Hong Kong bar reviews

The Wise King in SoHo – excellent service and tasty cocktails promise a long, successful reign

Founded by two celebrated mixologists, Joe Villanueva and Sandeep Kumar, the bar’s regal interior sets the tone, and the signature cocktails focused on adding a Spanish twist to classic concepts, complements it perfectly

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 6:43pm

The vibe: The Wise King is named after King Alfonso X of Castile – a 13th century monarch who reigned for 32 years and is said to have invented tapas when health problems meant he could only eat small portions of food (which he insisted should be consumed with wine).

An independent venture founded by two celebrated mixologists, Joe Villanueva and Sandeep Kumar, the bar was still in soft opening when we visited but already showing its pedigree in the excellence of the service – professional yet warm and friendly.

The entrance is at the Graham Street end of Tsung Wing Lane (the tiny pedestrian alley running between Shelley Street and Graham Street; if you’re coming from the escalator, turn right after Pure Fitness). Although unprepossessing from outside, the interior is cosy yet chic with dark red leather seats and elaborate gilded wallpaper and ceiling mouldings which reference Alfonso’s Spain. Small and intimate, the place fills up fast and it’s a good thing the alley outside provides extra space.

The drinks: These are early days, so the drinks list is a work in progress. For now there’s a decent selection of wines (not all Spanish, though), three sherries and a handful of signature cocktails focused on adding a Spanish twist to classic concepts. The Turron Sour (HK$118, Woodford Bourbon, toasted nuts and honey syrup, citrus, thick foam) was light and sweet, with a morsel of nicely nutty turron as garnish.

El Sabio (HK$108, spiced peach and pineapple wine reduction, cava) was refreshing, with a nice touch of toasted pineapple.

From the barrel-aged range, Joya (HK$98, Jodhpur Gin, Pomace herbal liqueur, Mancino Rosso, orange bitters), was nicely balanced with an intriguing herbal note from the liqueur, and if the Pacharan Manhattan (HK$98, Woodfood Rye, Blackthorn Liqueur, Abbott’s Bitters), tasted just like a classic Manhattan, it was well made and the marinated cherry garnish was unusually good.

Tapas are also served, and should be well worth checking out if the delectable olives which came with our drinks are anything to go by.

The verdict: A labour of love from its founders, The Wise King, like its namesake, is a class act which looks set for a long reign.

The Wise King, 25 Staunton Street (entrance on Tsung Wing Lane), SoHo. Tel: 2326 5822

Open: 5pm-10pm (Friday and Saturday until 2am)

While you’re in the area:

Bar review: Big Sur, SoHo – a varied selection of satisfying drinks

Bar review: The Woods Annex, SoHo – for serious spirit aficionados

Bar review: McSorley’s Ale House in SoHo – try the poitín