. Don’t let this pretty little thing fool you, though. It packs a wallop. It’s strong, much too sweet and is likely to induce a cringing facial expression. The highlight of the evening is the Elysium ($98), made from Iron Buddha tea, ginger syrup, ginger liqueur and vodka, and served in a Chinese teapot. Like the previous drinks, this also strikes home with a punch but, unlike the Fairground, it’s hugely effective. The bartender at Wink is hardly timid with the alcohol but
it works here because the fragrance and intensity of the ginger acts as a contrasting force against the vodka and creates a delicious palate pleaser. If you like the taste of ginger, this one’s for you.
You won’t be batting too many eyelashes at Wink but it’s a solid bar with a hit-and-miss cocktail menu. It would have been more exciting if Wong had come up with an all-new concept rather than playing it safe and sticking to the existing formula of the city’s gay bars but nevertheless this place should make for a pleasant escape and social hub. After all, a play-it-safe gay bar is better than no gay bar at all.
79 Bonham Strand
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