Choking on the price of a burger and fries at the Sevens – and burned by the coffee
Food and fare at Hong Kong Sevens is falling behind world-class action out on the pitch
Things don’t always add up during Sevens weekend, at least for most. But Ron – no last name please – is not having it. “I love this sport, greatest game as far as I am concerned,” says the father of two young rugby players.
“Still, HK$65 for a coffee? That’s a little steep, almost twice as much as it costs outside the stadium. And then when you bring a couple of kids out here all day, well it does add up, no question,” he says.
Right, it’s the price you pay for a premium sporting event. Still, $65 for a cup of coffee? It’s not like you have much choice, either. If you want a cup of coffee, like all the vendors they have their exclusive way with you.
“But this is a perfect, perfect cup,” one of the girls running the coffee stand tells me. “We have a barista on site,” she says. “His name is Eddie.”
Eddie says the perfect, perfect cup is all a matter of technique. “We use a semi-automatic machine and we steam the milk manually, that’s why it’s the perfect cup of coffee.”
Well, when you put it that way, $65 is probably a deal, right Eddie. “I think so,” he says.
If it is a deal, it’s one of the few around here. A double cheeseburger will cost you $120. If you want fries throw in another $75 and it’s not like there are any Michelin stars on the chef’s hat.
If you don’t like it then take it up with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which is responsible for choosing the caterers as well as helping to set the prices.
The common thinking seems to be that people don’t come to the Sevens to eat, they come to be entertained and have a few drinks so no need to worry about the food.
However, at big-time sporting events throughout Europe and North America these days, there is an exotic and tasty array of dining options. Even the hot dogs have been pimped up, featuring some of the finest grilled sausages anywhere.
There are also endless drinking options with a number of microbreweries on tap. Here beer drinkers either like Carlsberg or they don’t drink beer. Last year Stella Artois memorably set up a couple of booths a block or so from the stadium to give away free beers and, obviously, they are desperately missed this year.
However, the good people from Carlsberg want you to know that they are also in a generous mood. As you enter the stadium, you can’t miss the Carlsberg girls as well as a few of their cohorts literally wearing taxi outfits with the caption: “Win probably the best taxi ride & after-party.”
So what’s the deal with this ladies? They tell me that if you take a picture of the taxis and post it on Instagram you will be eligible to win a free ride in the Carlsberg taxi. “And do you girls ride in the taxi?” I ask. “No,” they reply, “with your friends.” My friends? No thanks, I’ll walk.
But all is not lost because a mere hop, skip and jump away is a big sign advertising “Free Bottle of Wine”.
A gentleman leads me over to the Lee Gardens booth where I am told that if you book a table at one of the 15 restaurants in their mall, they will throw in a free bottle of wine.
“What kind of wine is it?” I ask. “If it’s an ’82 Bordeaux, book me five tables.”
“Maybe,” he says. “Let me check.”
Not surprisingly, it turns out to be a non-descript Chilean vintage. “But if you want some wine right now, they sell it over there,” he tells me.
“This wine is very good,” a young man behind the booth says. “It costs $85 a glass.”
And how’s that selling? “Not good at all,” he says. “No one is drinking wine tonight.”
It’s true, rugby and beer are joined at the hip, which seemingly makes it a little more palatable that the coffee is $65 and wine is $85.
Outside the stadium, a twenty-piece student band has set up and is ready to entertain the gathered crowd.
As the ICS Jazz Band from the International Christian School in the New Territories begins to lay into their first song, the sweet sound and joy in their faces reminds me that the best things in life are free. Just not this weekend.