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There’s always a risk in talking about the next “it” bar in Hong Kong. For one thing, new bars open up and close down seemingly overnight. And if word gets out about your favorite spot, it could become too crowded for even you to get in. Oftentimes, however, Hong Kong’s secrets are just too juicy to keep.
Take the 001 speakeasy in Central, Hong Kong’s central business district, for example. You don’t need a password to get in — you just have to find it. There is no official website with directions nor a proper address, and there’s no sign, either. The 1920s-themed speakeasy is nestled behind a wet market near the junction of Graham Street and Queen’s Road. Without the help of a local guide, it’s easy to waltz right past its nondescript black door and antique doorbell (as I did).
Walking through the front door and past the bar’s elegant art-deco furnishings is an accomplishment that should immediately be rewarded with one of 001’s signature cocktails. They are as imaginative as they are tasty, garnished with quirky ingredients from Pop Rocks-stuffed strawberries to stalks of baby corn.
Hipsters look to Instagram or Facebook to find out how to get into Fu Lu Shou, a new rooftop bar and restaurant in the heart of Central. Hidden in an old Chinese building on Hollywood Road, Fu Lu Shou is only accessible via door code, which changes daily. Once inside, visitors can browse the menu for its humorous food and drink names (Fook Yu, Suzy Wong Rocks Hong Kong!) and kick back in a swing chair on the terrace.
Fu Lu Shou’s bartender is a master mixologist, and all of the bar’s syrups are made painstakingly in-house. My favorite cocktail was the Joh Sun, made with Ketel One Citroen, fresh ginger, vinegar and lime leaves. To top it off, the drink is garnished with a whole chili pepper and a stalk of lemongrass — it’s like drinking a bowl of Thai tom yum soup. Not much of a drinker? Neither is Fu Lu Shou’s owner, who made sure the bar’s mocktail menu is equally unique.
At nearby bar Ping Pong 129, you might notice the occasional perplexed person wandering around. Don’t be startled, though. He or she is just searching for a ping-pong equipment store (as the outdoor signage implies).
This secret gin and tonic bar in the Sai Ying Pun district specializes in Spanish craft gins, including Gin Xoriguer from the Balearic Islands and 19 Flors Dry Gin, with its distinctive mint-green hue. And don’t expect the bartender to mix your G&T with Schweppes. For your inner elitist, Ping Pong 129 offers tonic water sourced from Japan, Spain, New Zealand and the U.K.
To find Central’s latest French restaurant and bar Bibo, look for a door that reads “Compagnie Generale Francaise de Tramways” at 163 Hollywood Road. It refers to a fictional train company from France, part of an elaborate conceit around which the restaurant was designed.
Most people come to Bibo for its upscale cuisine and prohibition-style cocktails, but the huge draw for me was its multimillion-dollar collection of urban art. Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat hang next to works by Takashi Murakami, Banksy, Damien Hirst, MadC, JR, Invader, Shepard Fairey and Jeff Koons, to name a few. It is perhaps the best permanent collection of urban art in the world, and most people walking along Hollywood Road have no idea that it exists.