HK Magazine Archive

What's the Oldest Bar in Hong Kong?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:53pm

In a city of constantly hiked rents, you’re lucky if a bar stays open for 10 minutes in the same location, let alone 10 years. But there are still a few bars in the city which could lay claim to a decade or two.

In some ways, the Mariners’ Rest bar in the former Marine Police Headquarters could take the title as Hong Kong’s oldest watering hole. It’s been in that location as early as 1884. For years it was the police officers’ mess, serving up pints to the thirsty coppers of the city. The mess was famous for its hospitality, and visiting seamen from all over the world would be regaled with tales and plied with beer in this far-flung corner of the British Empire.

When the police were moved out in 1996 and then the building was renovated and reopened in 2009, the Mariners’ Rest was opened up to the public as a bar. Yes, you have to look beyond all the neoclassical rubbish in the courtyard, but you can still get a drink at the Mariners’ Rest, the same way that coppers have boozed there for a hundred years. And if you get really... emotional, you can sleep it off in one of the old jail cells in the bar instead.

The award for the oldest public bar still in the same location goes to the Captain’s Bar and the Chinnery at the Mandarin Oriental, which were both around when the Mandarin opened in 1963. When it opened the Captain’s Bar was as super-chic as only the 1960s could pull off, with duck-egg blue walls and yellow leather couches. But truly, not all that much has changed at the Captain’s Bar: It’s still got the same checkered glass partitions, and they still serve up beer in chilled pewter tankards. It’s nice to know some things never change.

As for the city’s oldest non-hotel pub? That would be the venerable Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, which has been in the same spot since 1972. Live Dixieland jazz every night and cheap beer has kept the punters coming back, and with good reason: A good night out at Ned’s is one of the best in the world.

And that’s the thing: A good night out in Hong Kong is unbeatable. In our ever-changing city, it’s good to remember that just a few bars have managed to stay unmoving, despite the odds. So visit these establishments and raise a glass to them, and the thousands of people who have drunk there before you. You know you’re drinking in very good company.