May 31, 2012|
Once the exclusive domain of auto-repair shops, Tai Hang has morphed into a go-to destination for food, from sushi and Chinese desserts to ramen and pho. Now, we're pleased to discover, it's also evolved to be an awesome, chilled-out destination for a night on the town. Some long-time residents we ran into even jokingly asked us not to write about it, so that the bars would stay low-key and uncrowded. (Um, good luck with that, guys.) Be warned, though, that because most venues are small it's not an ideal area for large groups to traipse around, unless all you want to do is patronize Club 7-Eleven or drink on the sidewalks outside of some local bars. (Both of those options do have their own merits, but I digress.)
We start the night at Stone's (G/F, China Tower, 1-9 Lin Fa Kung West St., Tai Hang, 2570-6858), welcomed warmly by the owner, who used to work for the F&B conglomerate El Grande (overseeing Slim's in Wan Chai and the like) before striking out on his own. His latest acquisition for the roomy, red-paneled bar? A signed Andy Warhol print. One of the best parts of nightlife in Tai Hang, by the way, is that its bars are all independently owned and not part of any entertainment mega-company.
In any case, our noble quest to support Hong Kong's small businesses begins with highly recommended mojitos and some inventive shots. Named Chocolate Cake and Apple Cookie, they actually taste like their names and aren't so potent as to end the night right then and there. We sway a bit to the eclectic soul/blues coming over the speakers, check out the two TV screens playing rugby and an old black-and-white film and then down our drinks in an effort to move on.
Our next stop is Buddy (G/F, 22 School St., Tai Hang, 2882-9780), an intimate and inviting watering hole with brick walls, wooden accents and a tiled bar. The friendly crowd fails to lure us, though, since at this point I'm traveling with a small wolfpack of ladies who need room to rest our weary feet and Buddy is full to the brim. But we'll definitely go back, and frequent visitors swear by its attentive service and decent selection of craft beer.
So we make a beeline for Rouge (G/F, 58 Tung Lo Wan Rd., Tai Hang, 2881-1901), a petite wine bar with mirrored walls and a chandelier that is also filled with Saturday night revelers. A solo gentleman surrenders his table for us, and we crowd around to share a bottle of white, which is, of course, the perfect lubricant for a mildly inappropriate catch-up session. The two tables outside overlooking Tung Lo Wan Road and the Chinese Recreation Club across the street house smokers sipping on Scotch. They, in addition to the three tables inside, are packed with folks. It's a place to linger, we observe—if only because the service is at best lethargic. But our crew needs to keep crawling.
We pass by La Brezza (5 King St., Tai Hang, 2504-3077), better known by neighborhood regulars as a brunch or café spot. But there are clusters of friends and couples leaning in over glasses of wine. It's a quaint, cozy place that's appealing if you're craving that kind of night.
But for us, the next stop is Juliette's Wine Bar (1/F, Kin Wah Mansion, 176-178 Tung Lo Wan Rd., Tai Hang, 2882-5460), where our increasingly rowdy crew skips up a narrow flight of stairs lined with pictures of friends and happy customers and plops at a big round table at the back. Though it's usually quiet in the early evening during the bargain happy hour, it is hopping when we arrive. Again, the majority of the clientele are local neighborhood residents and smokers. To the tune of a soundtrack that runs the gamut from Nickelback to Rascal Flatts, we polish off a bottle of white and a bottle of red, not to mention a bowl of addictive prawn crackers, before stumbling next door for the last stop of the night.
Forever Lounge (G/F, Kin Wah Mansion, 176-178 Tung Lo Wan Rd., Tai Hang, 2887-6543), we must say, is our new favorite dive. It's long and narrow with some booths at the back and only passable bathroom facilities. The walls are plastered with posters of Budweiser girls, the ceiling lined with cheap plastic flags and tacky lanterns. Another—perhaps unintentional—interior design choice: the cardboard boxes filled with beer stacked in random piles around the bar. We order a bucket of six beers for some ridiculously cheap price (not that we are paying much attention to the bill at this point), and start dancing in our seats to Eminem and Rihanna over the speaker system. Though we are enticed by the electronic darts game at the back of the bar, instead we opt to enviously eye the groups of local partiers playing the dice game at tables nearby, pouring out pitchers of whisky like it's water. By the wee hours, we are spent, so after an some amazingly greasy fries and an order of stir-fried tofu with onions, we are ready to call it a night, bidding each other good-bye underneath Forever Lounge's neon sign. We have to do this again soon.
Hotel bars, live music venues and odd little dives—the nightlife scene over on “The Dark Side” isn't what you might expect.
Escape the crowds, the drunks and all the noise of LKF with this area's exquisite bars.
This crowded nabe might be best known for shopping and eating, but it’s got its fair share of pubs and chic bars, too.