New York hidden bar Please Don’t Tell opening in Hong Kong, and co-founder Jim Meehan’s still pinching himself
Nine years after being ‘blown away’ by a collaboration with chef Richard Ekkebus at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Jim Meehan is opening a branch of speakeasy PDT – Please Don’t Tell – there, complete with telephone booth entrance
For Jim Meehan, co-founder of famed New York hidden bar PDT, opening a sister bar in Hong Kong is surreal. “I’m still pinching myself – it’s a big thing for us, but I feel ready,” he says, thrilled that the project is becoming a reality.
Cocktail fans may remember PDT, which stands for Please Don’t Tell, had a pop-up two years ago at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. It will open its doors – or shall we say its telephone booth entrance – above MO Bar on January 30.
Having Mandarin Oriental Hotels and its culinary director, Richard Ekkebus, behind the venture helps. Meehan has been collaborating with Ekkebus since 2009, when the latter organised the first edition of Masters of Mixology.
“I spent at least a week here doing events at MO Bar and Amber and I was blown away by him. I had opened PDT, but chefs at the time were down on mixology and here I was welcomed by a Dutch chef to make drinks in his dining room,” he recalls.
Another serendipitous moment came when his New York general manager, Jeff Bell, competed in the Diageo World Class cocktail competition in 2013 and caught the attention of Diageo Reserve’s senior brand manager in Hong Kong, Martin Newell. He talked to Bell about doing a PDT pop-up in Hong Kong – and chose the Landmark Mandarin Oriental as the location.
When it comes to the cocktails, Meehan explains there will be a mix of classics and new concoctions.
“We’ll be bringing New York favourites including the Benton’s Old Fashioned, Paddington, Shark and Mezcal Mule, but the rest of the menu, including the wines, beers and a selection of drinks will be totally new and unique to Hong Kong.
“As we get to know the city, region and our purveyors here better, we’ll do our best to showcase interesting ingredients and flavours we can’t source in New York.”
Complementing the drinks will be gourmet snacks such as free-range pork, chicken and beef hot dogs and tater tots with kewpie mayonnaise. Hong Kong chefs will be invited for guest spots to create their own hot dogs.
As at the bar in New York, guests will step into a telephone booth to get into PDT. Meehan says designer Nelson Chow has made the Hong Kong version even better, with green felt walls, booths and a top-notch sound system.
“The taxidermy – there’s a black goat, two different chickens, a tropical bird and a giant hare,” Meehan says. “At PDT in New York, when things like sunglasses, hats and scarves get left behind, they end up on the taxidermy, and here Nelson has professionally designed them – he even has the names for each of the [stuffed animals] and a story behind each one.”
While Meehan and Bell will take turns coming to Hong Kong quarterly, they are keen for their long-term staff based in Hong Kong, barman Adam Schmidt and manager Malaika Suarez, to run the show.
“You’re only as good as your people, so this opportunity lets us challenge Adam and Malaika,” Meehan says. Last year PDT held a pop-up in Barcelona, but it didn’t have the same vibe as he feels in Hong Kong, which he attributes to the city’s long colonial history, position in finance and local people’s interest in cocktails.
While a number of speakeasies have opened in the city in the past few years with varying results, Meehan believes PDT will have staying power, considering the original in New York will soon mark its 11th anniversary.
“I’ve become the speakeasy guy, but I remember when I was young and went to my first speakeasy in college called The Safehouse in Wisconsin that’s been around for 30 to 40 years,” he says. “PDT is a hidden bar more than anything, and it’s the gimmicky ones that go out of style. One that focuses on quality food, drinks and hospitality will stay around.”
PDT, Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, tel: 2132 0188