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We first got wind of Black Sheep Restaurants’ latest-and-greatest opening, The Last Resort on Peel Street, last autumn, but the official launch has been delayed till now owing to the pandemic – and boy, has it been worth the wait.
Described as their take on a Canadian dive bar with a difference, The Last Resort is the brainchild of Black Sheep founders Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark, who have strong ties to Canada (a bit of trivia: they named it after The Last Resort bar on Mars featured in the film Total Recall). It’s fun, down-to-earth and all-inclusive, with great-quality food and drink at even greater-value prices. Frankly, we were shocked when we first glanced at the menu and saw the cocktails at $50 a pop and beer starting from $40 – a steal for Hong Kong!
The space itself is small, kitted out like a dive bar should. It’s dimly lit, with just three retro-looking, battered red leather booths that seat two and half a dozen bar seats (there’s also brighter seating for a few folk at the front, under an awning that opens, in what’s dubbed the “garden”). There’s sport and news on loop on the three big screens behind the bar and 80s and 90s classics, heavy on the Guns N’ Roses, playing on full blast. We were especially enamoured with the statement wall plastered with photos of Canuck celebs, from Justin Bieber and Drake to Jim Carrey and Pamela Anderson. The Last Resort is the polar opposite of pretentious, a breath of fresh air in the so often artificial F&B scene here.
The selection of beers – five at the moment, including Peroni, Brooklyn Lager and Pilsner Urquell – is pretty straightforward, so we opted to try a few of the bar’s smashable cocktails, creative takes on the drinks you first knocked back at uni. Behind in the pink is the rum sour, made with rum infused with banana, blackcurrant and – wait for it – peanut butter. It’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s a bit nutty – and it’s totally delicious. Competing for attention up front is the whisky apple, mixed with fresh green apple juice complete with apple foam on top – also totally delicious (and dangerous).
To pair with these tipples, Jowett Yu, who’s also the executive chef at Black Sheep’s Ho Lee Fook, Fukuro and Le Garçon Saigon, has created a masterpiece of a fried chicken recipe using prized local three-yellow chickens, known for their extra layer of fat and depth of flavour. The Last Resort only gets about 10 birds each day, and they’re each freshly seasoned, battered and deep-fried – and then, before you know it, they’re gone.
The fried chicken ($150 for ½ order of 5 pieces or $250 for full order of 10 pieces) comes in both original, hot and nuclear varieties. Our favourite was the original, which was super juicy, well seasoned with a blend of 12 secret spices and beyond crunchy. This is how fried chicken is meant to be!
You can opt for the hot recipe, tossed in masala oil made with chilli peppers from China, India, Mexico and Peru. The spicing level was enjoyably hot, though this version is also on the saltier side.
If you really want to walk on the wild side, you can request the nuclear chicken, which ups the spice ante by adding the bad boy of the chilli world, the ghost pepper from India, to the mix. We found it just on the brink of being too hot to handle, with a slow burn starting in the back of our throat, eventually making our lips tingle. But it really wasn’t as spicy as we had expected, and we actually preferred it to the very salty hot chicken. There’s also a hot chicken sandwich ($80) on the menu that we’re keen to try.
To go with your chook, there’s a nice selection of sides and sauces. We tried just about all the sides (lucky us). The chunky potato wedges ($50) are served with a big bowl of sour cream and sweet chilli sauce – a staple Aussie bar snack, we’re told. If you haven’t tried this unique combo, imagine the flavour of a good sour cream and onion potato chip – only better. The heavily battered fried scamorza ($40) has IG-worthy cheese pull and a lightly smoky flavour. On the healthier side, we tried the kale and cabbage salad ($40), which was a bit too heavy-handed with the sesame oil to be as refreshing as we had hoped, and the Southern-style braised Chinese kale and bacon ($40), a comforting mash-up of local and Western ingredients.
The sauces ($10 each) add another dimension of flavour to the chicken and sides. The winners were the yuzu mayo (citrus and mayo are always a match made in heaven) and the locally made fermented Flagrant Hot Sauce, which also contains a hint of our beloved yuzu. We think going with the original chicken and mixing and matching the sauces to get your own preferred spice level and flavour profile is the way to go.
The Last Resort is currently open Tuesday–Sunday from 5–10pm, but it hopes to be a (very) late-night joint soon, particularly catering to after-hours F&B industry workers. With that in mind, they’ll offer a commendable industry-only special ($100) that includes the chicken sandwich and a boilermaker (a shot of whisky, followed by a chaser of beer).
Our tasting at The Last Resort was the best F&B experience we’ve had so far this year – awesome cocktails and fried chicken at rock-bottom prices, considering the quality. Add to those a really cool throwback look, a fun vibe and the friendliest servers in town, and we think it will remain our first resort for a long time to come.
52B Peel Street, SoHo, Central, 2442 2440 (no bookings)
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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