Bar review: Employees Only in Lan Kwai Fong – professional staff and bags of character
This popular speakeasy-style bar reworks the classics and serves up balanced cocktails with plenty of flavour – it’s well worth a visit
The vibe: Employees Only is the eagerly anticipated Hong Kong branch of one of New York’s most celebrated speakeasy-style bars.
There’s no name above the entrance, making it a little hard to find (look out for the red neon sign saying “Psychic”). However, this was no deterrent to the punters. A few days after opening the place was so packed with happily chatting drinkers it felt more like a cocktail party than a bar.
Décor is traditional and unpretentious, with a very long, curving bar, low ceilings and dark wood tones – sadly, the barstools are not designed for long-term sitting. Staff are professional, courteous and knowledgeable – they apologised for the long wait for our first drink, and we were assured it wouldn’t happen again, which it didn’t, despite the number of customers.
The drinks: the cocktail list focuses on revisiting or revamping the classics and gets extra points for stating the serving style (straight up, over ice, etc) for each drink. Between the Sheets (HK$140, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Plantation Rum, orange Curaçao, lemon juice) was a gorgeous version of a Prohibition-era standard: full, smooth, strong yet beautifully balanced. West Side (HK$140, St George California Citrus Vodka and fresh lemon juice shaken with fresh mint) was tart and refreshing, with the intense lemon flavour disguising its potency.
Among the more original offerings, Provençal (HK$130, lavender-infused Fords Gin, herbes de Provence-infused Noilly Prat, Cointreau) was intriguing and pleasantly dry, if a little heavy on the lavender (shades of shower gel). Paloma (HK$120, Cimarron Tequila, lime, grapefruit, agave and Pompelmo grapefruit soda) was pleasingly citrusy, the grapefruit notes complimenting the dry tequila nicely.
The verdict: living up to its reputation, Employees Only is a welcome oasis of high class mixology and top-notch service in Lan Kwai Fong.
19 Lan Kwai Fong, Central
Tel: 2468 2755
While you’re in the area