Four of Macau's best hidden bars and cafes
Macau is not all about casinos and mainstream entertainment
Hot Rod cafe
Get ready to travel back in time. If you're wearing a polka dot dress or a leather jacket, you'll fit right in at this themed lounge. It's all black-and-white floor mosaics, rockabilly posters and vinyl records hanging on the wall: welcome to 1950s and '60s America.
Far from the centre, Hot Rod Cafe is one of very few concept bars in the city. "My partner and I both like the rockabilly style and American motorbikes, so we decided to create this concept lounge," says Sergio Martins.
All the artefacts were custom-made in mainland factories, some posters came from the US, while the records are from England. There are American booths and stylish round tables on the ground floor; the mezzanine offers a more private environment with sofas and a DJ booth. Fans of English Premier League can watch the games on a big screen. From the popcorn machine to a dartboard, Hot Rod is an adult playground.
Atmosphere: it's very quiet in the afternoon, with a few tourists dropping by. In the evenings, most of the clients are local Chinese.
What to order: Hot Rod serves draught beer and classic cocktails such as the Cuba libre and mojito. Then there are the milkshakes. If you are very thirsty, you might want to order a giant iced tea with lemonade, known as the Arnold Palmer.
Getting there: tucked away from the main avenue, Hot Rod is situated in one of the most traditional neighbourhoods on the Macau peninsula. Take a bus or a taxi to the A-Ma Temple and it's a short walk to the bar.
Rua do Almirante Sergio No.290, SL, Bloco 4, Edificio Fong Son San Chun RC-M, tel: +853 2896 8919. Open: 3pm-3am
Mug's Talk is one of those bars you wouldn't notice unless you knew about it. Located in a residential area near the Nam Van Lake, it is popular among locals. Kingsley Ip, 28, Macau-born graphic designer, wanted to create a place where people could simply get a drink and talk. "I love drinking and I just wanted to have a place to have fun. In the beginning, I wanted to have a relaxed place, where people could meet friends," he says.
Mug's Talk became popular because of its wide selection of imported beers, but is now shifting its focus and introducing Western food. "We want to make it more like a bistro, a place where you can drink and have food," Ip says.
In wooden tones, the two floors of the bar are decorated with vintage posters. While the ground floor has a pub atmosphere, the second floor is a more intimate area, with sofas and warm hues, sometimes reserved for private parties.
Atmosphere: friendly and casual environment. Most of the clientele are local Chinese.
What to order: choose from 20 different brands of imported beer. The most popular is Inedit from Barcelona. If you prefer cocktails, there are 24 on the menu, and you can drink as many as you like for 199 patacas. Share a photo of the food menu on Facebook for a 10 per cent discount. Nachos and pork ribs are some of the most popular dishes.
Getting there: go to the central area and then walk along the lake. The bar is on the opposite side.
12 Praca de Lobo de Avila, tel: +853 6350 4858. Open: 4pm-2.30am
If you get tired of the crowds in the central area, you've already taken "that" picture at St Paul's ruins, and you are dying for a cold glass of wine, look no further than Cathedral Cafe.
Located in a quiet street near Senado Square, Cathedral is one of the most relaxing places in downtown Macau. Inside the bar, Portuguese and Australian flags hang on the wall, along with old photos of Macau. The leather sofas and tall wooden tables and chairs give it a pub kind of feel.
Australian owner Stephen Anderson says he was inspired by the wine bar culture of "the world's coolest cities, like Lisbon". He decided to take that concept to "the most European city in Asia" about three years ago. Anderson, who ran a bar for more than a decade in Hong Kong, says he wants to make Portuguese people feel at home, and to allow Asians to get to know more about Portuguese food and wine. Cathedral is one of only a few bars in Macau with an alfresco area. Also, if you like to dance, drop by on Wednesdays between 8.30pm and 10.30pm for tango classes. Cathedral is the home of the Macau Tango Association.
Atmosphere: laid-back and casual. During the day there is a trickle of tourists, but at around 6pm the white-collar workers move in. Later in the evening it becomes more mixed, with a strong Portuguese presence.
What to order: Portuguese beer Super Bock or Vinho Verde (a wine from northwestern Portugal - sometimes fizzy but always fresh) or rosé. If you're feeling peckish, the menu has a list of Portuguese tapas, such as mixed sardines, Portuguese chorizo and African chicken salad. The kitchen is open all day. There's also an all-day brunch (a rarity in Macau).
Getting there: the bar is behind the Macau Post Office, just a couple of minutes' walk from the Senado Square fountain.
Rua da Se San Malo, behind the Macau Post Office. Open: 10am-1.30am
Casa de Tapas
If you want a traditional experience not far from Cotai's shiny casinos, take a stroll around Old Taipa Village, where you can find plenty of picturesque facades, cookie stalls and small eateries, as well as some refined restaurants and bars. Casa de Tapas stands out with its privileged location and appearance. It is a recently renovated three-storey building that has retained its Portuguese-style architecture.
"A few years ago, in 2013, there was not much here, only some local and Portuguese restaurants. There were not many choices, so we decided to do something different," says manager Kendrick Lee Yiu-fai.
On the ground floor, you can have a drink at the bar, while listening to some chilled-out music.
On the first floor you can enjoy casual Spanish appetisers with drinks; the second floor is a more intimate dining area. If you enjoy the warm weather there is a private veranda. This tapas place has an interesting drinks list offering alcoholic and non-alcoholic choices.
Atmosphere: casual and sophisticated without being pretentious. The clients are a mix of tourists, expats and locals.
What to order: the sangria is a must-try. As for food, cochinillo confitado (suckling pig with sautéed apples and fresh lettuce), langostinos al ajillo (garlic tiger prawns) and calamar en aceite de oliva (stuffed squid in olive oil) are all delicious. Happy hour runs from noon to 8pm.
Getting there: walk from The Venetian or Galaxy to Taipa Village. There are also several buses running from the Macau peninsula (catch them outside Casino Lisboa) to Old Taipa Village.
9 Rua dos Clerigos, Old Taipa Village, tel: +853 2857 6626. Open: noon-midnight weekdays; noon-1am weekends