Bar review: Cassio in Central – shabby service, watery drinks, overpriced and underwhelming
With indifferent staff, incompetent bartenders, bland drinks and expensive food, it’s hard to find a reason to recommend this bar to anyone
The vibe: Cassio is a joint venture with London’s Barrafina Spanish restaurant – the spacious premises are divided into a restaurant, an indoor lounge bar and a covered terrace. The attractive terrace was full when we arrived, so we ended up in the lounge, which has low tables and seating round the outside and a bar in one corner. The décor is oddly passé – 1980s nightclub, with coloured lamps hanging from a black ceiling. Small vases of flowers scattered randomly about seem out of place and bear an unnerving resemblance to the ones you see in local temples (or undertaker’s windows). Although there are plenty of staff, they don’t show much interest in the customers – our waiter spent a lot of his time moving bits of furniture around.
The drinks: the signature cocktails have Spanish names and a plethora of complicated ingredients of the “home-made jasmine tea syrup” variety. We chose two drinks – the waiter returned, announced that one choice was unavailable, dumped the drinks list back on the table and walked off. Resisting the urge to get up and go elsewhere, we tried ordering something else – that one was off, too. So was our third choice. Apparently they’d run out of all those super-special ingredients.
Finally we managed to order two signatures. La Pinta (HK$140, Hendrick’s, cucumber, lime mint, peppermint tea syrup, soda) came with a huge slice of cucumber which overpowered the other flavours – once removed, what was left was an uninspiring, mildly alcoholic lemonade with a hint of mint. The Santa Clara (HK$140, whisky, honey, cardamom, lemon juice, bitters, egg white) had no discernible alcohol. It was sweet and sickly, and we sent it back; to be fair, we weren’t charged for it.
We tried a couple of standards. The Manhattan (HK$120) is a hard drink to get wrong, but they managed it – watery from being overshaken and unbalanced by an overdose of bitters, we found it undrinkable. The dry Martini (HK$120) had so much vermouth that you couldn’t taste the gin and was garnished with one pathetically small olive.
Given Barrafina’s reputation, at least the tapas should have been good, right? But sadly, the assorted cold meats (HK$248) were exuding grease, and the portion was tiny. The best thing about the experience was the sourdough bread (HK$48) – and so it should have been, at a whopping HK$12 each for four slices.
The verdict: substandard bartending, offhand service, overpriced. Maybe we just caught them on a bad night – but I won’t be going back to find out.
Cassio, 2/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 3792 0129
Open: Monday to Thursday 6.30pm-1am, Friday and Saturday 6.30pm-3am
Three places nearby where you may have a better time