28 Hong Kong Street Cocktail Bar
28 Hong Kong Street is a cocktail bar which, on first glance, appears to be nothing more than an empty shophouse. That being said, the bar is frequently packed and it is almost impossible to get a table between the hours of 8pm to 11pm; reservations are a must. There are a list of interesting cocktails and the bar specializes in being stocked with all sorts of niche, lesser-known and often expensive liquors from which the mixologists (yup, can’t call them bartenders any more) fashion their concoctions. Of particular note is that the bar practices a strict “no flash photography” policy – said policy enthusiastically enforced – which, coupled with the fact that the establishment is dimly lit, makes photography within the bar extremely difficult. Forget about capturing any meaningful images with your mobile phone. Although the policy is justifiable on the grounds that the bar does not want its patrons disturbed by other patrons zealously snapping away causing flash thunderstorms, I suspect that the ulterior motive behind “no flash photography” is that it ensures that the mystique of the place is not chipped away by having the bar nakedly exposed all over Facebook.
Everything about this bar screams pretentious – and yet I’ve found myself going back there for exactly two reasons. First, the cocktails are actually pretty good and price can be controlled by ordering run-of-the-mill cocktails, e.g. gin & tonic, whisky dry – which the bar does extremely well. You order from the menu or ask for a bespoke cocktail at your own risk of financial ruin. The second reason is that after midnight the crowd kind of dies off – since cocktail bars are usually pre-drink waterholes – which means that 28 Hong Kong Street is an excellent venue at which to end my night (particularly so as the bar closes at 3 am). Past-midnight, the crowd begins to thin and the customers who remain behind are (a) those who have made the bar their final destination; (b) people who are just looking for a drink. I like (b).
I now add to this a third reason, which is that the lighting conditions and no-flash-photography policy provided me with an excellent opportunity to test-drive the E-M1 in low-light conditions. Each time I whipped out my camera, there was a water/waitress/bartender ready to pounce to remind me of the no-flash policy and each time I shot off a frame without a flash or an AF-assist beam, I felt like I had won a minor victory. Kudos to my small heart! But seriously, the images turned our pretty OK given the lighting conditions and the fact that I could only shoot in manual. Didn’t manage to get sharp images each and every time, but I’m slowly beginning to be persuaded by the Steve Huff party-line, namely who cares about the pixels/sharpness/focus? So long as you manage to take a great photo, it’s a great photo. That being said, I don’t think all my photos came out great, but it was still a fun experience. Here are the featured shots of the evening. All images were captured with the Olympus E-M1 with a Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 (50mm equivalent on 35mm). I shot at ISO 6400 on some occasions and am simply blown away by the camera’s control of noise. Yay Olympus! No post-processing apart from the last two-images which were converted to sepia with the addition of deliberate vignetting.