Cover The team behind Apothecary (Photo: Handout)

After a year-long hiatus, our annual readers' choice bar awards are back, with 12 nominees vying to take home the prize at our awards ceremony in 2022

To say that it's been a tough time for the bar industry the past two years is an understatement about the size of a global pandemic. Entirely suspended over the course of 2020, when the vast majority of bars were ordered to shut down completely for months on end, our annual Readers' Choice award makes a return in 2021 to celebrate the drinking establishments that have persevered against the odds to open during the qualifying period of January 2020 to June 2021.

Each venue was nominated by our Tatler Dining panelists, but the ultimate accolade will be decided by readers. The winner will be announced at our live event in early 2022 along with a host of other awards. Read more about the nominees below (listed in alphabetical order) and stay tuned for more announcements about the Tatler Dining awards night in the coming weeks.

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You can also read all about each nominee below before casting your vote. Voting closes at 23:59 on July 18!

 

1 / 12

Apothecary

New to Soho is Apothecary, a speakeasy-like bar inspired by the medicinal origins of alcoholic concoctions of yore. Focusing on the transformative power of botanicals, the cocktail menu was conceived of by mixologists Lik Hang Fung, Joe Wong and Austen Lendrum, and highlights the use of herbs and spices in drinks like the umami-rich Wolf Peach Highball (gin, shiso-infused umeshu, apple, fino sherry, tomato soda, salted plum powder) and the funky Live and Prosper (akvavit, tepache, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca, Campari, ginger foam). Styled like a Victorian-era medicine shop, the bar interior is intimate and transportive, while also remaining ironically relevant to the times we currently find ourselves in.

Apothecary, Shop 3A, Carfield Commercial Building, 75-77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong

2 / 12

The Aubrey

Dubbed an "eccentric izakaya", The Aubrey is a paean to Japonisme, a cultural movement that swept Europe in the latter half of the 19th century. Featuring no less than three bars within its premises—the main bar, an oyster and sparkling sake bar, and a cocktail omakase counter—The Aubrey's cocktail programme is run by mixologist Devender Sehgal, whose approach taps into the ephemerality of the seasons that drives the Japanese gastronomic zeitgeist. With its considered bar menu that sheds light on little-known Japanese spirits, its elaborate interiors, and elevated izakaya cuisine by veteran chef Yukihito Tomiyama, The Aubrey is without doubt one of the most notable new openings of late.

The Aubrey, 25/F, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central, Hong Kong

3 / 12

Barcode

Don't be fooled by the name of this Central cafe and bar opened by Gagan Gurung of Tell Camellia and former The Old Man bar manager Natalie Lau—far from a technologically-inclined hideaway, Barcode is a portmanteau of its three main offerings: bar, coffee, and desserts. During the day, sit back amidst the whitewashed interior (punctuated by ultramarine accents that so happen to mirror the facade of the historic St. Paul's Church opposite), and sample the specialty dirty coffee, pulled pork sandwich, and molten tiramisu. At night, the cafe shuts down while an invitation-only back bar opens up, where regulars and the cocktail curious congregate for imaginative drinks that demonstrate Gurung and Lau's mixological prowess.

Barcode, G/F, Glenealy Tower, 1 Glenealy, Central, Hong Kong

4 / 12

Cut Sando Bar

Sandos, natural wines and rhythm. A simple formula but a winning one, if the reception surrounding Interval co-founders Josh and Caleb Ng's latest venture is anything to go by. Here, eclectic sando options like beef brisket, egg bacon, and mapo tofu are washed down with boutique IPA beers and wines from small-scale producers, while local DJs like Arthur Bray and Mr. Ho provide the beats late into the night. 

Cut Sando Bar, 8-10 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong

5 / 12

The Daily Tot

Led by industry pros Tiana Ludhani (founder and Barbados native) and Gerry Olino (previously of Dr Fern’s and Foxglove), The Daily Tot has done for rum what Jay Khan’s COA did for tequila and mezcal. The current bar programme features 11 rum cocktails designed to showcase the sheer spectrum of rums, with tropical flavours holding court. The pride and joy of the venue is the rum bible, naturally, as Ludhani would love for drinkers to enjoy the spirit in its purest form, just like a proper sailor. The collection also includes rhum agricoles (i.e. made from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses) from Martinique and Don Papa rum from The Philippines; the list is conveniently divided by regions (from Barbados to Venezuela). In true Havana fashion, cigars can also be enjoyed on the terrace.

The Daily Tot, Shop E, Felicity Building, 58 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong

6 / 12

Dead &

Opened by The Old Man's Agung Prabowo and Roman Ghale just a week after sister bar Penicillin, Dead & (pronounced “dead end”) is located at the end of Central’s Wo On Lane—the part closest to the open amphitheatre that’s popular for impromptu al fresco drinks. Loosely inspired by a dive bar, the venue is a contrast to Penicillin, and far more relaxed—not to mention about three times smaller. With a simple formula of straightforward spiked slushies, loud beats and delicious burgers, Dead & is a cocktail-forward take on the unapologetic party atmosphere of pre-pandemic Lan Kwai Fong.

Dead &, G/F, 18 Wo On Lane, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong

7 / 12

Dio

A self-proclaimed hangout for "booze nerds", Dio is a novel coffee shop concept that transforms into a cocktail bar at night. Its black-and-white interiors and steel elements combine to fill the petite space with a cosy-chic vibe, offering a stylish setting for guests to relax in the afternoon over a brew or recline with a cocktail in the evening. All their artisanal coffees are brewed with freshly roasted beans from reputed local coffee bean distributor Cotton Mutton. Their menu, though simple, are all hits and no misses, offering delicious cups of classic coffees such as latte, cappuccino, flat white, dirty coffee, espresso tonic, and many more. From 2pm onwards, it’s all about great drinks and conversations with friends at Dio, where a unique selection of coffee-infused cocktails are served, alongside boutique wines and spirits from producers like Meinklang and Ex Plum Wine.

Dio, G/F, New Central Mansion, 8 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong

8 / 12

Finding Daisy

Leaning fully into the theatrics of cocktail-making, this theatre-themed bar elevates classic cocktails within a moody, speakeasy-like interior on Elgin Street. Head here for modern iterations on the greats: Daisy’s Gambit pays homage to the Gibson, made popular by The Queen's Gambit, while the Six Mules is a riff on the French 75 that uses exactly six ingredients.

Finding Daisy, 16A, Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong

9 / 12

Kyle & Bain

Flanked by luxury fashion boutiques on Ice House Street, Margo, a modern European brasserie, hides within it Kyle & Bain, an upscale martini bar run by John Nugent of The Diplomat. In a nod to the history of the street—as well as to one of the most important ingredients to making an ice-cold martini—the bar takes its name from two Scottish engineers, William Kyle and John Bain, who brought ice-making technology to Hong Kong in the 1870s, bypassing the circuitous, months-long process of shipping lake ice from New England by establishing Hong Kong's first ice house on the very location the bar stands today. With Nugent behind the bar, guests can expect Gibsons galore, alongside other tipples inspired by that bygone era such as the house gimlet—an unconventional blend of genever, Japanese gin, mastiha, salad cordial, anise, and truffled lime.

Margo, Shop 6, 9 Queens Road Central, Central, Hong Kong

10 / 12

The Last Resort

Taking inspiration from college bars, small-town watering holes, and the back alley pubs of Black Sheep co-founder and Toronto native Christopher Mark's formative years, The Last Resort's black-tiled exterior and its "cold beer, hot chicken" neon sign make no pretensions as to its no-nonsense offerings. The concise drinks list is led by simple but effective "cocktails" like bourbon cokes, rum sours, Margaritas and Long Island Iced Teas which, despite their low prices, are surprisingly delectable. Manning the bar are JJ Quintero, formerly manager of Fukuro and Singapore's 28 Hong Kong Street, former Belon bar manager Ashim Gurung, and Tracy Villegas, formerly bar manager at The Pontiac.

The food strikes a similar, crowd-pleasing vein, thanks to an emphasis on local three-yellow chicken both fried on its own with 12 different spices, or sandwiched with Monterey Jack cheese, kosher pickles, jalapeños and Flagrant Harbour hot sauce. Styled as a safe harbour for world-weary souls, The Last Resort, according to Christopher Mark, "is meant to be a haven after long days or nights, in some cases long weeks and months, where those in the neighbourhood, those working in the industry can find a little respite."

The Last Resort, 52B Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong

11 / 12

Penicillin

Sustainability-focused bar Penicillin was launched in October 2020 as a joint project between The Old Man co-founders Agung Prabowo and Roman Ghale and their partners, Laura Prabowo and Katy Ghale, as well as Betty Ng of award-winning architectural design firm, Collective. The bar is the first in Hong Kong to champion a closed-loop system of production—in layman terms, the team will work towards minimal waste, with offcuts and scraps normally thrown away in the cocktail making process going back into the cycle to be reused and upcycled. 

To that end, the bar will also feature The Penicillin Lab, a focal point that will showcase all the processes behind the team’s experimental cocktail creations; the space also features a Fermentation Chamber where visitors can witness the transformation of ingredients in their various stages. These efforts have won the young bar the accolade of Asia's Most Sustainable Bar, as well as placing 30th on Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021.

Penicillin, L/G, Amber Lodge, 23 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong

12 / 12

Roji

Taking over the alleyway space that previously housed Brickhouse, Roji is a newly opened contemporary izakaya that interprets Japan's culture of late night drinking and tapas with a French influence. Headed by mixologist Lok Gurung, the bar menu pays homage to that most Japanese of two-ingredient cocktails, the highball. The signature cocktails are also notable—we recommend the Kinome (kinome-infused vodka, Fernet Hunter, coconut, citrus) and Nori (seaweed Campari, Green Chartreuse, strawberry, maraschino, jalapeño) for their herbal complexity.

The cuisine at Roji is approachable and moreish while retaining an edge of sophistication, as demonstrated in dishes like the king crab legs, blanched and peppered with a parsley and shiso blend; and the three tomatoes salad, which seasons fresh Japanese tomatoes with kombu dashi and shiso for a refreshing starter. Serving both well-considered food and drinks with in a convivial atmosphere, we can see Roji easily reviving this alley once again.

Roji, G/F, 20A D'Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong