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Sunday 22 July 2012

Japanese Cocktail Den in Hong Kong: Butler

A couple of Fridays ago after a long, long week I decided to try somewhere new for my kickstart the weekend cocktails. In my quest for somewhere completely different, I decided that it was time to pull out the big guns and head over to the dark side - the deepest depths of Kowloon.

And I'm very glad that I did.

Once I'd found a Kowloon taxi, grappled with telling him where to go and sat through three quarters of an hour's worth of traffic, I eventually arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui. Dumped on a street corner on a particularly lurid drag of neon signs and grubby shops, I cast around desperately trying to find anything that vaguely resembled the entrance to a bar.  Suddenly, conspicuous in its bright shiny newness, I spotted Mody House, which according to my Blackberry was the portal to the evening's martinis. I certainly got no hint that from the office-like facade that this was the gateway to sleek, minimalist Japan.  But a mere lift ride later and I had arrived at the doorway to Butler, a cosy 20 seater Japanese whisky and cocktail bar.  

Drawing up a stool at the spotlit, cherry wood bar I eyed up the impressive array of bottles, shelved in neat rows, patiently waiting to be plucked from their perch and crafted into my first drink of the night. 

Not being a whisky girl I was a little concerned at the abundance of the spirit and the fact that it was dubbed a 'whisky bar'.  I needn't have worried though, within seconds I was presented with a leather bound cocktail menu featuring plenty of non-whisky options. Dazzled by the bafflingly extensive menu we opted for a couple of dirty martinis - bold, smooth and briny - absolute perfection. 

Martinis sunk, we decided to let one of the chatty, bow-tied cocktail waiters help us out with our second concoction. Dropping him hints about what we like and what we don’t we then sat back and watched him create our bespoke drinks. The theatre of the cocktail creation is half of the fun here. Your glass is meticulously chilled, each ingredient is painstakingly measured and fruit is sliced with the skill of a surgeon yet the sublime finished product is served with typical Japanese modesty. 

A few more cocktails down, we decided that some food was necessary to avoid Friday night descending into oblivion. The menu offers a range of light dishes which are prepared with just as much precision and care as the drinks – julienned shards of crisp vegetables are served scattered with crushed ice alongside a moreish miso dip; brie is expertly sliced before having its rind scorched with a small blow torch right in front of your eyes; and Jamon Iberico is carved by hand in tissue thin slices from a leg perched on the bar. 

If you're tired of the identikit bars on Wyndham Street and the you want more than a mediocre Mojito, Butler provides a refreshing evening of painstakingly crafted, unusual concoctions with a side of sophistication. 

Go thirsty and peckish with plenty of time to savour the experience, this is more than just a cocktail pit stop.

5/F, Mody House, 30 Mody Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui.
+(852) 2724 3828.

Butler rates as one of my top five martini spots in Hong Kong. Hop over to Sassy to see my four other picks in my Top Five Martinis piece.

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