Amidst Bar Closures, Black Sheep's The Last Resort Heralds The Return Of The Neighbourhood Watering Hole
Over a year into the pandemic, we've often found ourselves collectively turning to creature comforts and nostalgia as a balm against the harsh reality of social distancing, gathering bans, and the heavy social and economic toll of it all. And within the world of F&B, perhaps no sector has been more hard-hit than the bar industry, with a sobering recent survey by the Hong Kong Bar & Club Association revealing that another 70 bars are expected to shut for good in the wake of the Lunar New Year holiday, joining the 140 that had already done so in 2020.
Needless to say that, in the face of the most devastating times Hong Kong's bar industry has ever seen, those in the drinks business are undergoing a soul-searching on how to keep calm and carry on. An early consensus is emerging on the importance of the bar first and foremost as a place for people to come together and create lasting bonds, with drinks and food coming in second—to this end, the past few months have seen a number of modern dive bar openings, such as Dead& from the minds behind The Old Man, Honky Tonks Tavern by The Shady Acres, and Korean sool-jip (alcohol house) OBP.
Now, Black Sheep Restaurants is throwing its weight behind this hypothesis with the opening of aptly-named The Last Resort. Taking inspiration from college bars, small-town watering holes, and the back alley pubs of Black Sheep co-founder and Torontonian Christopher Mark's formative years, the Peel Street establishment'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 a throwback to worst (best?) memories of your university years, with popular drafts and canned beers rubbing shoulders with a house red and white, as well as cocktails that need no introduction: think bourbon cokes, rum sours, Margaritas and Long Island Iced Teas. The prices range between HK$40 to HK$50, suggesting that they are better thrown back than savoured. 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 by chef Jowett Yu of Ho Lee Fook 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—though "cheap" may be relative, with the option to add 30 grams of French sturgeon caviar to the former item, ostensibly for the 'Gram.
Now open to malcontented bankers and off-shift bar-backs alike, Mark's hope is that The Last Resort will become a refuge of sorts for those looking for a brief escape from the world. "The bar 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 is currently operating according to government restrictions from Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm to 10pm.
The Last Resort, 52B Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong