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Live Hong Kong’s boozy night life in Lan Kwai Speakeasy

Live Hong Kong’s boozy night life in Lan Kwai Speakeasy

Lit in neon red, with long leather couches lining the walls and upbeat music pulsing in the background, Lan Kwai Speakeasy breathes life to a time and a place more subversive than its actual location in Katipunan.

This small drinking joint was inspired by the travels of couple Bea Policarpio and Marco Baluyut to Hong Kong where they would revel the shifty yet inviting nightlife of Lan Kwai Fong, the street where Hong Kong’s booziest bars are. It was an experience that they decided to bring back home with them.

To embody the neon-lit establishments of Lan Kwai Fong, the couple looked to the speakeasies of the 1800’s. They found an intimate space along Esteban Abada and disguised it as a run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant.

Murals by Jappy Agoncillo
Marco Baluyut (left) and Carlos Munarriz (right) making drinks

The Chinese restaurant isn’t just a facade, though. They’re actually serving authentic Hong Kong meals with the help of Enderun’s rockstar chef Justin Baradas, the first student to be appointed the position of head chef in the culinary school—a position previously entrusted only to established chefs. Baradas also happens to be Baluyut’s good friend from high school. Together, they have translated Chinese dishes for the Filipino palate, with Baluyut providing the concept and Baradas as the man to make it happen in the kitchen.  

Justin Baradas
Carlos Munarriz behind the bar

Lan Kwai serves Shao Kao skewers (or Hong Kong-style barbecue) and dimsum for diners’ pulutan needs. For those looking for something more familiar or western, the Chow Chow section of their menu lists dishes like Crazy Rich Asian Nachos, Umami Fries, and Gotta Have Chicken Skin. The one dish that’s got people coming back for more though is their Braised Beef Brisket. This noodle dish served with boiled egg, bok choy, leeks, and chili garlic is savory with a hint of corn and sweetness that just makes it so palatable to the Filipino taste.

Umami fries, french fries bathed in Cajun season and served with truffle mayo
Rib finger shao kao, tender grilled skewers served with Japanese mayo, char siu sauce, and scallions
Prawn hakaw

The one dish that has people coming back for more, though, is their Braised Beef Brisket. This noodle dish, served with boiled egg, bok choy, leeks, and chili garlic, is savory with a hint of corn. It also has that sweetness that just makes it perfect for the Filipino taste.

Pork asado lil bao, marinated pork enveloped in mantou buns, served with char siu sauce, cabbage slaw, and leeks
Braised beef brisket, Chinese style noodles served with boiled egg, bok choy, leeks, and chili garlic
(Top right) Lemon Chicken, (bottom left) roast duck

Carlos Munarriz, another good friend of Baluyut, handles the drinks with his expertise as a mixologist. Their drinks are categorized into three, depending on the alcohol base— sangria, gins, and mules—and each category has its own flavors.

Uh huh honey mule, honey and mint infused mule
Sunny bay sour, amaretto sour made fluffy with egg white with a cherry at the bottom

For the mules, actual ginger is chopped down and then placed in soda water, instead of the typical alternative of using ginger ale. Lan Kwai also has its own version of the mai tai called Lan Kwai Tai. This rum-based drink is fruity like punch, with barely the taste of alcohol in it. Yet, it still gives you a nice buzz. It’s best paired with a steaming bowl of their Braised Beef Brisket.

Passionfruit sangria
Lan Kwai Tai, the speakeasy’s take on the classic Polynesian-drink, Mai Tai

Then there are the classic beers, liquor, and their fish bowl drinks, which are cocktails served in fish bowls. You can choose between the big fish bowl good for three to four people, or the baby-sized one that’s good for those flying solo.

For friends trying to outdrink each other, get the Designated Survivor: a hard-hitting citrus mixer served with a mystery shot for the last one standing.

Designated survivor, citrus based cocktail served with an extra myster shot
Gin o’clock, the classic gin and tonic

At its heart, Lan Kwai is a cozy space where different people can come from different places, for different reasons. It can be a place where you could sit and speak easily with friends and colleagues while enjoying a drink. It could be your go-to restaurant for a good bowl of steaming hot noodles.


Read more:

This Chinese chef can make hand-pulled noodles in two minutes

Where to get good, authentic, and cheap dimsum that isn’t Master Siomai

Eat legit Hong Kong dimsum in the shape of Hello Kitty’s face © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.