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.

Roman Ghale
Always handy with a shot of Jameson and one of his signature catchphrases, it’s no wonder that Ghale is one of the most beloved figures in Hong Kong’s drinks industry.

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

Age: 41

Neighbourhood: Kennedy Town
Occupation: Co-founder, The Old Man; The Sea by The Old Man

1. What is your life motto?

“Be positive, happy, and help one another.”

2. What is the best meal you've ever eaten in Hong Kong?

Definitely Cantonese BBQ, particularly char siu fan.

3. Who is your role model?

My Dad — he taught me a lot, and is responsible in a big way for where I am today.

4. What was your first job?

Assistant clerk inside a nursing home. I believe I was 15 at the time.

5. What is your drink of choice?

Martini (made on Plymouth gin) with a twist; and for a chaser — Jameson Irish Whiskey!

Roman Ghale

6. When was the last time you drove a car?

Two weeks ago during my family holiday in Helsinki.

7. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?

The people in it! My precious kids Raniesha & Reeve, my wife Katy, not to mention my two beautiful cats Zack & Zhou.

8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I used to be a morning person but, due to the nature of my business, now I’m a night owl.

9. Which phone app could you not live without?

Honestly speaking, I can’t live without a lot of them — WhatsApp and Instagram immediately come to mind.

10. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That’s a tough one: it’d probably be a tie between Thai or Cantonese cuisine.

11. What is your biggest regret in life?

Not pursuing further study — even today it still hurts when I think about it.

12. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?

Taxi drivers! Especially the kind who ask where you’re going before you even get in.

Roman Ghale
Ghale (pictured) together with The Sea co-founder James Tamang.
13. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

Bolivia. More specifically, the cycling route between La Paz and the Yungas that’s known as ‘Death Road’.

14. How often do you prepare your own meals?

Once a fortnight — though it depends on my mood and timing I guess.

15. What is your greatest dear?

Getting sick and getting sacked!

16. When did you last ride the Star Ferry? What were you doing/where did you go?

A year ago with my son: we were going to TST to Toys “R” Us.

17. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Spicy chilly.

Roman Ghale

18. What is one movie everyone should see?

The Gods Must Be Crazy: it’s a South African comedy directed by Jamie Uys that is funny, ridiculous and an absolute treasure.

19. What is your typical Sunday like?

I usually spend some quality time with the family and prepare dinner at home.

20. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?

High school for sure! I have fond memories of skipping classes and pretending to be busy around teachers.

21. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

It doesn’t matter: home is where the heart is.

22. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?

Diego Maradona; Trevor Noah; Al Pacino; J.K. Rowling; and Jacinda Ardern.

23. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?

Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd.

24. If you could banish someone from Hong Kong forever, who would it be?

To be honest — nobody. I like to think that this is a city that welcomes everyone with open arms.

25. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?

“Cosmopolitan”.

26. Do you have a catch phrase?

“Hello boss man!”

27. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.

Of course I have! Though I think I’ll keep the details secret.

Roman Ghale

The Sea by The Old Man
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2 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
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Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.