Bar review: Osteria Felice, Central – heaven in a glass, with bespoke martinis
The genius of this bar is its martini order form on which customers choose their preferred gin or vodka, level of dryness, and other ingredients. The bartending is expert, as you’d expect
The vibe: Osteria Felice is an Italian restaurant and bar in the premises that once upon a time were occupied by Madison’s, then by Il Milione. You enter from the street, not through Hutchison House. The bar itself is on the ground floor and there’s an additional seating area with inviting booths decorated in soft teal blue on the mezzanine, before accessing the main restaurant beyond.
The drinks: there’s a full list of cocktails and wine, but the special attraction of the bar is its bespoke martinis. The concept is brilliant: you’re given a form to fill in (rather like a dim sum order form) with a set of options for you to construct your ideal martini. You can choose from six gins and six vodkas, from standard to ultra-premium, and four levels of dryness, from wet (1 oz of vermouth) to bone-dry (no vermouth). You can then season with a range of bitters, mist with a “finishing touch” and pick garnishes ranging from classic citrus peel and olives to house-made pickles. If you need help, friendly staff are happy to answer any questions. We exercised our creativity on five martinis, all made with premium gin or vodka and priced at HK$120 each.
Vodka first: the Gorbatschow Platinum, served extra dry and enhanced with orange bitters, orange peel and olives, was perfection itself - silken smooth with subtle notes of orange. (This excellent vodka has nothing to do with the former leader of the Soviet Union - it’s made by a distillery founded in Berlin in 1920 by a Russian émigré whose name was also Gorbatchev.) The Polish Potocki, extra dry with olives, was good but suffered by comparison with Gorby.
Turning to gin, The Botanist is made in Islay, home of some of Scotland’s finest single malt whiskies, and this deliciously floral offering shows that those islanders know how to distil more than just whisky. Served dry with a floral mist finishing touch, olives and pickled watermelon, this was an exquisite martini. Hendricks came next. Served extra dry with - of course - fresh cucumber, it was perfectly balanced and beautifully refreshing. The Tanqueray 10 was less interesting but nicely smooth and would suit those who prefer a more classic gin flavour.
The verdict: heaven in a glass for anyone who loves martinis and appreciates expert bartending. For those who prefer their tipple less potent, there are plenty of other drinks to choose from, and tasty free bar bites during happy hour make great blotting paper.
Osteria Felice, Shop 16-21, Hutchison House, 10 Harcourt Road, Central. Tel: 2516 6166
Open: 11.30am-1am. Happy hour: 5pm-8pm (Saturday and Sunday from 3pm)