Best speakeasy bars in Hong Kong... and how to find them
16 Jun 2017
For those unfamiliar with the speakeasy trend, speakeasies are essentially hidden ‘secret’ bars. We’re talking about bars hidden behind bookcases and bars with secret password codes. During the Prohibition period (1920-1933) in the US when alcohol was banned from being sold commercially, many looked for options to find and drink alcohol clandestinely. Speakeasies were hush-hush and usually hidden in the back of certain restaurants or clubs. There would be secret doors to get into these bars, and secret passageways to run out (in case of police raids).
The speakeasy, the secret hidden bar is an exciting concept, perhaps the idea of it makes the experience feel exclusive. And while alcohol is no longer prohibited in the modern world, the speakeasy bar is an international trend. Hong Kong bars have hopped onto this trend pretty swiftly, with many of the top bars in Hong Kong designed this way. Here's our guide to the best hidden bars in Hong Kong.... and how to find them (prepare for a picture overload).
Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour
Casually strolling through the meandering walkways in the basement floor of the Landmark Atrium you’ll find yourself in a small section of designer labels and MTR-seeking tourists.
Just in the bottom of the staircase you’ll see a pair of curious doors: one tall and one very short. A dark green painted door with a vintage doorknob, reminiscent of a doctor’s door in the Victorian-era.
The door is marked the 'Waiting Room', and the door next to it is marked 'Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour'. The idea is that this door leads to a doctor’s clinic with a secret playroom... where he takes 'just what the doctor ordered’ to a totally different-- alcoholic-- level. The bar is inspired by eccentric botanist Dr. Fern, who using his botanical knowledge serves up some stress-relieving concoctions of gin mixes. It’s a fun little concept, and it's all the more bizarre (so much it feels like escapism) when it’s plopped at a random corner of a bustling shopping mall. When you walk through the small door, it opens up to a well-lit bar filled with 250 different kinds of gin. You’ll notice the employees are wearing white (doctor) coats; ask them for the Doctor’s Prescription and you will be cared for. Otherwise, we recommend the G’vine Floraison Gin & Fentimans Tonic garnished with green grapes and a doctor-prescribed botanical. Shop B31A, First Basement Floor, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road, Central, 2111 9449; drfernshk.com
This one’s located on the top of the LKF hill, hidden away in the end of a non-descript walkway between an array of shops. Stockton is so well hidden, that when it gets dark, and you’ve had a bit too much of that bubbly, you might even forget where it was. If you peep into a narrow and dark Batman-y alleyway, you’ll see a cute dimly lit lamp hanging off a random railing. Turn towards your left at the lamp you’ll find a dark rather clandestine staircase. Up the staircase, there is a dingy looking metal door. Through the door, you are invited to a 1920s-inspired speakeasy bar: red velvet couches, wooden furnishing, vintage ornaments, jazz music, the whole caboodle. This place is great to just relax and enjoy some Japanese whisky. But you must try their signature Ribston Apple Punch, it’s an unforgettably sweet experience. 32 Wyndham St, Central, 2565 5268; stockton.com.hk
You want to have shisha, but not the rowdiness of the shisha street in LKF. You fancy somewhere quieter, but you don’t want to spend a fortune at a rooftop shisha hotel bar. Sumac is just the right choice for those looking for a cosy, warm and authentic Lebanese shisha bar.
Sumac is located at the top of the LKF hill, when you find the location, you’ll find a narrow and ubiquitous brown staircase going down. You’ll find yourself in a cosy terrace of a restaurant, go through the restaurant and come out the other end, and you’ll find a cute al-fresco style bar with French windows and wooden furnishing. You’ve found sumac! While we are not sure if this elusiveness was on purpose or not, sumac is as hidden as a speakeasy that for first-timers it can sometimes be quite tricky or even tiring to find. That shouldn’t deter you because this place is absolutely worth it.
Dim lights and a seductive atmosphere, the bar is quiet and calming. You’ll see a few people lounging about on the couches, smoking shisha. While it is popular in Hong Kong to get a cocktail with your shisha, sometimes a sweet cocktail can only dilute the impact of the shisha. We recommend you to instead get their amazing mint tea, that comes in either sweetened or non-sweetened. 8 Glenealy, Central, 2147 9191; sumac.com.hk
I know John
I know John is a nod to the passwords used in speakeasies during the Prohibition era. This one’s relatively easier to find, up the elevator to the 9th floor at The Loop, and you’ll find yourself at the door.
The door is a retro metal door, something you might have seen in a World War II movie or a video game (Fallout-esque). Through the door, you’ll see a bundle of bricks that hide the gorgeous mahogany-coloured bar behind. The interior is vintage-inspired with gorgeous high stools, leather couches and decoratively rusty pipes. We recommend getting a Smoky Haze, a smoky earthy tipple made with Mezcal Alipús San Baltazar, basil, lemon, fresh orange juice, agave nectar and a saline solution. The Loop, 9/F, 33 Wellington St, Central, 2801 6555; iknowjohn.hk
This internationally-acclaimed speakeasy bar from London is finally coming to Hong Kong. It’s not open yet, it’s expected to open on the 22nd of June, and for that, we aren’t sure exactly what kind of design of speakeasies we’re getting. We don’t want any spoilers before their grand opening, but if it's anything as mysterious as their London one, you can expect there to be a psychic at the door and a pink neon sign. Voted as one of the best bars in the world, what we do know is that we can expect some top quality cocktails and a mystical atmosphere. G/F, 19 Lan Kwai Fong, Central; facebook.com/EmployeesOnlyHKG
Some honourable mentions: 001, Foxglove, Butler