THE SECRET ROOMS OF A HONG KONG BAR EVOKE A BYGONE ERA OF TRAVEL.
BY JAY CHESHES
It’s difficult to think of another city with a hotter bar scene right now than Hong Kong, where new cocktail lounges continue to appear at a rapid clip. The recently opened Foxglove, named for a beautiful deadly flower, might be its most cinematic speakeasy yet. The opulent restaurant and jazz club is tucked behind an umbrella store facade in the city’s Central Business District, and is the collaboration from the owners of local favorite Mrs. Pound and architect Nelson Chow of NC Design and Architecture. Chow transformed a challenging piece of prime real estate—a vast, hermetic, low-ceilinged former furniture showroom near the governor’s mansion—into an immersive Mad Men-esque fantasia. “The design is very classic and recalls a certain period,” Chow says. “Kind of like a Wes Anderson movie, with quirky twists that draw people in.”
In the jewel-box boutique out front, British Fox umbrellas—handmade in Surrey since 1868—are displayed like precious baubles along with little jars of Foxglove perfume, a unisex fragrance by DS and Durga. Pushing on a particular animal-head handled umbrella, propped inside a stand, reveals a secret lair of drinks and music. A carefully constructed narrative drove the overall design brief in that the space is inspired by the fictional misadventures of an enigmatic English gentleman in colonial Hong Kong who may or may not have been a spy. Chow channels the golden age of silver-screen espionage featured most recently in The Kingsmen, a film he happened to see just as the project began. “Everything about the bar is kind of secret-agent style,” he says.
Chow covered the main dining room in a lacquered white waffled ceiling to capture the intimate feel of an aircraft compartment— and turn the most problematic feature into the most striking. “Until you build it,” he says, “you don’t know if it’s going to work.” Ink-blue banquettes, brass-topped tables, and a custom-molded anodized steel propeller behind the jazz stage continue the nostalgic theme, as do the riffs on classic cocktails and dishes like lobster tagliatelle and foie gras-filled macaroons.
The red VIP room, accessed by ringing an antique hotel bell, brings you back down to earth and into a wood-paneled train car with old-fashioned brass lamps and umbrella stem-lined walls. You’ll need a special invitation, though, to reach the extraexclusive third chamber, a surreal library with books on the ceiling that is reserved for close friends of the house. “At Foxglove, the customer becomes a character in a movie,” says Chow, “stepping out of the real world for the few hours they’re inside.”
COCKTAIL BY LEO ROBITSCHEK
INSPIRED BY FOXGLOVE
The inspiration behind the “Bowler & Brolly,” named after a classic bowler hat and an umbrella, came from the globetrotting adventures of an Englishman. The layout of the bar represents the vintage style of classic planes and trains, and I wanted the cocktail to show this in not only the presentation, but also where it comes from. A hint of blue is inspired by business -class travel; mint captures the feel of the floral paintings as guests enter the VIP room. Glassware is also very important. The drink’s look and feel needs to match the glamorous interior of Foxglove, so the glass shows curved lines in much the same way as the design of the bar.
3 dashes Emile Pernot ‘Vieux Pontarlier’ Absinthe
1⁄4 oz Bols Blue Curaçao
1⁄2 oz Creole Shrub
1⁄2 oz Rhum JM Blanc
3⁄4 oz Orgeat syrup
3⁄4 oz Appleton XV Rum
3⁄4 oz El Dorado 15 year Rum
1 oz lime juice
Add all ingredients into a shaker tin, shake vigorously, and fine strain into a Belgium glass over cubed ice. Garnish with yellow umbrella and mint sprig. Leo Robitschek is the beverage director at Make it Nice, a New York–based restaurant group that includes The Nomad, The Nomad Bar, Made Nice, and Eleven Madison Park.