Bar review: VEA Restaurant & Lounge, Central - creative cocktails
Novel ingredients such as Chinese mustard, bone marrow broth, beef jerky and tea make for some intriguing drinks. With a terrace and a restaurant serving a French tasting menu, your night’s sorted
The vibe: VEA Restaurant & Lounge (VEA stands for Vicky et Antonio, referring to chef Vicky Cheng [of the now-closed Liberty Private Works] and mixologist Antonio Lai of Quinary, The Envoy and Origin) occupies the 29th and 30th floors of the swish The Wellington building in Central. On a cool weeknight the vibe was relaxed, the chatter of the well-heeled crowd broken only by the shake of a cocktail maker and some 1920s music. Oozing old-world charm (think brass light fittings and sunken leather chairs), the lounge has a small terrace to soak up the drinks and skyline, but it was too cold to venture outside. The décor is classic, but look closer and you’ll see some fun touches (antique tennis racquets placed in a circle around a ceiling light and old-school rowing paddles on the wall). It’s this mix of 1920s and quirky touches that filters through to the drinks menu.
The drinks: it’s hard to fault – the vast drinks menu boasts a huge selection of single malt whiskies, wine, gin, brandy, aperitifs, liqueurs, port, sherry, rum, tequila … But it’s the cocktail list that best shows how creative and experimental Lai and mixologist Leszek Stachura are. Inspired by the marriage between food and drink, the concoctions – 16 in all, categorised as sweet, savoury, sour or strong – have been made with novel ingredients including Chinese mustard, longan, dashi and bone marrow. And they don’t disappoint. First off the rank was the How Many Carrots (HK$120) – an icy and refreshingly fizzy mix of Beefeater gin combined with the juice of carrots, yuzu and orange. A nice eureka moment comes when you discover a baby carrot at the bottom of the huge, fishbowl-like glass. Embrace your inner child with the sweet-tooth-friendly Peanut Butter Milkshake (HK$120). Served in a glass milk carton (complete with a retro-style black and white straw) this milky mix of white chocolate liqueur with Frangelico is a lot of fun, enhanced by the tiny and colourful edible love hearts covering the “carton” that left a Hansel and Gretel-like trail on the table.
The hero drink was the Blood Wedding (HK$130), a twist on the traditional Bloody Mary. Blending vodka with smoky lapsang souchong tea, tomato and Chinese mustard, and garnished with a swivel stick of Asian beef jerky and cherry tomato, this meaty feast gives liquid lunch a whole new meaning.
The Bone Marrow Old Fashioned (HK$160) – bone marrow bourbon, rich simple syrup and Angostura bitters – looked tempting, as did the signature Cleopatra Formosa (HK$170) served in a majestic golden pineapple that lets off smoke when you open the lid. Both will have to wait for a return visit.
The verdict: even the fussiest drinkers will find something to their liking at VEA, which is quickly finding favour with the cashed-up classy crowd. After being watered, head upstairs to the restaurant for a French tasting menu paired with bespoke cocktails. Night sorted.
VEA Restaurant & Lounge, 29/F-30/F The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central. Tel: 2711 8639
Open: Monday to Thursday 5pm-12.30am, Friday and Saturday 5pm-1.30am