We speak with Adam Wong, co-owner of new lounge bar Hakuba, on seeking inspiration in the Japanese Alps, and bringing an après-ski ambience to Causeway Bay.
What inspired a mountain lodge-themed bar?
All the shareholders are my middle school friends and some of us are outdoor enthusiasts who are keen on snowboarding and hiking. [Japan’s] Hakuba Valley is a place we visit at least once a year. The lodge bars we usually go to after a long day of snowboarding or trekking were definitely our inspiration. We always miss our time chatting with bar owners and other alpinists in different lodge bars and we wanted to create the same friendly vibe in Hong Kong. The experiences [in Hakuba Valley]not only inspired us on the interior design but also the ambience and hospitality that we have tried to create in Lounge Hakuba.
What is it with Hong Kong’s love affair with all things Japanese?
I was a university exchange student in Japan for one year, and since then I’ve developed a deep affair with Japanese culture. While most of us in Hong Kong know about the proper hospitality and high-quality product offering of Japan, what I really wanted to introduce, through Lounge Hakuba, some of the spirits that are usually seen only in small businesses in suburban areas like Hakuba.
Japanese small business owners are usually so friendly that they can spend a night talking to you about their stories and passion over a drink because they love what they’re doing. I want customers who visit Lounge Hakuba to feel the same. We’re doing everything to ensure that our team is proud of the place we built together, and we want our customers to enjoy the interaction with our staff, who are willing to share their passion and stories.
What stands Hakuba apart from other venues with a terrace?
First of all, definitely the friendly vibe and passionate staff. We also love having a terrace that’s in the middle of the concrete jungle. Once you step onto the beautiful lawn area, you don’t really feel like you’re in Causeway Bay. It really helps you to “escape”, especially after a long day at work.
The high ceiling of our indoor seating area is also perfect for relaxing with a group of friends over a couple of tasty cocktails. Again, it’s the laid-back ambience that we tried to create for our guests so they can really just chill in a comfortable lounge.
How did you even up partnering with Wing Chan and what’s your shared vision for the venue?
We were middle school friends and have known each other for more than 10 years. We regularly do outdoor activities together, but we definitely spend more time drinking together after he devoted his career to the bartending industry. When I told him about the idea, that I want to create a place that we could share a good time with our friends, he immediately told me his idea about an inclusive platform for the local mixology community.
Wing is very well connected in the local bartending community and he always wanted to see his mentors and friends showcase the best they have in the same inclusive platform. We successfully experimented with this idea at Lounge Hakuba, where we invited all our good friends to co-create our cocktail list. By doing this, our customers can try the best of the best in town, and our friends are more than happy to run guest shifts for us as well. We will definitely continue this effort to refresh our cocktail list regularly in the future.
It’s pretty balmy (and stormy) in Hong Kong at the moment; does that impact the ambience you’re trying to create?
The lodge theme really helps us to minimize the impact of the weather. Although guests cannot fully enjoy our beautiful outdoor area, they can still feel relaxed in our indoor area, with its high ceiling and comfortable lighting. The cozy lodge setting actually reminds us of how we spent all those stormy nights (snowstorm) in warm cozy lodge bars in Hakuba.
Tell us about the drinks and snacks we have to order when we visit.
All drinks on our cocktail list are recommended as they were all curated by names that are well regarded in the industry, although I’d suggest a few, including Wing’s coffee-based Breakfast in the Alps, a rum cocktail highlighting the flavours of Teara Hojicha liqueur, buckwheat syrup, and chocolate bitters; and the End of Autumn, created by Nokoy Mak, with yellow chartreuse and pineapple.
We also offer the finger food that you can find in a Japanese Izakaya, such as Gyoza, Nankotsu (fried chicken soft bone), and Donburi rice bowls.
What else do you have planned for the space?
With our beautiful outdoor lawn area, we will soon plan some marketplace-like carnivals over the weekend, inviting not only bartenders but also local brands who share the same interests and lifestyle inspiration as ours. I want to re-create the vibe that I experienced at the famous Greenroom Festival, which takes place in Yokohama every year. Stay tuned!
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