When it comes to celebrating in Hong Kong (or commiserating for that matter), champagne has always been a popular tipple. Even compared to Bordeaux — its closest analogue and rival — the ‘King of Sparkling Wines’ holds a special place in the hearts (and livers) of Hong Kong’s drinkers. In 2014, the recovery of the city’s wine industry was spurred, in large part, by a massive spike in the amount of champagne being sold; and in more recent years it continues to make up a higher-than-average proportion of total French wine imports. (The latter account for over 60 percent of Hong Kong’s current wine market value, incidentally.)
All of these stats basically confirm what we already knew about champagne: it’s laden with fancy connotations; is a great choice of aperitif; easy to drink year-round; and (less obviously) well-suited to a variety of cuisines. To get you in the mood for your next cuvée, we’ve assembled a brief guide to our favourite champagne bars in Hong Kong — celebratory occasion optional.
For drinkers looking to indulge their full array of senses, Café Gray Bar remains a perennial favourite. Located at the apex of The Upper House — Swire Hotels’ second (and by many metrics best) property — this AFSO-designed pied-à-terre is perhaps the most appropriate setting for a glass of something that’s heavy on pomp and circumstance. Ergo, Chief Somm Leo Au has curated a concise list of 24 references, focusing on champagnes of the ńegociant variety. Still, as popular discourse shifts increasingly toward site-specific terroir-driven winemaking, Au and his team have ensured Café Gray keeps abreast — peppering an otherwise big name list with indie vignerons like J.M. Labruyère (better known for its estates in Burgundy).
Café Gray Bar, 49/F, The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong, +852 3968 1106
Though best-known for its title as one of ‘Asia’s 50 Best Bars’ four years running, there’s plenty more to recommend the Lobster Bar and Grill than inventive, classically grounded mixology. The short and sweet selection of bubbly trades Restaurant Petrus’s exhaustiveness for a curated list of 27 references, many of which speak directly to Master Sommelier Yohann Jousselin’s preferences. To broaden appeal, these are organised into ‘light & fresh’ and ‘round & rich’ categories (the former is frequently, surprisingly, value for money). Our personal recommendation? Order a few flutes of the non-vintaged Mumm Grand Cordon Rosé (HK$195) to go with the moreish assortment of snacks — such as a signature lobster cocktail or freshly made Rhode Island crab cakes.
Lobster Bar and Grill, 6/F, Island Shangri-La, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong, +852 2820 8560
SOMM has barely been open two months, and already, the relaxed beverage-led all-day diner, adjacent to Amber 2.0 has become a fixture amongst the Landmark crowd. The reason for that is clear: it is, inexplicably, one of the most democratic fine wine bars in Central. Cellar capacity is one thing — a feature restaurant PRs love touting as much as square footage — but under Wine Director John Chan, the team at SOMM have managed to build a truly exceptional ‘by the glass’ list the likes of which Hong Kong has never seen. An epic assortment of 112 wines, sakes and liqueurs are all available, ranging in size between a tasting (75ml) and full bottle (750ml). Five assorted sparkling wines, dominated by grower champagnes, constitute the bedrock of the list; and for those who are suffering from a lack of decisiveness, two are always available as a side-by-side tasting (set at a fixed price of HK$310).
SOMM, 7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2132 0055
Few places have an atmosphere as conducive to quaffing champagne as The St. Regis Bar, and the eponymous American hotel chain’s Hong Kong chapter is no exception. Said to have been the preferred tipple of Caroline Astor (spiritual founder and patron of the brand), champagne has long been an essential part of each St. Regis’s namesake bar: so much so that guests are invited to gather round and watch a bottle of the stuff being sabraged every evening, a time-honoured ritual that signifies the passing of day into night. At The St. Regis Bar Hong Kong, Chief Somm Tristan Pommier has curated a balanced array of references: ranging from the understated (Larmandier-Bernier ‘Longitude’) to opulent (Dom Pérignon ‘Plénitude 2’). Truly, a sparkling wine lover’s paradise.
The St. Regis Bar, The St. Regis Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2138 6810
Given that the brain trust behind PIIN (i.e. the owners of Château Meursault and Marsannay) are responsible for making some of the world’s most commercially desirable Burgundies, it’s no surprise that the sparkling section of their wine list is curated with an equivalent eye toward age, finesse and complexity. Magnums — purported to be the perfect format for enjoying champagne, thanks to the wonders of autolysis — account for a third of all references, whereas many of the non-vintage producers are selected for their stylistic similarity to Burgundian vignerons. (As an example, seven single plot wines from winemaker Anselme Selosse are available, who’s well known for producing his own grapes and eschewing fermentation in stainless steel tanks in favour of small Burgundian barrels.) A wine bar ripe for the WSET assessment crowd.
PIIN Wine Restaurant, 2/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2832 7123
In case the name wasn’t a big fat giveaway, The Champagne Bar — an intimate alcove decked in plush chairs and Art-Deco livery — should be the go-to for anyone keen to experience Wan Chai’s widest selection of French bubbles. Sequestered away inside the equally grandiose setting of the Grand Hyatt, the iconic bar offers live jazz, cabaret and blues six nights a week. For splurge-worthy ‘by the glass’ tipples, we recommend having a crack at the 2013 Louis Roederer rosé (HK$260) or 1999 Tarlant (HK$320).
The Champagne Bar, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2584 7722