We take a closer look at new Hong Kong eatery OBP, which introduces the laid-back charm of Korea’s Sool-jip venues to Old Bailey Street.
The biggest challenge with OBP, a new Korean gastropub concept in Central Hong Kong, is finding it, but that’s part of the venue’s charm (they don’t even have a phone and enquiries are taken on its Instagram page). Like other concepts by Westside Hospitality, including 11 Westside in Kennedy Town, OBP is a little tricky to discover, and when I arrive on Old Bailey Street one weekday afternoon, I’m not the only once wandering around, smartphone in hand, trying to find the door.
Eventually I do – it’s a dusty, nondescript shop front partially concealed by a metal sliding security panel (for OGs, a million years ago it used to be Wagyu Lounge). And this isn’t even the “real door” – that one will led into the restaurant from a narrow alley that branches off Old Bailey, and will only be used once dining restrictions end and OBP can transform into what it’s supposed to be, a laid back, late night gastropub.
All the elements are there, from the naked concrete walls and floor, to the rustic wooden tables, to a menu that’s bigger on comfort than innovation. The idea, based on Korea’s Sool-jip bars, is for people to dine, drink, and revel, all in one place, something that Westside Hospitality’s Daniel Eun tells me isn’t common in Hong Kong.
“People here like to go to one place to eat, and then another to drink but in Korea its all done in one mellow spot, with good music and a great ambiance.”
While OBP is presently only open for lunch, as soon as restrictions are ended lunch service will cease and the venue will welcome patrons from 6pm until 2am as a Korean supper club, and judging by those assembled for lunch, the city’s Korean residents are biting at the bit for the big reveal.
My lunch guest and I kick off with a bottle of 1932 Pocheon illdong Damun, a premium rice wine made with Korean rice and Cheonggye Mountain water. It has the consistency and colour of milk and is poured from a traditional tea pot into shallow golden bowls. It’s smooth, with just a lingering hint of shochu and pairs perfectly with wafer-thin pancakees made with housemade kimchi and applewood-smoked bacon; and tteokbokki, traditional rice cakes in a sea of fiery red pepper sauce that takes me straight back to long, beer-soaked nights in Seoul’s Myeongdong district.
While the Saladeu salad of baby gem lettuce and smoked ikura with shallot chips and a yuzu dressing is a little forgettable, the tuna tartare with seaweed, lotus chips and gochujang is brilliant and rustic, with large chunks of super fresh raw fish that dissolve like a chili-infused jello in the mouth. The fish also pairs well with many of OBP’s signature cocktails, including the light and refreshing Hourglass, with black tea, pineapple, lemon, Yakult, milk punch, Ryuh soju, and Vedrenne passionfruit liqueur.
The sure winner of the meal is the boneless fried chicken, quite possibly the best I’ve had in Hong Kong. Perfectly seasoned and available in original, sweet chili or honey garlic (we opt for original), the crispy skin falls away at the touch and reveals succulent pieces of chicken the size of a baby’s fist. If you only order one dish at OBP, it should be this.
It’s hard for venues to get into their groove given current restrictions on dining, but OBP has all the elements to be a great late-night destination, where you can enjoy great music, home-style cooking, and all the milky rice wine you can fill a tea pot with.
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