Here's a first look inside The Social Den:
With the city soon to resume dine-in service after 6pm and bars still temporarily shut, one important question is on everyone's minds – “where's a good place to grab after-work drinks?” Well, technically, bars with catering businesses can operate, and a slew of these drinking joints are reopening from Thursday to welcome thirsty imbibers. This month, there are also a few bars that are joining Hong Kong's vibrant drinking culture, and one of them is The Social Den, a 'reinterpreted tropical drinkery' which will be having its soft opening on April 21.
The Social Den is a hip Polynesian-themed bar that will feature killer happy hours, delicious bar bites, DJs on deck, contemporary tiki-inspired drinks, as well as signature classic cocktails with a tropical touch. Behind the bar are two Filipino mixologists and bar industry veterans, Joe Villanueva and Bryson Rivera, who quit their long time hospitality careers in hotel bars to set up a venture that will introduce a new breed of tiki bar to Hong Kong. "The last time I worked in Central was in 2010, and it's good to be back," enthuses Bryson, who spent almost a decade as bar operations manager at the JW Marriott Hong Kong's Bar Q88. Joe – who co-founded the award-winning bar The Wise King and was recently working as a senior corporate manager for Food & Beverage at Shangri-La Group – started working on The Social Den in 2021 and approached Bryson to join him. "I thought he was the perfect partner to join me in setting up the bar, especially because he speaks fluent Cantonese and we want the place to appeal to locals," shares Joe.
"The Social Den is inspired by the tiki culture but with a modern approach to drinkery," explains Joe. In the '50s, the tiki bar culture were never about authenticity but rather about presenting flavours in ways that seemed exotic; hence a lot of these bars were serving Chinese food as it was considered ‘exotic’ during that time. At The Social Den, you'll see tropical decors as well as Chinese and East Asian influences, but this won't be the place to enjoy drinks in ceramic tiki mugs. Expect Negronis made with coconut fat-washed gin and drinks using curry, jackfruit, mangosteen, and other exotic fruits mixed with gin, baijo, labanog, vodka, and rum. Bar bites, courtesy of chef Moi Garcia (formerly of Blend & Grind), will feature a mish-mosh of pan-Asian dishes that will include char siu pork neck with mangosteen chutney vinaigrette, crispy zucchini chips with salted egg aioli, as well as other dishes that may involve some Filipino cooking processes on their recipe as a nod to their Filipino roots.
"Tiki bars are known for playing loud tropical music, here we will have a DJ, but we don't want to be a club where everyone is drunk and wasted. We're going for a fun, chill vibe where people can enjoy good drinks, good music, and socialise with good company,' Joe shares.
The bar will schedule a lot of fun activities and promos every week. "On Mondays, we will feature Monday bites where guests can have discounts on food or enjoy a buy one get one promo," says Bryson. "On Tuesdays, expect a different exotic fruit cocktail on the menu," adds Joe. "On Wednesdays, we're scheduling charity events where at least 15 to 20 percent of our revenue will go to raising money for various charities." On Thursdays, The Social Den will offer cocktail flights, and guests can indulge in Champagne brunch during weekends.
The Social Den is located on the ninth floor of The Loop on Wellington Street. The bar is soft opening on April 21 but it will be by invitation only. Message them on Instagram at thesocialden.hk to get an invite.
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