For many years now I’ve had a list of cities, states, and countries whose bars I would like to patronize, and I have to admit, Hong Kong was never really high on my list, but that all changed recently.
Ned Kelly’s Last Stand
The seventeen hour flight made me quite thirsty, so my brother and I wandered blearily around the Kowloon neighborhood where he lives, and found what would be, if I lived in Hong Kong, my “local” bar. “Ned Kelly’s Last Stand”,11A Ashley Rd.,Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, is named after one of Australia’s most famous outlaws, serves Australian and American food, and has the feel of an Old West saloon. My brother and I were seated on a low wooden stool surrounded by a mini table, and I proceeded to order a Tetley’s English Ale, a smooth, nutty and very creamy brew, with a slightly sweet aftertaste. We had a huge plate of Fish and Chips, Cooks and Chips (a very juicy half chicken with brown onion gravy), and later a huge, juicy cheeseburger (also with onion gravy, upon my request).
This dark, intimate saloon was full of people from all over the world- some locals, some Brits, a few Italians, a big group of Australians, and a retired couple from Southern New Jersey, who were seated next to us. “Are you here to see the band?” our new friends asked. Not really, but were very pleasantly surprised when a seven piece jazz band took the stage. “The China Coast Jazz Men”, exploded with a mellifluous mix of Dixieland, Be-Bop, and jazz standards. Their leader, Collin Atchison, is part band leader, part comic relief, and on Sundays he leads a full twenty-piece band.
The next day I was in a more “Rock and Roll” type of mood, so I headed to “Carnegies”,53-55 Lockhart Rd., Wan Chai, which is similar to the “Hard Rock Café” only with a more interesting menu, a better wine list and an excellent single malt scotch selection. As I perused the walls, which are wallpapered with all sorts of Rock posters and memorabilia- everything from “The Dick Clark Five” to the “Sex Pistols”, I ordered a Glenlivet, single malt, twelve year old scotch and a Carlsberg Pilsner.
They have an impressive “Crazy Hour” from 6-7pm, where most drinks are HK$19 (US$2.50) which morphs, eventually, into a more traditional “Happy Hour.” The Rolling Stones were blaring over the sound system as a mix of local business men, tourists and students danced (some of them on the bar), and ate the free spring rolls, chips, sausages and chicken fingers. They have an extensive tapas menu, and entrees such as Steak Baguette, and Beef Bourguignon. Carnegie’s gets exponentially louder and younger as the night goes on.
The high octane partying in Wan Chai was fun, but I was looking for a more mellow pub, which I found in Smggler’s Inn,90A Stanley Main St. Located on the picturesque Stanley waterfront, or “Stanley Beach”, as the locals call it. Smugglers Inn is a pirate’s paradise, with wooden beams across the ceiling and tables and stools made from old barrels. It’s more of a beer and appetizer type of place with a very good beer selection featuring Tetley’s Ale, Boddingtons Pub Ale from the UK, Guinness, Carlsberg and Strongbow Cider, also from the UK. The pub also has a nice patio with tables with umbrellas right on the water where you can watch the Chinese junks float by. Smuggler’s Inn has a local flavor but was packed with tourists, most of whom had just came from the famous outdoor Stanley Market, which is the best place to go for inexpensive souvenirs and I have to admit, I purchased a little ink stamp with The Year of the Snake and my name in Chinese.
The culinary highlight at Smugglers was the “Bacon Sausage Roll”, which is sausage wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and served on a stick. The nicknamed for this tasty, fattening delight is “Heart Attack on a Stick.” To offset the calories, I ordered “The Ploughman’s Platter”, featuring salad with Ham, pickled onions, boiled eggs, cheddar cheese and sweet pickles.
I visited so many fantastic bars and restaurants in Hong Kong, but before I left, my brother and I made a stop at the “Ice Bar”, in the crowded, party neighborhood of Lan Kwai Fong. The bar is literally a walk in freezer, shaped like a block of ice, with the bust of Vladimir Lenin standing guard at the door. You can wear a fur coat, parka or winter cap (which they provide), as you down a shot or two of fine vodka. As I sipped my shot of Chopin vodka, I couldn’t help but raise my glass to Hong Kong, which is now officially near the top of my new list.