Above, Ping Pong 129. Below, Fu Lu Shou
Chinatown-style ‘Chinoiserie’ is chic again thanks to two new nightlife destinations in Hong Kong, Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou. The first venue, a Spanish-based gin bar, actually opened softly this past March… the same week of my birthday, and is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, co-owner and bar manager, Juan Martinez Gregorio, originally from Spain.
Juan has been living in Hong Kong almost as long as me, and worked in corporate marketing for fashion brands like Puma, before letting it all go to follow his dreams, which is to eventually start an intimate F&B venture, hence Ping Pong 129 in Sai Ying Pun, his latest passion project. Meanwhile, Sydney transfer, Ping Lam and her husband, moved to Hong Kong less than two years ago, and immediately opened up dream lifestyle businesses with the hugely successful The Nail Library on Po Hing Fong, and now with Hollywood Road’s Fu Lu Shou, a new rooftop lounge and restaurant serving up American and English Style Chinese Food just the way a few of us who grew up with it… love it.
+ “History, Gin, and A Bit of Art”
At Ping Pong 129, Juan serves up smooth and refreshing gin-based cocktails, 40 of them, each with their own particular brand of gin from around the world, plus 10-12 more gins from distilleries in Spain. Each Gin and Tonic is garnished with a variety of herbs, like rosemary, basil, and thyme, or lemon and orange peels, and served with their own particular kind of tonic water to really bring out the best in the Gin’s unique flavour. There’s the Indi tonic from Seville and a Wilkinson tonic from Japan.
However, the most appealing thing about Ping Pong 129, is that it is housed in a beautiful double-height basement, unassuming within its own neighborhood. One can drink a refreshing gin cocktail while sitting in a tastefully, spacious bar that once served as a local Ping Pong gym. The whole effect is laid-back, relaxing, and very pleasant.
Juan’s silent partner, an interior designer and art collector, displays his own collection of local Hong Kong art elegantly throughout the space’s “as-found” walls in a very planned and methodical way. The art’s positioning in the bar’s interiors is pretty cheeky. Iconic works by Hong Kong darling, Nadim Abbas, a series of Chinese Windows with black mirror, are placed above a heavily tiled wall on the same level as actual Chinese windows within the found site.
Other artists’ works, like Tsang Tsou Choi’s (King of Kowloon) graffiti based prints blend seamlessly with the rough finish of the existing wall.
The furniture is retro, with some of the sofas and loveseats clad in a patterned print, reminiscent of the decades depicted in Wong Kar Wai’s film, In The Mood For Love. Even the simple red door on 2nd Street, is the original door to the Ping Pong Gym. Juan and company just added a bit of red neon this door to highlight that the bar is opened for business. Ping Pong 129 is a great example of a business moving into an untapped neighborhood’s old building, and offering something new to lifestyle, while simultaneously paying tribute to a site’s existing space.
DRINK Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria . 129 Second St., Nam Cheong Hse, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong . T: +852-91581584
+ “It Tastes Exactly Like Chinatown, But Better”
Ping Lam’s Bali-esque outdoor lounge space at Fu Lu Shou is clad with a giant size graffiti print of the characters; Fu, Lu, & Shou, a Ming Dynasty concept of deities representing, “Happiness”, “Prosperity” and “Longevity”. Ping, who identifies completely as an Australian with Hong Kong-based roots, went for a niche market in the city, by offering Western style “Chinatown” favorites for those of us who’ve grown up fed by Chinese Food in the West. Of course Western based Chinese food is completely a unique concoction, loosely rooted in the East, but is completely different than what’s on offer in Hong Kong.
Ping is quite brave for serving dishes like, a “Big Arse Dim Sum” (a giant “siu mai”), English Style Prawn Crackers, a Sweet and Sour Pork (which hit the right spot), Kung Pao Chicken (the best non-sichuan version of this dish i’ve tasted), Beef in Black Bean Sauce, and other delicious surprises like the Fried Banana. My date and I knocked down about 4 servings of Old Fashioned each. (A little secret about Ping and her husband, they’re both crazy about Scotch Whiskey, so while scotch drinking is not overtly “Chinatown”, i’m glad their love for Whiskey is not wasted here.)
Things I want to point out is Ping’s taste in decor and interior design. Fu Lu Shou, definitely gets a lot of its design details correctly, the G.O.D. Mahjong Pillows on the lounge areas for instance, the hanging bird cage chairs, the modern rattan furnitures, capped off with candles on a heritage low-armoire… even the bar’s tabletop is lined with mahjong pieces. I especially like the metallic screen stenciled on the main-dining feature wall inside the restaurant with the words, “Eat, Drink, and Be Prosperous”. The rice bowls are authentic “chinatown” style, imported from Paris’ own Chinatowns (hard to find in Hong Kong now), and chopsticks are available grouped together on a tin container in the middle.
The food is a better version of the American Chinese Food you grew up with, because there’s no fake powder-just-add-water stuff here, and no MSG. All ingredients are fresh and sauces made from scratch. The mixologist behind the bar comes to Fu Lu Shou from the Upper House which explains the smooth blends of his drinks. Give it all a try. It’s like being “back home”, but even better because you’re not eating in a mall and you feel very good about it from the beginning right to the very satisfying end!
EAT Fu Lu Shou . 7F, 31 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 23368812