Features

Hotel bars: House specials

30 Jun 2018 by Valerian Ho
Marble Bar, Hilton Sydney

Gone are the days when hotel bars were a dark, depressing afterthought populated by a smattering of solitary businessmen; these days they’re often an attraction in their own right. From the best new openings to those with extraordinary offerings, we round up a selection of great hotel bars to whet your appetite.

New arrivals

Asia-Pacific is no stranger to new hotel openings so whittling down our selection was tough. The first bar to make the grade can be found at the new Rosewood Phnom Penh, which opened in February this year. The stunning Sora (which translates as “sky” in Japanese) is the highest bar in Phnom Penh and is quickly becoming the hottest spot in town. Set on a cantilevered terrace on level 37, the rooftop deck offers unobstructed views over the Cambodian capital while city sophisticates lounge in daybed-like chairs enjoying bespoke cocktails, rare whiskies and a selection of Japanese tapas. (Open 5pm-late daily; rosewoodhotels.com)

Over in China, The Zuk Bar at The Sukhothai Shanghai opened in May, with a gorgeous outdoor terrace accessible from street level. Inside, the cosy venue is decked in leaf-patterned wall tiles, white and walnut furnishings and mood lighting. Guests can perch on high stools around a rectangular brass-plated bar to watch world-class mixologist Vincenzo Pagliara concoct delicious artisanal cocktails. (Open Sun-Thu 12pm-12am; Fri-Sat until 2am; sukhothai.com)

When the Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur opens this summer in Malaysia, it will bring with it sultry new cocktail venue Bar Trigona, where a troupe of master bartenders will customise creative cocktails made with local, sustainable ingredients. (Open Sun-Wed 6pm-1am; Thu-Sat until 2am.) Alternatively, guests can head to the hotel’s garden oasis that is the Pool Bar & Grill. Offering Middle Eastern mezze by day, the urban oasis becomes a shisha lounge and grill by night, with breathtaking panoramic views. (Open 12pm-10.30pm daily; fourseasons.com)

If bubbles are more your thing then get ready for the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, opening in Thailand this year. The stylish Champagne Bar on the top floor will boast vintage glass chandeliers, organic wood sculptures and rocking chairs in a slick interior designed by Hong Kong’s renowned architect Andre Fu – and not forgetting a standout collection of champagnes. (waldorfastoria3.hilton.com)

Also opening soon (scheduled for August) is Hotel Vic on the Harbour in Hong Kong’s North Point. With its prime waterfront location, the rooftop bar Cruise will offer inspirational panoramic views of the famous Victoria Harbour as well as the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. (Open Sun-Thu 12pm-1am; Fri, Sat and public holidays until 2am; hotelvic.com)

Similar views can also be enjoyed at East Hotel’s Sugar in Taikoo Shing. The bar was recently renovated with a new indoor area dominated by a long, glowing onyx and timber cocktail bar. But it’s the outdoor terrace with its stunning views, low-slung sofas and chic ottomans that really steal the show. (Open Sun-Thu 5.30pm-1am; Fri, Sat and evenings of public holidays until 1.30am; east-hongkong.com)

SkyBar, Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Drink in that view

On the topic of fabulous vistas, Southeast Asia is blessed with some of the world’s best rooftop bars. For unbeatable views over Marina Bay and the Singapore skyline, head to Lavo – a restaurant and bar that opened on top of Marina Bay Sands in January this year. Combining a lounge, outdoor garden terrace and adjoining rooftop bar with an exciting programme of DJ sets, this is one place you’ll want to nurse your beverage. (Open 5pm-2am daily; marinabaysands.com)

Back in Hong Kong, we have to mention the highest bar in the world: The Ritz-Carlton’s Ozone bar, dizzyingly perched on the 118th floor of the ICC, the tallest building in the city. If you can tear your eyes from Hong Kong’s spellbinding skyline to peruse the menu, you’ll find signature cocktails and Asian tapas to pair with your vertigo. (Open Mon-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri until 2am; Sat 3pm-2am; Sun 12pm-2am; ritzcarlton.com)

Another offering with an unobstructed harbour view is the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney’s Blu Bar on 36. Grab a table next to the window and enjoy the trifecta of views that is the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the harbour lights. But while people come for the view, they stay for the “Liquid Physics” – a unique style of mixology that has serious drink connoisseurs hanging around for a masterclass. (Open Mon-Thu 5pm-midnight; Fri 4pm-1am; Sat 2.30pm-1am; Sun 3pm-11pm; shangri-la.com)

Declared by Time Out Seoul as “the trendiest place to be”, the 21st-floor rooftop bar Floating at L7 Myeongdong Hotel punches through the surrounding skyscrapers to offer views over Namsan Mountain and the famous N Seoul Tower landmark. In addition to a killer gin selection, patrons can enjoy nibbling on classic Korean fried chicken. (Open Sun-Thu 6pm-1am; Fri-Sat until 2am; lottehotel.com)

For our final high-flying recommendation, we head to the Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur nestled in the city centre. On the 33rd floor you’ll find one of the city’s most popular nightspots – Skybar, offering unbeatable views of the Petronas Towers. Opt for one of the cosy cabana booths encircling the swimming pool and soak up the sophisticated atmosphere. (Open Sun-Thu 10am-1am; Fri, Sat, evenings of public holidays until 3am; shangri-la.com)

Glen Bar, Pullman Bangkok King Power

Live music

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a quiet drink… sometimes you’re in the mood for more. When this happens, head to the MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong for one of its regular “MO Sound-bites” sessions. The new concept features some of the hottest DJs and electronic musicians from around the globe. Past performers have included Dutch producers Eelke Kleijn and Kim Lange. (Open Mon-Wed 7pm-1am; Thu-Sat until 1.30am; Sun until 11.30pm; mandarinoriental.com)

Those staying at the Pullman Bangkok King Power need not venture far for live entertainment, as the hotel’s popular Glen Bar features a packed timetable of bands throughout the weekend – with two performances per night. Live sports are also shown on the big screen for double entertainment points. Wash it all down with a selection of signature Thai cocktails. (Open 6pm-1am daily; pullmanbangkokkingpower.com)

Another hotel-based watering hole with a rocking weekend line-up is Bar 81 of Signiel Seoul. The South Korean venue attracts a cool crowd with its DJ sets every Friday and Saturday, and keeps them satisfied with a list of premium champagnes, including unique vintages selected by award-winning sommelier Lucas Yang. (Open 6pm-1am; Fri and Sat until 2pm; lottehotel.com).

Don’t worry if your travels bypass the weekend, at Park Hyatt Seoul’s The Timber House, resident DJs can be found spinning the decks every night from Monday to Saturday. A selection of premium whiskies, sakes, wine and signature cocktails, as well as fine cigars, are on offer. (Open 6pm-2am daily; hyatt.com)

Nautilus Bar, Four Seasons Jakarta

Insta-worthy design

If ambience is what you’re after, these well-designed bars should inspire you. Four Seasons Jakarta’s Nautilus Bar has a stunning art mural spanning the back wall, depicting the city’s old Sunda Kelapa trading port. Sepia tones are paired with a black-and-gold coffered ceiling and matching upholstered walls and bar. It’s a sexy, secluded spot with a fantastic cocktail menu, single-malt whiskies and small sharing plates. (Open 12pm-1am daily; fourseasons.com)

Another seductive setting is Bar Vagabond, at The Vagabond Club, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, in Singapore’s Little India. Walking through red velvet curtains, patrons emerge into the opulent interiors designed by internationally acclaimed Jacques Garcia. The focal point is a golden baboon guarding the bar, alongside a large golden tree. Cocktails and more serious spirits are served every evening until midnight. (Open 4.30pm-midnight daily; hotelvagabondsingapore.com)

One of Sydney’s favourite historical watering holes is the Marble Bar at Hilton Sydney. Built in 1893, the original Victorian-style décor boasts stained-glass windows, marble columns, ornate carved mahogany bars and a gallery of rural nudes by influential Australian artist Julian Ashton. A haven of Victorian excess, this atmospheric setting is also a popular live music venue with Aussie ale, fine wine or classic cocktails to enjoy. (Open 3.30pm until late daily; hilton.com)

Lantern bar - The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore

Not your average bar

Ditch the dress code for a swimsuit at Bathers Bar, the pool bar at boutique property The Siam in Bangkok. A long infinity pool, running parallel to the lawn, offers majestic views over the Chao Phraya River. After a dip, lie back on oversized day beds and sip cocktails while the sun sets. (Open 7am-7pm daily; thesiamhotel.com)

Alternatively, for an evening poolside encounter, head to Lantern at The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore. The glamorous rooftop setting offers sweeping views over Marina Bay and a stylish deck to enjoy signature drinks like the Imperial berry mojito. (Open Sun-Thu 10am-1am; Fri and Sat until 2am; fullertonhotels.com)

For movie buffs, heading to a venue featured in a Hollywood blockbuster is a must-do. An iconic scene in Lost in Translation showed Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s characters bonding in New York Bar – situated on the vertigo-inducing 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The cosmopolitan enclave boasts the largest selection of American wines in Japan, along with sensational views, ice-shaving bartenders and a live jazz band. (Open Sun-Wed 5pm-midnight, Thu-Sat until 1am; hyatt.com)

Meanwhile, in Bangkok the iconic Sky Bar made its blockbuster debut in The Hangover 2. Set on Level 64 of the Lebua State Tower, this breathtaking spot is all about the views. If you have a drone – put it to work. (Open 6pm-1am daily; lebua.com)

Award winners

The winners of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2018 were released in May, and six of the establishments belong to hotels. Designated the “Best Bar in Asia” is Manhattan at Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel. You’ll want to dress to impress in this glamorous setting inspired by old New York. The bar also boasts a collection of 200 whiskies, as displayed in the Whiskey Glasshouse. (Open Sun-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri-Sat until 2am; regenthotels.com)

Number nine in the list is The Bamboo Bar, at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Here you’ll rub shoulders with society bigwigs while enjoying jazz bands and an extensive list of tipples, including the new “a Capella” cocktail menu. (Open Sun-Thu 5pm-12.30am; Fri-Sat until 1.30am; mandarinoriental.com)

At number 10 is Island Shangri-La’s Lobster Bar & Grill in Hong Kong. With live music six nights a week and an accompanying menu of seafood delights, this venue can see you through an entire evening. (Open Sun-Thu 3pm-1am; Fri-Sat until 2am; shangri-la.com)

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