Date of review: July 13, 2017 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
After sold out pop-up events at the Mo Bar in 2015, Employees Only Hong Kong branch finally opened last month. Located in the centre of the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district, the minimalist entrance of grey paint with a curtained window that says ‘psychic’ on it stands out among the brightly lit signs around the speakeasy’s Hong Kong location.
The space is a dimly-lit, elongated space, where a curvaceous bar is set on one side, against the shelves well stocked with liqueurs and spirits. A few steps up from the end of the bar reveals a larger area that is the main dining room, where tables are set on each side, evenly spaced with comfortable booth seating. At the end of the main dining room is a set of curtains that separates the public from the oval-shaped private dining area. The mirrors installed on the ceiling gives extra depth to the dining space.
Employees Only’s menu is a single booklet combining food and drinks. The food offerings are located along the central pages, covering bar nibbles to light starters and larger mains. Dishes range from small bites to pasta to grilled meats, with a humble selection of side dishes as well. We started with bone marrow poppers, where flaky vol-au-vent pastry cases hold creamy morsels of roasted bone marrow, which made a surprisingly sumptuous canape-style treat that complement the cocktails.
The steak tartare comes highly recommended, instead, we had the veal sweetbreads, which at HK$148 featured only two bite-sized nuggets, though well-prepared with the crisp coating and being tender within. The mushrooms on the side and caper sauce were over-seasoned.
Smoked lamb ribs were a great choice for mains. The meaty ribs were sweet with just the right touch of smokiness, although the mint yoghurt slaw was too thick and densely packed while the yoghurt dressing covered up the natural sweetness of julienned vegetables. The spanakopita is a winner and the highlight of the meal. Spinach and cheese combined to fill filo pastry rolled into a coil and baked until golden brown and topped with greens. The pastry was flaky and the filling stayed creamy throughout.
Desserts are particularly great at Employees Only. The mascarpone cheesecake is a creamy tour of mascarpone cheese filling topped with a top-notch caramel sauce, with just the right hint of bitterness to it, adding depth to the rich dessert. The lemon tarte is tangy and slightly dense on the filling, but the fluffy meringue makes up for the filling underneath. The passion fruit gel served alongside adds tartness to the sweet dessert too.
For a cocktail-oriented bar, the wine selection at Employees Only is modest yet impressive. Wines by the glass option is good with varieties for everyone from crisp whites to robust red, as they can match well with the establishment’s food offerings. Cocktails are prepared in free-pouring format, where mixologists prepare drinks while interacting with guests. We ordered two cocktails from the drinks menu. The Lazy Lover potently mixes cachaça with jalapeno-infused chartreuse. The lime and thyme add herbaceous freshness to the drink, a sharp drink to cut the richness of the establishment’s starters. The signature EO Gimlet fuses gin with agave and the restaurant’s homemade lime cordial. Adding a single kaffir lime leave adds dimension and an extra punch of citrus aroma to the drink.
Service at Employees Only is helpful, as all staff are knowledgeable about the establishment’s history and concept, and remarkably, recommending food selection and matching cocktails for guests. Food and drinks are delivered promptly and our meal was well-timed and not rushed throughout.
Dinner for two including one cocktail each amounts to HK$1,300. Employees Only’s cocktail selection is impressive and food offerings satisfy all from refined bar nibbles to filling good eats, which will surely merit return visits in the future.