If revenge is a dish best served cold, we’d argue an iced-cold drink is best served with a little obfuscation. And behind these speakeasies’ moving walls, hidden doors and if-you- know-you-know passcodes might just lie the best secret you’ve ever savoured.
Café by daylight and, dishy Cinderella transformation incoming, a dessert bar by twilight, Barcode, a thematic portmanteau of bar, coffee and dessert, delivers its drinks-and-sweets programme behind a patch of wall, a darkened length of corridor and, lastly, a heavy sheath of curtain. Just beyond the theatrics, you might just find Gagan Gurung shaking up Beyond The Cloud, a tropical serve made with croissant – yes, the pastry – infused vodka, strawberry jam, lemon juice and, floating atop, made-to-order cotton candy. Magic.
Barcode, G/F, Glenealy Tower, 1 Glenealy, Central
Please Don’t Tell
A transplant from Manhattan, Please Don’t Tell, set on the mezzanine of the swanky Landmark Mandarin Oriental, stays plenty devoted to its lower East Side origins: hidden through a phone booth, hot dogs and tots on the menu and serving, quite faithfully, Don Lee’s legend-making Benton’s Old Fashioned. (It’s mouth-wateringly made with bacon-infused bourbon.) And yet another NYC detail: Jeff Bell, owner of PDT NYC, is making a stop at PDT Hong Kong this February; as good a time as any to ask for his thoughts on chef Richard Ekkebus’s Cheung Fun tater tots – and if he’d like seconds.
Please Don’t Tell, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central
The shades of blue on Staunton Street are myriad, but we’re not currently waxing lyrical about Bakehouse. A fair few steps from the bakery reveal a blank, Aegean blue wall, indented with an unmarked brass-toned door. For the uninitiated, it’s the entrance to The Poet, which slides open if you’d only flick on the not-quite-hidden light switch. And with a brand-new drinks programme this month, we’d likely go for the drama with Soul On Fire, served set on fire, as a Scotch whisky-led tribute to the Japanese tradition of kodawari, an endless pursuit of perfection.
The Poet, G/F, 13 Staunton Street, Central
A dark bamboo forest separates you and new-to-town speakeasy Room 3’s sprawling lounges, separated into a trio of thematic zones: Akasaka Room, the largest and, by definition, liveliest of the three; Ginza Room, dramatically chandeliered; and Roppongi Room, secluded at the very end. At the centre of their sensorial cocktail itinerary is The Fiction – and what an appropriate name for a venue that inspires such fairytales – which blends together The Botanist gin, champagne, shiso and, cameras and noses at the ready, scented wafts upon presentation, meant to be sniffed then sipped.
Room 3, Shop UG01-03, UG/F, H Zentre, 15 Middle Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Although it’s timed to open at precisely what its name implies, CNY Bar – described by Samuel Kwok, formerly of Quinary, as a “speakeasy audiophile bar” – is, rather, a cheeky acronym for chau naam yan – or, stinky gentlemen, translated literally; seedy Casanovas, figuratively. And while expensive sound systems, top-shelf whisky and cigars are the bread and butter of said, uh, musty men, the menu’s Love Me Don’t Go, named for Zheung Zhen Yue’s song of the same name, vacates all inklings of toxic masculinity with tropical notes of pineapple and passionfruit.
CNY Bar, 12/F, FOCO, 48 Cochrane Street, Central
If you’ve ever wanted a side of freshly baked buttery croissant with your espresso martini, look no further than Passage N’s inventive drinks programme. And if you’ve ever wanted to sip on champagne while nibbling on freshly shucked Fresh oysters; house-smoked salmon; caviar from La maison Kaviari, including the limited Gold Oscietra caviar exclusive to Passage N; or Fresh sea urchin paired with caviar – apparently a house signature – you’re going to need to smooze your way into a Passage N member’s good graces, because the secretive bar quite faithfully embodies the if-you-know-you-know thesis.
Passage N, Members Only
69 on Jervois – which admits to being a “very British affair” with a menu of grill favourites and traditional Sunday roasts – tucks a speakeasy bar just a stone’s throw away (see: next door) on Burd Street, appropriately named Behind 69. And here, which seats just a cosy 14, are British-influenced bar snacks and a cocktail programme inspired by the history and influences of Sheung Wan, where, allegedly, the British colonials first landed.
Behind 69, The Chelsea, behind 69 Jervois Street, Burd Street, Sheung Wan
This story first appeared here.