It was Shane “Billy Idol” Dye who, around twelve years ago, started the trend of having many of those attending Hong Kong International Race Week meeting up at Al’s Diner in Lan Kwai Fong.
Being a confirmed teetotaller, “Dysey” was content to stare into his Coca-Cola, think about former glories and how that last hand should have been played. But what of any interest this burger joint with heart attack fried foods and cheap wines held for others remain a mystery.
Today, Lan Kwai Fong still overflows with people, but it’s a motley cattle crew of underage kids who use the nearby 7-11 to get a cheap high, Filipina ladies controlled by their pimps watching and texting from the sidelines, and the usual rabble of legless “gweilos” having their idea of a “good time”.
So, where does one go? Take in all those clone-like clubs down Wyndham Street and be prepared to be openly accosted by armies of coke dealers from Nigeria. Brush them by and head for clubs like Rayne and which are bearable for an hour before reality bites and it all becomes a Humpty Dumpty waste of time.
Of course, almost everyone wants to take in dragon-i, but If over fifty, being there is like Kunta Kinte attending a Ku Klux Klan rally and thinking he’d be welcomed as a bro.
No, dragon-i is for the trendies, and if on the prowl, well, unless looking like David Beckham’s ugly brother, forget it. Owner Gilbert Yeung will deploy his contingent of long-legged and pencil-thin models to make small talk, pump every old and not-so-old fool for free drinks- always the most expensive champagne- give false hope, and when the tab has reached a new high on the Richter Scale, they’re off at 3am to be with their boyfriends.
At least at the private club Goodfellas- it’s on the fourth floor of the building that houses Woolamaloo on D’Aguilar Street- you know what you’re paying for and know what you’ll get- a crappy lap dance and small talk from Moldovian girls and a few from Brissy who sip fake martinis and then knock off at 2am. Talk’s not cheap either. It will cost you over HK$5000- which doesn’t include the private one minute lap dance.
Away from the pickup trolls and trawling in Amazonia, Neptune, of course, Escape, and all the other decadence of walking on the wild side of Wanchai- careful of all the coloured girls who go, “shoop de shoop de shoop” as they’re usually manly girlie men- try- really- and take in the following:
35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong
The jury’s still out on this relatively new area just off Central that houses retail shops selling luxury and not so luxurious items plus bars and restaurants. The restaurants we’ve been to have failed to impress whether they’re serving “organic” cuisine or not as most still don’t have liquor licenses. There is only so much Coke one can drink before flatulence sets it.
Having said this- and after allowing the north winds to blow- there are some very pleasant al fresco dining areas that are relaxing and a million miles away from the hustle and bustle and shoving and pushing of Hong Kong in the throes of getting back to normality after Occupy Central and its Umbrella Movement.
Speaking of which, whatever one might think of Occupy Central, it’s worth visiting its “headquarters” at Admiralty just to check out some of the creative work that remains as part of a student movement, which might have had their politics naively off-kilter, but has helped to showcase the work of some extremely talented young local artists.
G/F, 26 Peel Street Central, Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s first Peruvian restaurant- there’s now a second- and, depending on who you speak to, a dinner can be amazing or a big let down. We’ve had similar contrasting evenings. As with Spanish cuisine, start with the Peruvian version of tapas before ordering any main courses. Chicha’s have a varied list of starters, and though to each their own, what we have enjoyed are the Crabmeat and Beef Tacos- messy to eat and to be avoided if trying to chat up your date- and the Hot Scallop Cevice.
The service is good, the prices are reasonable, and after dinner, one can cross the road and check out the ‘live’ music at Peel Fresco. But avoid the joint on Tuesdays. It’s Open Mic Night and most who decide to get up onstage and outstay their welcome are absolute howlers.
THE BLUE BAR AT THE FOUR SEASONS
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Remember the time when the Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt was THE place to meet up during HKIR Week? Well, despite this old stomping ground for many “back in the day” having been recently refurbished, people make a city and people make any venue,and all the interesting people at the Blue Bar.
The service is superb, the drinks might be expensive, but, hey, this isn’t Amazonia, and it’s always fun to sit back and listen in on my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours business conversations, watch ladies from the old Champagne Bar days trying hard to recapture their youth while they circle the bar, and you watch this free floor show tucking into the best mini-burgers and Peking Duck in town. There’s also a very good lunch buffet whereas from 6pm to 8pm there’s a free snack buffet that’s perfect before heading out.
THE CENTRAL ESCALATOR
100 Queen’s Road Central – Conduit Road
Just step on it, and keep going until something catches your eye along the way- a bar, a restaurant, or, if lucky enough, some attractive damsel beckoning madly for you to come join her for a drink. This usually happens at the Peak Cafe Restaurant- the best bird watching venue in the city, where one can see a non-stop show of fighting fit beauties on their way to the fitness centre down the hill- and then trudging back after their workout. Excellent Group 1 viewing with no need for binoculars.
13 Elgin St., Central, Hong Kong
Many visiting horsebowners, many visiting and Hong Kong-based jockeys and trainers are regulars here- an “Indian” restaurant that’s about as “Indian” as fortune cookies are to Chinese cuisine.
Having said this, simple Indian snacks like samosas and papadums are the best we’ve tasted anywhere with our favourites being the Lamb Kebabs, any of the spinach and okra dishes, the Indian Fried Rice, the Tandoori Prawns and the Manchurian Chilli Chicken.
Our best suggestion? Ask for Mr Karki, pictured below wearing Douglas Whyte’s goggles, the owner of the restaurant, and have him make some recommendations. Go with these and you won’t go wrong.
HO LEE FOOK
G/F, 1-5 Elgin Street, Central
The new kid on the Lower Elgin block with its USP being Jowett Yu, former chef with Mr Wong’s in Sydney.
The menu is not expansive, but the selected dishes which change every week fall into that “Chinese fusion” category and are excellent. Some favourites like Spring Rolls, Spicy Steamed Dumplings, and Roasted Chinese Chicken are regular items and must be tried.
If he’s not too busy, let Chef Jowett know how you might wish your garoupa or pork or chicken dish cooked, and let him work his magic. The interior design is a trip, we’ve never had problems with the service- ask for the very friendly Spanish señorita- and the upwardly mobile thirtysomething clientele includes some of the best looking people in town.
The one slight problem other than usually having to wait for a table- unless our guests- is that being located in a basement, there is no reception for any iPhones. Maybe that’s a good thing.
GIVING HONG KONG RACING A MUSICAL FACE
For years- too many years- whenever there was one of those obligatory and mind-numbingly tedious presentation ceremonies at the Shatin Racecourse, the Hong Kong Police Band would strike up the brass and launch into a, well, brassy instrumental version of Sir Cliff’s ghastly song for The Eurovision Yawn Contest called Congratulations. Birds flying overhead would immediately drop dead. Poor things.
Music in horse racing has always been a hit or miss affair with, perhaps, only Daryl Braithwaite’s “Horses” having the most longevity- in Australia.
That ONE global horse racing anthem, however, has yet to be written. Perhaps it never will as racing fans liking one piece of music is as difficult as agreeing on who’s the “best” jockey in the world. That’s easy: Ryan Moore and Hughie Bowman.
There’s a power to music that is undeniable. Going through how we’ve worked songs- largely originals- into horse racing, we hope we’ve made and are making a difference. It’s been a long, strange trip and it hasn’t ended yet.
Writing a Musical one day for the Hong Kong Jockey Club? Why not? Perhaps a feel good story using those Happy Wednesday nights and the unique Happy Valley Racecourse as the setting.
Possibly the only love song written for a horse- not any horse, but Hong Kong’s greatest sprinter- Silent Witness, who inspired this city during the dark days of the SARS crisis. The song was recorded as a demo with a guide vocal. One of the Marketing girl’s at EMI Music thought it was the new single by one of the company’s best selling acts, and it was this mistake which resulted in this release that managed to sell a very impressive 7,200 DVDs.
A tribute to our good friend Caspar Fownes when he trained five winners at Happy Valley some years back with Brett Prebble riding his own quintet of winners. Why it was edited to “Human” by Killers just happened. And it worked.
A song written and performed by local band and Warner Music act Dear Jane for the HKJC. Not our cuppa yum cha, but the lead singer in the band was hugely popular at the time.
Another song written and recorded for the HKJC by local actor and singer Aarif Lee. Ho hum.
The first song recorded about the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday nights. In hindsight, it was probably a love song for one of the girl’s in the video more than anything else. Cool ending featuring Dougie Whyte.
Really well-produced video when the entire world was as Happy as Pharrell Williams in that stupid Smokey The Bandit hat. Filmed during a Happy Wednesday night with one very cute girl in the flash mob! Oh, yeah!
Written and recorded as a tribute to racing’s Magic Man- Joao Moreira- and featuring Hong Kong’s only group of Brazilian musicians. Many times, we have wondered what they’re on about, but, hey, in music today, since when did lyrics matter?
Written with tongue firmly planted in cheek and recorded very quickly so we could get away from the moody Engineer to what was an unpleasant recording session in the boonies of Hong Kong. Giddyup!
The best song we’ve written and recorded. A very special song for us with many different meanings and two different Cantonese versions set for release in 2015. There’s also the chance of a completely new version of “Home” being recorded for the American market.