Friday, 16 December 2016

My favourite wine places in Hong Kong

Hong Kong real estates is one of the most expensive in the world and this naturally creates a vicious cycle that pushes up rent, salary and cost. To survive, restaurants and bars have to mark up significantly, often much more than double; and this makes consumers think twice before opening a decent bottle of wine.

Luckily, there are a few places in this expensive city that wine lovers can enjoy a bottle of two of wine at very reasonable prices in relaxed atmosphere. If needed, friendly sommeliers are on hand to make recommendation. What I like about these places are the non-intimidating environment and the availability of non mainstream wines. In fact, when I’m there, I often just ask them to recommend interesting wine that suits  the budget.

Le Bistro Winebeast is a retail shop cum restaurant. The focus is France and Spain but charming sommelier Cristina is slowly expanding the wine list and I’m glad to say that the first country she is working on is South Africa! The big selling point of Winebeast is that guests can buy the wine at retail price and take away, or even better, drink at the restaurant with delicious menu prepared by Chef Johan that changes regularly. In case you don’t want a full meal, just browse the shelves and pick the bottle you fancy, then enjoy it at the high tables with a few plates of tapas. I was there a few times for Sunday afternoon drink and dinners with friends, all occasions have been lovely. Cristina also hosts winemakers events so make sure you are on her mailing list if you want to talk to winemakers up close in a cosy surrounding.

Winebeast address: G/F & 1/F Tai Yip Building, 141 Thomson Road, Wanchai

Beta Wine Studio, a wine lounge, is the new kid in town. It is basically a retail shop but if you are a member, you can drink the wine while relaxing on the sofa. Although not a restaurant, cheese and ham are readily available. Laid back sommelier Ali said the studio serves semi-niche wine that excites the palate, and he is proud that he has the biggest selection of premium South African wine (24 in total) and Lebanese wine. Forget about the wine list, ask Ali to recommend based on your preference and spending. He changes the list every few days and is happy to share his cellar in case you prefer older vintages. Located in SOHO, most customers have a bottle of wine at the lounge before getting another bottle for dinner. By the way, the studio is the first in Asia (and third in the world) where you can order wine from Deliveroo.

Beta Wine Studio is located at Basement, 46 Elgin Street. SOHO, Central

Le Quinze Vins (LQV) is a wine bar that only serves French wine where the wine comes directly from its mother shop in Paris. The wine list is a good 30 minutes read for anyone who wants to know about wines from all French appellations. It has a big selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines but for me, th
e most interesting are the wines from the less well-known regions such as Jura and Loire. I read the wine list every time but always at the end ask recommendation from the friendly staff under the leadership of knowledgeable Chyson. I have to say this is the most relaxing French wine bar in the city. Cheese and ham platters are served but customers can also takeaway any wine for an extra $100 per bottle to enjoy with their dinners elsewhere.

Le Quinze Vins has two outlets:
G/F., 9 Swatow Street, Wanchai
G/F, 32 Gage Street, Central

These are the few of my favourite wine places. Although with different operations and wine selection, they have the same philosophy which is to share their passions of wine with customers in a comfortable environment without intimidating them and at a reasonably price (a very good bottle can be as little as $200). I just hope we can have more Cristina, Ali and Chyson around.

Left to right: Cristina, Winebeast; Ali, Beta Wine Studio; Chyson, Le Quinze Vins

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