I remember when I returned to Hong Kong some 10 years ago; it was difficult to find a well-priced, decent bottle of wine at most restaurants. The high-end restaurants’ wine lists were full of pricey Bordeaux and Super Tuscans, while the more casual ones served mostly unexciting Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays.
Now, there are a lot more wine bars-cum-restaurants in town that offer a much wider range of reasonably priced, good-quality wine. Their menus are relatively simple but tasty. I like their welcoming atmosphere, the availability of non-mainstream wine and the good selection of wine by the glass. More importantly, the staff at these casual hang-out places are usually friendly and passionate.
Shady Acres on Peel Street in SoHo opened only a few months ago but is rapidly gaining traction. The wine list there is clearly written, with more than 10 wines offered by the glass, but you can also forget the wine list altogether and choose a bottle from the rack. Most of the wines are from boutique wineries and are regularly rotated. Both nibbles and bigger plates are offered that are perfect for sharing. No bookings.
Mr Brown in Wanchai is more of a restaurant specialising in grilled and smoked meat and produce presented in a sharing style. I was particularly impressed by the raw hamachi with avocado and the kohlrabi with hazlenuts, Pecorino and chilli. The wine list has around 50+ wines, and about 20 per cent are available by the glass. Most are from small wineries, with interesting wines from Lebanon and Mount Etna in Italy as well as uncommon wines from well-known regions such as Sylvaner from Alsace (France), Grenache Blanc from Priorat (Spain) and a Syrah blend from Swartland (South Africa). The restaurant is popular, and reservations are recommended.
Founded in Paris in 2010, Le Quinze Vins (LQV) ventured to Hong Kong in 2014 and now operates three wine bars/shops in Wanchai, Central and Mid-Levels. A haven for French wine lovers, LQV stocks over 1,000 wines from all French regions sourced from its Paris base. There are 8–10 by-the-glass choices on the blackboard, and the knowledgeable staff are more than happy to help with recommendations. Simple snacks such as cheese and ham platters are available. In just five years, the group have expanded to include two cheese shops and a meat shop in Hong Kong, plus a wine bar in Singapore.
If you fancy organic, biodynamic, natural or simply just quirky wines, La Cabane on Hollywood Road in Central is the place to be. It started off with a French wine list but has since included wines from Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Hungary, to name just a few. The menu featuring sharing-style bar food is regularly changed. La Cabane directly imports its wine, supplies to other restaurants and runs a retail shop with regular tastings. Natural wine can be hit-and-miss, but well-made ones are definitely worth trying – such as Domaine de Souch from Jurançon (France), Domaine Jean Foillard from Beaujolais (France), Sato Wines from Central Otago (New Zealand) and Testalonga from Swartland (South Africa).
Another nice surprise on Wellington Street, Central, is Interval Coffee Bar. As the name suggests, it is a coffee shop by day and a wine bar by night, but you can also order a glass of wine for breakfast! The nine-page wine list is packed with small producers, and there is a small section showcasing orange wine (white wine with prolonged skin contact). About half the wines are available by the glass or half-bottle. The wines here are not the cheapest in town, but they are regularly changed and are certainly interesting, and you can enjoy them with some creative dishes. The relaxed atmosphere is perfect for a quiet drink, and Interval also hosts pop-up F&B events and live music.
Oakey Dokey Wine is a neighbourhood wine shop/bar in Tai Kok Tsui. The prices are written on the bottles – pick the one you like for takeaway or enjoy it in the shop. The wines, a diverse range including Japan and Thai wines as well as natural wines, are sourced both directly and from local suppliers. The small kitchen offers bar snacks with a twist like Caesar salad with black-bean-fried fish (豆豉鯪魚) and Chinese-style Scotch egg (preserved egg wrapped in Taiwanese sausage).
I can’t emphasise enough that the wine world is full of surprises. These places are ideal for both novices and die-hard wine fans to discover something new without breaking the bank. Life is too short to have the same styles of wine every day!
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