Restaurants & Nightlife

3 MINUTE READ

The best intimate bars in Hong Kong

Words by Lee Cobaj

12 December 2023

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Whether you're looking for a date night spot or somewhere quiet for a cosy tête-à-tête, here's our pick of the best small bars in the city.

Hong Kong's higgledy-piggledy cityscape makes it an ideal city for intimate hideaways. Whether you're looking for a date night spot, somewhere quiet for a cosy tête-à-tête, or a place accommodating solo drinkers, here's our pick of the best small bars in the city.

The Savory Project

This small bar on Staunton Street was recently established by Jay Khan, the brains behind agave-inspired Coa – the only establishment to win 50 Best Bars in Asia for three consecutive years. As the name infers, the cocktails – and equally delightful mocktails – are salty, spicy, umami, peppery, low-fat and low-sugar, only ever slightly sweetened with natural ingredients. 

While the mixtures might sound a bit odd (think teriyaki, tequila and white soy sauce or gari pickled ginger, scotch and passionfruit), all are clean, refreshing, and go down a treat. It's a tribute to Khan's skills, both as a mixologist and trendsetter, that almost every bar in Hong Kong has started adding non-sweet cocktails to their menus since The Savory Project's arrival. 

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4 Staunton Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong

Takumi Mixology Salon

This bijoux bar brings a slice of Tokyo's effortless cool to Causeway Bay. Inside a low-lit charcoal and mahogany-hued room, guests are greeted by a kimono-clad hostess and served by mixologists in dinner jackets. With seating for just 18 people and a mellow soundtrack of 1950s jazz and Japanese lounge music, it has the sensibility of a speakeasy.

The drinks on offer are bespoke based on individual preferences, a fanciful practice that often goes wrong. Here, however, you're in the safe hands of Rayven Yeung, who trained in Japan before heading up the Rosewood Hotel's private members club Carlisle & Co. Premium Japanese produce – Fuji apples, shine muscat grapes, momotoro tomatoes – add a level of freshness not found elsewhere.  

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1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

The Diplomat

Hidden on Scavenger Lane on the lower levels of the H Code building, The Diplomat might serve the best daiquiri in Hong Kong: a gorgeous goblet of rum, red Sichuan peppercorn, fresh pineapple, and maraschino cherry with a whisper of anise. 

There's also an excellent Irish coffee and a delicious range of snacks (truffle mac 'n' cheese, cubanos with suckling pig, perfect pommes frites with yuzu mayonnaise). The atmosphere is upscale and sultry but with a relaxed air – perfect for a date night. Smooth-talk the bar staff for entry to The Diplomat's secret invitation-only speakeasy – a back-of-house no-photo zone with DJs playing at the weekend.

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45 Pottinger St, Central, Hong Kong

Bar Leone

Carry along Bridges Street, where the crowds of Central thin out, and you'll reach the arched doorway of Bar Leone. The chic interiors are straight out of mid-century Travestere – wainscoted wood panelling, cosy leather booths, mosaic tile floors, and vintage posters of black and white prints on the walls. And the vibe is equally vivacious. 

World-class bartender Lorenzo Antinori and his team, dressed in smart white tunics, serve classic cocktails done well: a signature martini served straight from the freezer into a chilled glass, or Yuzu Bianco, a white negroni presented with a crystal clear ice cube and simple lemon peel garnish. Casual and upbeat, this pocket-sized neighbourhood joint is the ideal spot to meet up with an old friend without having to worry about laughing too loud.  

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15 Bridges St, Central, Hong Kong

La Suite at Clarence

Slip behind the velvet curtain at the fabulous French restaurant Clarence and discover a dinky Gallic-inspired drinking den with a horseshoe bar and a small terrace for smoking cigars while staring at Blade Runner-style views of the city. 

Its cocktails endeavour to include French ingredients – Diplôme Dry Gin, Dolin Vermouth, sprigs of fresh thyme, an absinthe twist – but there's an excellent selection of spirits, Champagne and wine, too. For a snack, we recommend the truffle croque-monsieur and the baguette with Comté and honey.

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45 Pottinger St, Central, Hong Kong

Penicillin

The white-tiled entrance to 30-seater Penicillin is tucked away under the Mid-Levels escalator. Enter into what initially looks like a mad scientist's laboratory, complete with a churning centrifuge, Bunsen burners, alembics, and glass vials. It's a nod to the bar's closed-loop concept, which focuses on zero-waste and sustainability – from the tables (made from trees felled during typhoons and filled with aluminium), to the simple neon lights (commissioned from some of the city's last artisans), to the incredibly inventive cocktails made with ecoSPIRITS and mixers fermented in-house using locally sourced ingredients. 

Cosy up inside the crepuscular interior and choose from one of 10 cocktails, including the namesake One Penicillin, One Tree – a climate-positive cocktail made with white chocolate whisky, strawberry brine, and coconut kefir that pays for a tree to be planted in Borneo. 

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23 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong

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