Sharing a good bottle of wine at mealtimes is pretty common around dinner tables across Australia. But that isn’t the case everywhere.
“Chinese cultures don’t have wine as part of everyday life,” says Ambrose Chiang, former head sommelier at Sydney’s Momofuku Seiobo, of his adopted city of Hong Kong. “It’s more for special occasions.”
Having worked front of house at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel’s in-house restaurant Amber, long before his current role as head of communications for respected French wine importers L’Imperatrice, Chiang understands Hong Kong diners’ approach to wine well. “It’s still quite conservative in a way,” he says. “It’s still very old world, bordeaux and burgundy driven.”
But, he explains, the city’s wine culture is changing. “You have a huge expat community that drives quite a lot of forward-thinking wine buying,” says the Sydney Wine Academy alum. “Australian wines are awesome in Hong Kong right now, [including] all the favourite new-wave Australian producers.”
Living in Hong Kong and working in the wine industry, Chiang frequents wine bars of all shapes and sizes. Here are five of his favourites, from those with natural offerings to high-end cellars, and coffee and whisky bars that just happen to also nail a great drop of wine.
“It’s one of the most original places for good wine in Hong Kong,” Chiang says of Hong Kong’s first natural-wine bar, opened by a former airline pilot in 2010. “It’s still buzzing, and they’re really the pioneers of natural wine here. They want to bring what they’re using to consumers overseas.” Beyond its bountiful cellar and tapas-style bistro menu, La Cabane has branched out into wholesale and import.
62 Hollywood Road, Central
As the name implies, Oz Terroirs specialises in Australian wines – specifically, it offers cool-climate Victorian drops. “It’s not really a wine bar,” says Chiang, “but it’s a wine shop that features producers I love, like Cobaw Ridge and Latta.” Perched on a small staircase, the shop allows you to buy a bottle and drink it outside, which is legal in Hong Kong. “It was opened by this French guy [Emmanuel Briat],” Chiang adds. “He’s the most Australian French guy.”
2 Mee Lun Street, Central
Le Quinze Vins
This upmarket French importer and wine bar boasts sites in Wan Chai, Central, Singapore and Paris (where it originated). Obviously the owners are doing something right. “It’s got a massive wine list that you never get bored of,” says Chiang. “The price range is a bit higher, but there’s always good stuff to drink if you have the cash.”
9 Swatow Street, Wan Chai
Interval Coffee Bar
Interval may sell coffee by day, but in the evenings wine takes centre stage. “That’s a very Japanese concept,” says Chiang. “Interval is a place for natural wines. It’s very cute and clean and spacious, in the middle of the city.” Opened by twin brothers Joshua and Caleb Ng, former bankers who once owned a dumpling restaurant in Copenhagen, it’s one of Hong Kong’s newest destinations for cosy wine sampling.
33 Wellington Street, Central
A Tokyo-style whisky bar, Club Qing presents “an incredible collection of rare Japanese whiskies”, says Chiang. But, he explains, the in-house sommelier has “built this incredible cellar that only wine geeks really understand”. Chiang takes industry people there often and enjoys the space’s gentle music and warm lighting. “It’s a fun place to go,” he adds. “The som’ is very, very opinionated, in a good way. He has attitude and it’s great, because in Hong Kong it’s very rare to find people with opinions. Most people just go with the flow and conform.”
10/F Cosmos Building, 8–11 Lan Kwai Fong, Central
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