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Hong Kong bar reviews

Bar review: Coa in Central – great selection of tequila and mezcal in a Mexican-style cantina

The bar staff’s professionalism and passion make this the perfect place to discover and develop your knowledge of agave spirits

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 February, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 February, 2018, 7:48pm

The vibe: Located in the NoHo basement formerly occupied by Neo Bar halfway down the Shin Hing Street stone steps, Coa is a notable addition to the growing number of bars specialising in tequila and mezcal. (“Coa” is the name of a tool used for harvesting the agave plant).

Bare concrete walls and simple wooden tables and chairs evoke a rustic Mexican cantina. The theme is delightfully enhanced as you sip spirits that have been served in traditional pottery vessels. Coa’s co-founder, mixologist Jay Khan, and his well-trained staff give a warm welcome and are on hand to guide you in detail through the intricacies of agave-based drinks.

The drinks: While there’s also a selection of premium tequila and raicilla (an agave spirit made in the southwest area of the Mexican state of Jalisco), pride of place goes to Coa’s exceptional range of mezcals. Our waiter took us through the list, which is divided by type of agave (the way that a wine list might be divided by grape), with sections headed by drawings of the specific plants. Khan has personally visited all the distilleries, and some of the bottles, brought back from Mexico, are extremely rare.

To try more varieties, we ordered a tasting flight of four mezcals, served and priced in half-shot portions. Los Cuerudos (HK$88 full portion/HK$44 half) was dry, smoky and citrusy, the Karwinski agave-based Pescador de Sueños (HK$138/HK$69) was bitter, earthy and minerally, and the Arte Mezcal 2015 (HK$138/HK$69), blended from four types of agave, was smooth, refined and complex.

Among the bar’s rarest offerings – and the most surprising one we tried – was Mezcaloteca (HK$158/HK$79) which had an intense nose of blue cheese (yes, really!) opening out into lush tropical fruits in the mouth. Weird yet wonderful.

Cocktails are still being worked on and the list hasn’t been finalised yet, but a Mezcal Negroni (HK$100) was smoky, bitter and balanced. If agave isn’t your thing, there’s a well-chosen selection of other premium spirits and beer; you can explore other aspects of Mexico with Los Cuentos craft lager (HK$75) or Coa’s home-made Tepache (HK$80), a refreshing low-alcohol drink produced from fermented pineapple. Wines by the glass include the excellent Duval-Leroy Champagne – by Central standards it’s great value at HK$128.

The verdict: The professionalism and passion of Khan and his team make this the perfect place to discover, develop your knowledge of agave spirits, or simply sit back and enjoy.

Coa, LG/F, Wah Shin House, 6-10 Shin Hing Street, Central, tel: 2813 5787

While you’re in the area:

Bar review: Ying Jee Club Bar in Central – a true luxury experience

Bar review: Slide on 79 in Central – choice of a packed downstairs bar or a relaxing time upstairs

Bar review: Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Central – a tucked-away gem