It’s party time – and the good news is that you don’t have far to go
SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong
Both these areas were unassuming backstreets within living memory. The Fong (www.lankwaifong.com), aka Lankwai, got kickstarted in the 1980s, and SoHo (www.ilovesoho.hk) sprang up in the wake of the completion of the Central Mid Levels Escalator in the 1990s. Gradually, the boundaries between the two have blurred, as yet more joints have opened up to cater to Hong Kong’s work-hard, play-harder, drink-hardest ethos.
The Fong (a term that embraces the whole area, as well as the actual L-shaped street) is closed to traffic on weekend evenings, so the party spills out into the street. If it’s not happening at one bar, it’s a crown cap flick to the next one. Pubs include Dublin Jack (17 Lan Kwai Fong; 2543 0081), which is right next to Bulldog’s Bar & Grill (2523 3528), and The Keg (52 D’Aguilar Street; 2810 0369). Rare the night when there isn’t a crowd outside as well as inside Stormies (46-50 D’Aguilar Street; 2845 5533) which has a nautical theme. D26 (26 D’Aguilar Street; 2877 1610) is one of the longest surviving bars in the area, and as it’s on a corner is great for people watching. Post 97 (9 Lan Kwai Fong; 2186 1837) is a similar veteran, and does a rather nice hangover antidote in the shape of a HK$97 breakfast.
NB As luck would have it, a fairly major construction project smack in the middle of The Fong is set to rumble on well into 2011. Watch this space.
Moving up the hill to SoHo (South of Hollywood Road), most bars are one side or other of the Escalator, in Staunton, Peel, Elgin and Graham streets. As per The Fong, if somewhere’s quiet, you only have to move up or down the hill a tad to find the party.
The Globe (45-53 Graham; 2543 1941) has a cracking array of beer from around the world, while Club 1911 (27 Staunton; 2810 6681) is a clever mix of East and West, and Barco (42 Staunton; 2857 4478) is renowned for its excellent wine list.
If you go nowhere else in Hong Kong, let alone SoHo, call in at Feather Boa (38 Staunton; 2857 2586); there’s no sign outside, but push open the door and it’s like being teleported to a wild and wonderful glitzy Parisian salon.
If the entrance to the bar you are headed for is shrouded with a heavy black curtain, and the female (?) outside waving you in looks like she’s experienced quite a lot in life, you might want to walk on by.
The seamier side of Wan Chai – which did very well out of GIs on R&R in the Vietnam war – is receding bit by bit, and for every go-go bar there now seem to be two or three regular joints rather than clip joints.
Joe Bananas (23 Luard Road; 2529 1811) is a self-acknowledged party destination, with toga nights and beach events and the like. Standard drinks are HK$25 till 8pm. Carnegie’s (53-55 Lockhart Road; 2866 6289) is another full-on party venue, while across the road at number 104 The Old China Hand (2865 4378) is a straightforward pub. Delaney’s (18 Luard Road; 2804 2880) is that Irish bar which all the world’s top night life areas are compelled to include.
If the area seems a bit raucous, the Star Street area (www.starstreet.com.hk), on the fringe of Wan Chai, is more decorous. Slim’s (1 Wing Fung Street; 2528 1661) does some good micro brews and ales. The Spanish-themed 1/5 Nuevo (9 Star Street; 2529 2300) is more of a lounge, with a cool DJ.
Finally, traditionalists will be glad to know that Ricky Tattoo (79 Lockhart Road; 2527 8908) – formerly Ricky and Pinky Tattoo – is still going strong after three decades and more in the business. Strangely, the photos in the window don’t seem to put potential customers off.
The celebs cluster in dragon-i (60 Wyndham Street, Central; 3110 1222) attracted as much by its playboy owner as the fact that they’ll be closeted in a private lounge well away from the hoi polloi. Other great Central late-night dance venues include Drop (39-43 Hollywood Road; 2543 8856) and Kee Club (32 Wellington Street; 2810 9000). In Wan Chai, head for Rockschool (21-25 Luard Road; 2510 7339) or Vertigo Ultralounge (26/F QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Road East; 2575 8980). Entry is normally in the region of HK$200, and includes one drink.
Designer drugs are popular in Hong Kong; despite outward appearances, the police are not entirely stupid, and sometimes enliven the routine of a night shift with a raid or two. Don’t get caught.
Hong Kong’s landlords put the rap in rapacious, and a thriving nightlife venue can close in days when faced with a mega rent hike. Stay flexible.
Count your change if paying in cash; keep an eye on your card at all times if you’re using plastic.
More expert advice on Hong Kong
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Read my overview on Hong Kong nightlife.