Monday 24 November 2014

Bar Review #12: Nocturne (Hong Kong)

When we first arrived in Hong Kong, we made the most of our first 10 or so days before starting work. We arranged bank accounts. We found an apartment. We sorted out credit cards....and we visited whisky bars! We already wrote up our review of Angels' Share back in August, and now it's Nocturne's turn.

We actually first visited Nocturne on our very first night in Hong Kong. Having dinner with some friends across the road at Chicha, we got onto the topic of whisky and the blog, and our friends mentioned a nearby whisky bar. Needless to say, it was our first stop after dinner.

(By the way no, we don't carry the camera around everywhere. We came back a week or so later for this review!)

Described as a "wine and whisky bar", Nocturne has a heavy focus on Japanese whisky (and as you might have guessed wine), with all the usual suspects, a few well-known but rarely seen Japanese whiskies, and some truly unique releases. Despite the Japanese focus, the bar still stocks an impressive range of Scottish whiskies (not to mention American and Taiwanese).

Speaking of the menu, Nocturne manages their ever-changing menu by way of 7" Galaxy tablets, just like a number of Japanese restaurants. It's an interesting concept for a bar, rarely seen, and works well (especially in negating the disappointment of ordering something only to find it not in stock).

Nocturne somehow manages to balance an industrial vibe with a warm and inviting atmosphere. Think lots of concrete, but with warm wood accents and dim lighting. It works very well, and clearly a lot of thought has been put into the design, which manages to make the most of a relatively small space.

While the backbar clearly shows their love of whisky, it's upstairs which proves their wine credentials - a well-stocked cellar taking up almost the entire floor plan. Worth a look, even just for a sniff (the room has that incredible winery / cellar door smell).

Considering the price some bars charge for good whisky in Hong Kong, and the previously-mentioned 100% spirits tax, the prices at Nocturne are fairly reasonable. A Yoichi 12yo or Talisker DE will set you back $150HKD (about $22AUD), while a Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel (one of Martin's all-time favourite whiskies) is $190HKD (around $28AUD). A Glenfarclas 30 runs $260HKD (~$38AUD), as does the Bruichladdich Black Art 1990 23yo. It's worth noting that pours are all 40mL too.

They also have some well-priced tasting sets, such as $360HKD ($53AUD) for 3 x 20mL pours of Hakushu 18, Hibiki 21 and Yamazaki 18, which would be a great first step for anyone looking to dip their toes into the world of Japanese whiskies.

Nocturne isn't the kind of place you go for a loud, long, boisterous night (Hong Kong has plenty of bars for that). It is however the kind of place you go with a few friends, to sit, chat, and enjoy some fine and unique whiskies, in a quiet, warm and inviting atmosphere. As the weather starts to cool down here in Hong Kong, I have no doubt Nocturne will continue to heat up.

Nocturne: 35 Peel St, Soho, Hong Kong. Mon-Sat 6pm - 1am. (+852) 2884 9566. Website.

Steph & Martin.

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