Continental drifting through Wan Chai
Your Mediterranean summer holiday may still be a month or two away, but you can still enjoy a taste of Europe with an early evening bar-to-bar stroll around Wan Chai.
The focus of the area has changed considerably in recent years and a decent wine list is no longer a Wan Chai rarity.
The sun is over the yard-arm, so meet up with two or three friends, take the MTR to Admiralty and then follow the subway system to the Star Street exit. You are only a two-minute walk from a little piece of Italy recreated in the unlikely location of Queen's Road East.
This branch of the delicatessen chain Il Bel Paese has a ground floor devoted mostly to food imported from Italy, and a wine storage and tasting room on an upper level.
Most people enjoy their purchases at home, but if you want to soak up some of the shop's Italian atmosphere you can open a bottle upstairs for a modest mark up of 10 per cent to 20 per cent on the retail price, depending on the wine.
Why not buy a few olives and perhaps some slices of San Daniele ham to accompany a light refreshing Italian white? Villa Antinori Bianco at HK$132 per bottle should fit the bill nicely, and if there aren't enough of you to finish the bottle you can always drink the rest at home later.
Your next stop, depending on your pace, is a five- to 10-minute walk away, also on Queen's Road East. Newly opened on the fifth floor of QRE Plaza is Alberto's Bar and Grill, the successor to Ship Street's Tasca, which closed recently. The bar is part of the Nino's Cozinha Group, which also operates a restaurant on the sixth floor, and is noteworthy for its excellent list of Portuguese wines. Exit the lift, and you might think you are stepping into a bar in Lisbon or Porto. Sit inside or, for those who prefer to drink al fresco, the terrace has fans to keep you cool.
Petiscos - the Portuguese equivalent of Spanish tapas - are the house speciality and, if the walk has not been enough to stoke up a thirst, try some rissois de camarao (shrimp turnovers) or polvo a galega (sauteed octopus). Take time to study the substantial all-Portuguese list. A glass of ros? Vinho verde? A white port, perhaps, or a more substantial Portuguese red? Prices start at HK$89 for Vila Regia red or white from the Douro region by the glass, or HK$380 for the same wines by the bottle.
The last stop before dinner also takes its inspiration from the Iberian Peninsula, although you reach it by strolling for 10 to 15 minutes through the back streets of Wan Chai.
A major vogue for so-called tapas bars has started in Hong Kong, but Uno Mas is one of the most authentic, and certainly has one of Hong Kong's best predominantly Spanish wine lists.
Wines by the glass range from HK$60 for a generous pour of Marques de Caceres Vino Blanco Rioja 2009, to HK$88 for a similarly proportioned glass of Emilio Moro Resalso Ribera del Duero 2009. If you think you can handle a bottle, the same wines are priced at HK$300 and HK$400 respectively.
It would be a shame not to try some of chef David Izquierdo Jover's tapas - particularly his croquetas (croquettes) and the classic tortilla de patata (potato omelette).
Chez Patrick Deli is an informal bistro with a blackboard specials menu, known for its traditional French country cooking and timeless favourites. It also offers more than 15 wines by the glass at prices starting from HK$70, or by the bottle from HK$380. A glass of Eric Louis white sancerre or, for a red, perhaps the Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape at a more extravagant HK$150 per glass? The night is yet young. Why not both?
Il Bel Paese 25 Queen's Road East, tel: 2804 2992, www.ilbepaese.com.hk
Alberto's Bar and Grill 5/F, 202 Queen's Road East, tel: 2866 1868, www.ninosgroup.com
Uno Mas 54-62 Lockhart Road, tel: 2527 9111, www.uno-mas.com
Chez Patrick Deli 3 Star Street, tel: 2527 1408, www.chezpatrick.hk