The best nightlife in Hong Kong's Old Town Central

Hong Kong’s Central district lies at the very heart of the city, encompassing soaring towers and historic edifices. It’s also home to some of the city’s very best nightlife, from the all-night partying of Lan Kwai Fong to some cutting-edge cocktail establishments. But which is your perfect venue? Here’s everything you need to know about Old Town Central’s nightlife scene.

For the bright young thing

Cé La Vi, Hong Kong

Cé La Vi’s rooftop terrace

The central nightlife drag of Lan Kwai Fong can offer a messy night out or an altogether classier evening, depending on which establishment catches your eye. One of the most high-class – and physically highest – is Cé La Vi, sitting right at the top of the California Tower building. This bar and club’s main selling point is its stunning open-air rooftop terrace, which allows you to soak in the glow of the surrounding buildings and peer down to people-watch the misguided revellers of Lan Kwai Fong far below.
25/F, California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, +852 3700 2300,

For the lefty intellectual

Club 71 is a Hong Kong institution. Hidden down the quiet Man Hing Lane alley just off the antiques strip of Hollywood Road, the city’s foremost countercultural bar has long been the watering hole of choice for the city’s left-leaning journalists, activists and authors. The bar was once named Club 64, an ironic allusion to the 4 June Tiananmen Square crackdown. When it moved locations it changed to 71, similarly ironically named after Hong Kong’s national day. Order a drink and take it to the large public park just outside, which is co-opted in the evenings into 71’s beer garden. Next door, T:ME bar (B/F, 65 Hollywood Road, Central) is one of the most welcoming gay bars in the city.
B/F, 67 Hollywood Road, Central, +852 2858 7071, no website

For the sake fiend

Bar Sake Central doesn’t seem like it’s in the right place for one of the city’s most intimate, atmospheric watering holes. Why? It’s hidden behind a dark curtain in a large, well-lit retail space in the PMQ arts development. But nesting in among all the shelf space stacked high with sake bottles and paraphernalia is a dimly lit 16-seat venue with a continually rotating list of Japanese sakes from across the country, served in gorgeous, paper-thin glassware. There’s also a seasonal menu of otsumami – Japanese “drinking snacks” – that won’t be tied down to a single cuisine, with pork belly agnolotti pasta on offer alongside Cantonese-style squid rice, or tempura made with market-fresh vegetables. Make sure to order a glass of the unpasteurised draft sake, which tastes as if it’s come straight from the brewery – grassy, fruity and overwhelmingly fresh.
S109-113, Block A, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central,

For the mescal master

If you’re after a tequila slammer, you’re in the wrong joint. Mezcal is tequila’s smokier, less refined cousin, run through with a distinctly vegetal flavour. Owner and mezcal fanatic Jay Khan makes regular trips to Mexico’s Oaxaca region to source the 90-strong mezcal menu at Coa – including a few that have never before made it beyond Mexico. There are drinks from every kind of agave plant, each with a unique tasting profile. Khan even has a few bottles of Mezcal de Pechuga, in which the liquor is redistilled under fruits, spices, and – yes – a raw chicken breast. The result is a distinctly savoury tang. If you’re in search of something a little lighter in the Hong Kong heat, the house-fermented pineapple and cinnamon tepache hits the spot. So too does the Oaxacan Paloma, a mix of mezcal, tequila and grapefruit soda, served in a glass lined with pink worm salt – which is pretty much what you think it is.
6-10 Shin Hing Street, Central, (+852) 2813-5787,

For the cocktail connoisseur

The Old Man's Farewell to Arms cocktail

Butter-washed gin, salted Pernod and nori seaweed: …Farewell To Arms is an intriguing take on a dirty martini.

The Old Man is inspired by Ernest Hemingway, and an arty portrait of the author looks down upon all who step through the doors of this tiny, extraordinary, cocktail bar. Owned by three of the city’s best mixologists, the drinks here are just as Hemingway himself would have wanted them: strong, superb, and affordable. Well, affordable for Hong Kong, at any rate: all drinks cost $90 (£8.70), which is a rare surprise in a town where cocktails often cost twice as much. Tipples are classic with a twist: Death In The Afternoon is made with absinthe, sparkling wine and a coconut pandan froth, while Farewell To Arms is an intriguing take on a dirty martini, made with butter fat-washed gin, dry vermouth, salted Pernod and nori seaweed dust.
LG/F, 37-39 Aberdeen Street, Central, +852 2703 1899,

For the sensitive soul

Built into the top two floors of a historic pre-WWII tenement building, Sense 99 is a cool classic of Central. Its lower floor boasts unpretentious drinks, high ceilings and quirky Hong Kong-inspired décor: keep an eye out for the beautiful original floor tiling. Upstairs, there’s a much more intimate vibe, as musicians and gifted (and not-so-gifted) amateurs come to jam on the instruments littered around the room. There’s almost always a few people noodling away, and anyone at all is welcome to join in. If you’ve played your heart out – or if the music is getting a little too “experimental” – then the open-air balcony is a cool, calm place to chat into the early hours.
2-3/F, 99F Wellington Street, Central, +852 9466 4695, on Facebook


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