Five Wan Chai bars: great Thai-Chinese, local and Japanese joints, a pleasant Japanese-Brazilian mash-up and a so-so hotel bar
Looking for somewhere different to drink in Wan Chai? Whether you want a stiff G&T and great happy hour deals, delicious Asian inspired cocktails or a Japanese-Brazilian fusion, let our reviewers be your local guide
Wan Chai is known as a late-night party location. It used to be mainly a red light district, but has long since diversified, and most of the old girlie bars have been replaced by conventional bars and restaurants. New areas such as Ship Street are full of funky places to eat and drink.
Here are five bars we recently visited:
Loyal Dining Bar
Loyal Bar is part of Tonnochy Road’s The Tonno entertainment complex, which also includes a nightclub and karaoke rooms along with the Loyal Dining restaurant. The bar has comfortable green leather seating, and is dimly lit and intimate referencing In the Mood for Love. The service is casual though not unfriendly, and there are TV screens offering a choice of sports or music videos with the sound turned off. This is a corner of Wan Chai off the main restaurant and bar track and the clientele is firmly local.
From the selection of champagne cocktails, the worryingly named Sweet Drink (HK$80, vodka, Blue Curaçao, champagne) turned out to be nicely dry, apart from having sugar round the rim.
With professionally made drinks and excellent value, especially in happy hour (buy one get one free), this is a good spot to know if you fancy a couple of stiff drinks before heading upstairs.
Loyal Dining Bar, 5 Tonnochy Rd, Wan Chai, tel: 3125 3888.
Open: noon-3am (Fri and Sat until 5am) Happy hour: 3pm-9pm
Baijiu Bar at Deng G
It feels like a mini temple to baijiu, with bottles and jars featuring prominently in the decor. A large mirror at one end of the room makes the small space feel bigger. The bar only offers high seating, with stools at both the bar and tables.
Staff are friendly and make it a relaxing spot to unwind at the end of a long day in the office. The baijiu list is organised by region and fragrance, with most options only available by the bottle. The spirit is the base for several of the cocktails, which mostly comprise of twists on well-known classics.
The Coriander Mojito was a refreshing twist on the classic, although the baijiu still struck me as an inferior choice to rum. Carefully poured over crushed ice, the drink was served with a straw, separately presented in a porcelain flask.
This is a pleasantly different watering hole to drop into for a quiet drink and conversation, and nothing like anywhere else I can think of in Wan Chai. It will certainly appeal to anybody who already has a taste for baijiu, but I can’t imagine these cocktails converting many sceptics.
Baijiu Bar at Deng G, 2/F Weswick Commercial Bldg, 147-149 Queen’s Rd East, Wan Chai, tel: 2609 2328. Open: noon-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Sat evening only)
Thaiwan offers a mixture of Thai and Taiwanese themed drinks and tapas (hence the name). Tucked away on Ship Street, it’s located opposite a building site – unglamorous but practical, as the street is effectively pedestrian and patrons can drink outside.
Indoors is pretty basic with bare concrete walls and a few small tables packed into the bar area. Casual and friendly, if a little chaotic, it was buzzing on a Monday night. The couple who own the bar were there (always a good sign).
There’s a long list of cocktails, all classics – the absence of weird and wonderful signature drinks and elaborate presentation makes a refreshing change from most new bars and at HK$68 each, you can’t complain about the value. The Margarita was well-made and strong, with plenty of fresh lime, and both the standard Mojito and the Mojito Thaiwan, made with passion fruit, were delicious.
This is a genuine neighbourhood bar, family-owned and unpretentious, with decent drinks and good prices – what’s not to like?
Thaiwan, 31 Ship St, Wan Chai, tel: 3709 6595
Open Mon to Sat 5pm-2am. Happy hour 5pm-9pm
Hong Kong’s first Nipo-Brasileiro (Japanese-Brazilian) bar and restaurant scores points for a genuinely fresh idea. There are lots of bold, primary colours including brightly painted chairs, murals featuring Japanese anime characters and ceiling lights with an eclectic selection of basketwork shades. Service was friendly but extremely slow – the Japanese friends who’d come with me were quick to comment that this was obviously the Brazilian side of things.
Brazil is represented by cocktails (one of which, the Blushing Geisha, comes garnished with a thong, presumably a tribute to Rio’s Carnival costumes), red, white or rosé wine and a selection of cachaca; Japan by an extensive list of whiskies plus a couple of sakes and beers.
Djapa is a pleasant spot to chill out with a beer and watch the world go by.
Djapa, Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2617 2900
Open until 2am
Mirage Bar & Restaurant
Mirage has a mixture of seating with tables and chairs if you’re having a meal, and low sofas and armchairs (so low they’re hard to get up from) if you’re there for a drink.
Mirage is supposed to have a harbour view, but much of it is blocked by the Grand Hyatt next door. Service was quick and efficient, although the staff looked tired and harassed.
There’s a heavy emphasis on sweetness in the cocktails (bizarrely, “sweet” is actually listed as an ingredient, for instance in the place of Triple Sec or Cointreau in a Margarita) and the contrast between the extensive range of whiskies and limited choices of other spirits suggests a spirits list designed with the hotel’s many mainland visitors in mind.
The best of the signature cocktails – all reasonably priced at HK$98 – was I’m Hallucinated (rum, fermented honey, spice, citrus and passion fruit), which was nicely balanced and complex, with an intriguing delicate aftertaste from the honey.
Given the location and clientele, it’s understandable that Mirage feels more like a busy airport bar than a laid-back luxury lounge. It’s a convenient meeting place if you’re doing business, but Hong Kong has hotel bars with better views, drinks and atmosphere if you want to have fun.
Mirage Bar and Restaurant, 1/F Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel, 1 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai, tel: 2802 8888
Open: from breakfast until late