When the historic Murray building reopened its doors in 2017, it did so as “The Murray”: a luxury property under the umbrella of Niccolo Hotels. Since soft launching last year, the various on-site dining venues have gradually opened one by one; with the initial trio of The Tai Pan, Garden Lounge and Murray Lane joined by Guo Fu Lou (Fook Lam Moon’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant) earlier this June. Now, the full array of dining options has become available with the arrival of Popinjays: a rooftop lifestyle concept commanding panoramic views from The Peak to Victoria Harbour.
Serving drinks and dinner (Tuesday–Saturday), Popinjays’ opening marks the conclusion of The Murray’s lengthy refurbishment. Forever in search of a sense of alcohol-fuelled occasion, we stopped by this palatial rooftop establishment to see what sets it apart from its more Centrally located brethren.
Accessible via dedicated elevators on the 25th floor, Popinjays is a bar and dining concept inspired by all things avian. The inspiration comes from the cockatoos who reside in nearby Hong Kong Park, their colourful flamboyance channeled here in the Instagram-friendly décor and theatrical beverage programme.
After alighting from the elevator, guests are greeted by a reception area that takes you into Popinjays’ interior spaces. An indoor lounge, replete with bar and DJ booth, is decorated in pastel shades of gold, blue and cyan — tweaked by Foster + Partners for an atmosphere that is equal parts Eagle’s Nest and American Gardens Building. Large format works from Brooklyn-based artist KAWS adorn communal areas throughout the restaurant; while the entire venue’s superstructure (made primarily of glass) luxuriates in natural light.
The venue’s central attraction is its wraparound terrace. Measuring 420 square metres, this verdant outdoor space is populated with bar and lounge seating well suited to wiling away an afternoon. The Murray’s prime location, atop the inclined terrain of Cotton Tree Drive, yields an unobscured vantage of Hong Kong Island; with Central’s familiar urban spires on one side and The Peak’s green vistas on the other.
At Popinjays, Head Mixologist Manuel Saavedra (formerly of MAYTA) oversees a drinks menu specialising in sumptuous visuals and tropical ingredients. Most signature cocktails (from “The Aviary Collection”) feature at least one citric element whilst parroting the venue’s obsession with exotic airborne fauna. Beverages like the “Blue Macaw” arrive table side in anthropomorphic containers, bound to set off a flurry of photographs with their elaborate and striking visuals.
For our money, the Aviary Collection’s best entry proved to be the Peacock Royale: a straightforward champagne cocktail elevated by deliciously kitschy presentation. Made on a framework of R de Ruinart, this effervescent combination of bubbly and bergamot liqueur is a refreshing yet familiar take on aperitivo. Garnished with the plumage of its namesake, it’s dangerously drinkable and stylish to boot — further enhancing the sense of occasion radiating from our rooftop surroundings.
Alongside the bird-themed tipples, Saavedra and co have curated a list of classic cocktails, specialty spirits and vintaged wines. Eight gin and tonics (from “Gin and Tonic Experience”) are presented on the menu, varying in format, provenance and potency. The variation made on Gin Sul (distilled in Hamburg) for instance is Saavedra’s preferred poison when it comes to a classic G&T: clean, punchy and not too dry on the palette, finished with a simple garnish of rosemary.
Every signature cocktail at Popinjays is presented as a visual smorgasbord. Contrasting that is a relatively subdued food menu: pared back to just 13 items, the emphasis is on well made bar room morsels.
Many of the more well trod options are elevated by the luxury hotel treatment: the croquettes, for instance, are stuffed with Gindara (black cod) for an extra buttery and flakey quality. The Popinjays sliders get a similar level of attention, featuring beef patties made from a toothsome mixture of Angus chuck and loin. Each miniature burger is balanced with the proportionate amount of fixings, resulting in an unctuous and beefy slider backed by just the right amount of veg. Paired with thinly cut duck fat fries — that unapologetic bastion of bistronomy — we found this dish to be the crowd pleaser of the evening.
In Hong Kong — city of corporate high flyers and full-time socialites — the opening of a new rooftop bar tends to be welcome news. Beyond the obvious charm of its setting, there’s ample reason to recommend Popinjays. The venue boasts one of the best hitherto unexplored views of Hong Kong Island (unfettered by the claustrophobic urban density of Central); and Head Mixologist Manuel Saavedra’s cocktail programme delivers on the promise of Popinjays’ sleek and rarefied atmosphere. Our visit wasn’t without its shortcomings: service occasionally fell flat, with wait staff neglecting simple requests for table water or off-the-menu classic cocktails. If these managerial kinks — the kind that often plague hotels which are rolled out in phases — can be tempered, then Popinjays promises to be one of the hottest rooftop bars of the summer.