Hong Kong Island's main nightlife areas just grew by themselves. Lan Kwai Fong spilled into Soho – South of Hollywood Road – and that in turn spawned Noho. Best of all, the clubs, bars and lounges that have shoehorned themselves in among the traditional shops and eateries round about have added to the general ambiance, rather than detracted from it. A prime example is the wine bar, restaurant and general hangout 121 BC.
Eat, drink and be at 121 BC — Photo courtesy of 121 BC
Right opposite Tong’s Machinery Shop, overshadowed by ranks of residential skyscrapers and just down the hill from an incense-swathed, decades-old shrine to the Taoist deity, the King of the North, is 121 BC. Australian Andrew Cibej couldn’t have found a more on-the-money spot for 121 BC, his new street-side wine bar in Hong Kong’s thriving Soho entertainment district.
121 BC is Italian in both food and wine, and a logical step for the proprietor of Sydney restaurants Vini and Berta, as well as the Surry Hills wine bar that is also called 121 BC.
Andrew says that as he travels to Italy to meet wine producers, Hong Kong is a logical stopover. After looking around, he realized there seemed to be an absence of the sort of venue that flourishes in Sydney and little in the way of Italian wines. And although he researched other venues, Peel Street won out for proximity and aspect.
Sommelier Giorgio De Maria has put together an impressive wine list, and he enthusiastically declares that 99 percent of the wines are self imported – so they are not found anywhere else in Hong Kong. Plus, all of them are sustainably produced by small artisans.
With seating for 50 or so, 121 BC presents a succinct menu, with traditional favorites such as buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and ricotta roasted eggplant.
Kitchen and cellar apart, where 121 BC really wins out is that it's caught the local vibe to a T. There's no need to dress up or make much in the way of a plan: simply drop by at the end of a working day on your way home, or breeze along for lunch at the weekend.
Young professionals – both Chinese and expat – make up the majority of the clientele. A recent innovation – dinners hosted by wine producers with food and drink assiduously paired – have proved especially popular.
And with its being in Soho, there are plenty of other outlets in the vicinity, so 121 BC's customers can drop in here for a drink before or after dinner somewhere else if they so wish.