THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

These are days filled with angst in Hong Kong- dark days made darker by a surreal Mexican standoff between an ineffective government and well-meaning students who, after making themselves heard, are now looking more and more like a rudderless ship without a captain and a compass.

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These are the days many in Hong Kong need that Happy Place to “chillax” and get away from the Facebook and other social media politics plaguing this once great city. But, where to go?

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Sad to say, despite the over-supply of restaurants and bars in Hong Kong that have been allowed to spawn like the man-eating plant from The Little Shop Of Horrors, most, to put it mildly, are crap- the sons, mothers, brothers and sisters of “Fawlty Towers” run by local versions of Basil Fawlty and Manuel.

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It’s goofy stuff, but when one is often over-paying for mediocrity, it’s no laughing matter.

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For decades, Hong Kong has come under fire for the Michelin Stars handed out to some of the oddest choices of restaurants while the hygiene factor of many of the city’s “iconic” Chinese and Indian restaurants have been well-documented.

Today, add to this, daily scams and money laundering involving companies behind, mainly, the bars and restaurants in Soho, Lan Kwai Fong and the “new” Wanchai, plus small businesses that are dazed and confused and being run into the ground through a warped sense of cockeyed optimism mixed with that daft sense of comfort thinking that someone else is doing worse.

cockeyed

In the end, however, to the customer with a veritable buffet of choices, it’s all about finding that Happy Place where one can walk in and feel comfortable knowing what to expect- interesting people- and without this any business is DOA- good service and value for money.

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Frankly, to each his own and depending on one’s budget, there is nothing like a few hours at The Blue Bar of the Four Seasons- usually, from 4pm to 8pm.

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Those interesting people are there, the staff doesn’t comprise of inept “Manuels”, the drinks might be pricey- though not for a bar in a five-star hotel- whereas the free buffet spread it lays on from 6pm to 8pm plus the entire “vibe” of the place, more than compensates for the drink bill.

Though small businesses can never compete with a place like The Blue Bar, neither can the “new” Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt, below, or The Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Central.

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The Grand Hyatt’s heydays were the Eighties and Nineties when JJ’s was around and booming whereas The Captain’s Bar is, like the FCC and The Hong Kong Club, an institution for old farts to reminisce about the pukka days of the Raj and trampling through tea plantations wearing pith helmets.

Away from all this haughtiness, where, today, are the restaurants that once made Hong Kong great- Fernando’s in Gloucester Road, the original Wyndham Street Thai with La Bodega located opposite it, and fun nightclubs like The Mocambo?

Was it a case of less is more whereas today, there is so much more, but with everything blending into blandness?

Walk into Wagyu Lounge on Wyndham Street and one then walks out when looking at the price for a regular burger. A bill of almost $1,500 for lunch? Just to be seen? By whom? Some expat housewives?

Wagyu at Wyndham

For that, I’d rather go to the Blue Butcher on Hollywood Road, which certainly has one of the most extensive menus in town with at least eight dishes I never get tired of, and, yes, people I find interesting and wish to be around.

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Location, location, location, yes, but people, people- the right people, is even more important. Window shop and see the “wrong crowd” in a restaurant and one keeps walking, whereas in an image-conscious city like Hong Kong, you’re judged by the company you keep.

one is judged by the company you keep

Today for lunch, a friend who works near it took me to The Butchers Club in Landsdale Street, Wanchai to see if all the rave reviews about its burgers are correct.

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They are, and not only that, but those behind this great little place that once housed an extremely good upmarket sandwich shop that, sadly, didn’t get its marketing right, has got everything right by not trying to be all things to everyone and being a tossed salad that no one wants.

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The Butchers Club focuses on making great burgers, it’s quickly built up a regular clientele, it’s attracting others, and it should be the blueprint for other restaurateurs and entrepreneurs into understanding that less is more.

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The Butcher Club is proof that Hong Kong is not suffering from too much of a good thing.

It’s suffering from too little of the right things, and too much of everything, which adds up to one big fat zero.

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