Bar review: The Wise King, Hong Kong (Asia's 50 Best)
The second menu from this new speakeasy in Soho (Asia's 50 Best)
Hong Kong doesn’t lack for watering holes but there’s always room for one more, right? Especially one that’s a labour of love from two industry veterans. Our city has one of the most competitive F&B scenes in the world, and it takes brave, passionate souls to try and launch something here.
The Wise King is the brainchild of Joe Villanueva (formerly of Lobster Bar, one of Asia’s 50 Best Bars) and Sandeep Kumar (formerly of 1 Michelin-starred ON Dining and China Tang). It’s in a little alley called Tsung Wing Lane; you know you’re in the right place when you see this regal mural of three wise kings. Inside, the space is cozy but dramatic with oxblood, dark wood, red velvet, and gold elements.
On the night we went, our group enjoyed chatting with Sandeep and picking his brain on the concept behind the bar. He went to the bar’s bookshelf and brought out a copy of The Wise King by Simon R. Doubleday that details the reign of 13th century King Alfonso X of Castile. King Alfonso was known for his intellectual prowess but also his decree that alcohol must be served with snacks and thus grew the tapas movement.
This idea of pairing food with drinks translates into The Wise King’s second menu for their second year in operation. Each drink comes with a food element, from the chunk of iberico with the cantaloupe syrup-accented #JamonOldFashioned ($118) to the dollop of chia seed gel in the Spanish coconut brandy and ricotta cheese-based #SuperColada ($108).
The #JamonOldFashioned, like most Old Fashioneds, was a bit strong for me though I really enjoyed the hearty #SuperColada. At first I found the amount of chia a bit strange but it allowed me to chew / savour my cocktail and gave me endless energy for the rest of the night.
My favourite cocktail of the night though was the #BrinedRicky ($118) a gin-based cocktail with basil, citrus, and strawberry accents topped with a sherry balsamic vinaigrette. I have a light tolerance for alcohol and yet found this very drinkable, as did almost everyone else in my group. It’s sweet but very refreshing.
The Wise King has great drinks, great service, and likely great food once their new bar menu comes out. Even with the dramatic interiors, I think The Wise King gives off a more casual than high-gloss vibe. The cocktails are well-made and delicious yet approachable. Try it out for a casual date or a small group catch-up.
25 Staunton Street, Basement, Soho, Tsung Wing Ln, Central
**Post edited to reflect The Wise King's entry into the Asia's 50 Best Bars list (debuted at #18 in 2019!)