Following the tremendous success of 2017 newcomer The Old Man – which was named the fourth best bar in the continent by Asia’s 50 Best Bars – comes The Wise King.
The concepts, despite vague similarities in name, are unrelated except for the fact that both are being headed by top local talent. Where Agung Prabowo, James Tamang and Roman Ghale made The Old Man such a success, this new cocktail bar is being headed by head mixologists and co-owners Joe Villanueva and Sandeep Kumar. Villanueva won renown as part of the team at Lobster Bar – a fixture on the World’s 50 Best Bars list – and as the first Chivas Master Competition Champion to represent Hong Kong at the global finals. For his part, Kumar is a two-time India Bacardi Grand Prix National Champion and has directed the beverage programmes at establishments like China Tang and Howard’s Gourmet.
The name The Wise King comes from Alfonso X, a 13th-century king of Castile, who decreed that alcohol should not be served with food. Hence why, as well as inventive cocktails, the Staunton Street bar is serving tapas – the likes of patatas bravas, pollo kebeb and scarpetta. Speaking of cocktails, the cosy lounge environs of The Wise King will be home to concoctions like The Monti-Tipple ($108) featuring a mix of Xeco Amontillado sherry, Gin Mare, Café Vermouth and aromatic choco bitters. For something stronger, barrel-aged tipples like the Pacharán Manhattan ($98) with Woodford Rye whiskey, Blackthorn liqueur and Abott’s bitters are available too.
After a quiet few months for Hong Kong’s bar scene, things are finally getting exciting again, what with news of Antonio Lai’s new opening, Bar 309. The Wise King is scheduled to open mid-July. We’ll be along then to see whether it really is Villanueva and Kumar’s crowning achievement.