Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our weekly 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same amount of time it takes to sit through a 2-minute speed date.
Few people in the Hong Kong drinks industry possess the untarnished street cred of Roman Ghale. A dyed in the wool hospitality veteran — known previously for stints at the Upper House and Mandarin Oriental — Ghale, along with co-founders Agung Prabowo and James Tamang, has been instrumental in the city’s growing community of bars specialising in ‘minimal mixology’. Their passion for an ingredient-centred, visually unfussy approach to mixology first took flight in 2017; and two years on this vision has paid off. Big time.
This January, The Old Man — the trio’s first Hemingway-inspired drinking den — took home the No.1 spot at the ‘Asia’s 50 Best Bar’ awards. Instead of resting on their laurels, Ghale & co capitalised on this victory by opening a whole new venture — The Sea by The Old Man. At this thematic continuation of their first bar, Ghale, Prabowo and Tamang present a menu of 10 signature cocktails: each made with a focus on minerality; and the trio’s signature mixture of culinary creativity and good cheer. The cosy Sheung Wan locale, clearly meant to evoke the confines of Hemingway’s Pilar, is where you’ll find Ghale most evenings — tirelessly taking orders, coordinating front-of-house operations, and ambushing revellers with whiskey.
In this instalment of ’27 Questions’ we go below the proverbial deck for a chat with Ghale: exploring his early working life, rancour at Hong Kong taxis, and much more.
Name: Roman Ghale
Neighbourhood: Kennedy Town
Occupation: Co-founder, The Old Man; The Sea by The Old Man
“Be positive, happy, and help one another.”
Definitely Cantonese BBQ, particularly char siu fan.
My Dad — he taught me a lot, and is responsible in a big way for where I am today.
Assistant clerk inside a nursing home. I believe I was 15 at the time.
Martini (made on Plymouth gin) with a twist; and for a chaser — Jameson Irish Whiskey!
Two weeks ago during my family holiday in Helsinki.
The people in it! My precious kids Raniesha & Reeve, my wife Katy, not to mention my two beautiful cats Zack & Zhou.
I used to be a morning person but, due to the nature of my business, now I’m a night owl.
Honestly speaking, I can’t live without a lot of them — WhatsApp and Instagram immediately come to mind.
That’s a tough one: it’d probably be a tie between Thai or Cantonese cuisine.
Not pursuing further study — even today it still hurts when I think about it.
Taxi drivers! Especially the kind who ask where you’re going before you even get in.
Bolivia. More specifically, the cycling route between La Paz and the Yungas that’s known as ‘Death Road’.
Once a fortnight — though it depends on my mood and timing I guess.
Getting sick and getting sacked!
A year ago with my son: we were going to TST to Toys “R” Us.
The Gods Must Be Crazy: it’s a South African comedy directed by Jamie Uys that is funny, ridiculous and an absolute treasure.
I usually spend some quality time with the family and prepare dinner at home.
High school for sure! I have fond memories of skipping classes and pretending to be busy around teachers.
It doesn’t matter: home is where the heart is.
Diego Maradona; Trevor Noah; Al Pacino; J.K. Rowling; and Jacinda Ardern.
Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd.
To be honest — nobody. I like to think that this is a city that welcomes everyone with open arms.
“Hello boss man!”
Of course I have! Though I think I’ll keep the details secret.