Whether they look homey, modern, or gimmicky, there is no scarcity of hidden bars in Hong Kong. And over the past months, as we welcome the reopening of bars, we're also seeing a slew of new hidden bars popping up in the city. The latest one to add to the hidden fold is A.P.E (A Perfect Escape) whisky bar, a new secret hangout in Tin Hau that silently opened inside Esc Coffee in the past month.
A.P.E neon signage inspired by traditional pawnshop bat emblem I Photograph: TA
The venue is brought to you by the same people behind the 1920s-style Tiffany's New York Bar, so you can expect the same quality curation of whisky bottlings. But compared to Tiffany's wide range of over 250 whisky offerings, A.P.E has a smaller collection – mostly Scotch – and focuses on limited quantity whisky from Independent Bottlers. "It was a passion project from our company [Stanford Hotels International] to have a smaller bar; an intimate venue where guests can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city," shares InterContinental Grand Stanford's food and beverage director, Lars Ruecker. "Here when you come in, you will have a sense of discovery. You can look at the whiskies, explore the labels, and find something new and interesting to try," he adds.
Expect whiskies from independent bottlers like Douglas Laing, Thompson Bros, Elixir Distillers, Asta Morris, among others I Photograph: TA
The bar's entrance is a frosted glass door hidden at the back of the cafe. There are no magical passwords or any button you need to press. Any curious cafe customers are welcome to enter the 16-seater bar. Aiming to target a younger audience, the bar's interior veers away from the sleek, classic gentleman's leather den design that is often the look of whisky bars in Hong Kong. What you’ll see instead is an industrial interior with plush pine green furnishing in contrast to the room’s exposed concrete walls, pipes, and fire hose reel. The only source of light are a few bulbs on the tiled ceiling, the backlit bar – that draws your eyes to the whisky bottles – and a cast of green light coming from the neon-lit signage resembling a traditional pawnshop emblem with words 'whisky expert' written in Cantonese.
You can pair your whiskies with sweet treats like raisin trifle and homemade churros I Photograph: TA
The menu features over 30 bottles of Scotch from Speyside, Highland, Islay, and Lowland regions which can be tasted in three flight selections (Novice $248, Experience $398, Expert $498; whisky may change depending on bottle availability) or as 30ml single drams (from $80 to $520 depending on the bottle). You can find whiskies from Independent Bottlers Douglas Laing, Thompson Bros, Elixir Distillers, Asta Morris, among others, as well as Original Bottling from Ardbeg, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, and Auchentoshan distilleries. Those who want to drink cocktails can also choose from six classic whisky cocktails, including highball, old fashioned, boulevardier, and whisky sour ($90 per glass). Complimenting the drinks are sweet and savoury dishes that include cold cuts, nachos, fish and chips, creamy kimchi carbonara, and other desserts like churros and a whisky-infused raisin trifle (tip: order an extra shot of smoky whisky and drizzle it on the trifle for added depth).
Kimchi Carbonara I Photograph: TA