Rolling on up for a taste of Gallic life in the east

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 2011, 12:00am

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There are plates of cheese and charcuterie, quiche lorraine and tartiflette on the menu; old advertisement posters for the anis-flavoured spirit absinthe are on the walls ... but despite a setting that could be mistaken for a French caf? Hong Kong's Les Boules draws a very international crowd.

The night the Post visited the caf?in Shek Tong Tsui, Vikki, a thirty-something Hongkonger, was having her bachelorette party. It was the first time she had played the French ball game, p?tanque. 'I won! That's what I call 'bridal luck',' she said, sipping a glass of pink champagne.

Vikki said she would probably try her p?tanque skills again. 'But maybe outside, as it is supposed to be played in sunny weather,' she said.

Les Boules is believed to be the world's only indoor p?tanque caf? Watching from behind his bar, owner Eric Masson said Hong Kong was catching p?tanque fever. 'I already have regulars,' he said, pointing to a young Hong Kong man busy gathering his balls on the earthy play area. Masson said the man practised for five hours every day. Players can rent one of the three courts and a set of balls for HK$40 each.

Jason Kennedy, a music teacher at the Canadian International School, said he had never seen p?tanque being played inside a bar. 'From outside, you would never think it is here,' he said. Kennedy, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2010, performs at the caf?and was getting ready for a live session with two other musicians.

'The variety of artists that line up here every week makes it a perfect place for musicians to meet other musicians,' said Nina Plapp, a British cellist.

Teachers from the French International School were also unwinding with a few beers and a game. 'It does not really matter to us if we meet up in a French place and play a French game,' Nathalie Neaud said. 'What really matters is that it is a great way to have a few drinks, to catch up and have a good time.'