Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Woods - A Cook's Cocktails

The Caprese at The Woods
If you follow me on Instagram (I thank you), you'll have noticed I've been at The Woods quite a bit these past few weeks. As my friend J quite aptly put it, "I know that place is like your office now..." (I will admit to having held more than one work-related meeting there, ahem). It soft opened in June by the three Chow sisters, and Victoria*, the youngest, is the one behind the drinks & food.

From front left, anti clockwise: The Caprese, Watermelon Cilantro, Cucumber Gimlet
Thing is, they've got such an interesting menu, I've been wanting to try the whole list. I've got to say, I'm really liking this newish deluge of proper cocktail bars in Hong Kong. Cocktails are more interesting to me than hard liquor, in some ways, because it's more like cooking. The liquor has to be good, of course, but with inspired flavour combinations and techniques, the basic ingredients can be more than the sum of their parts (sorry, I'm in cliche-ville today).

Blackberry Rye
The Woods isn't really for "classic" cocktail drinkers, I'm sure you can ask for a "normal" old fashioned or a martini here, but that would be beside the point. The chef-like approach to cocktails here, with the focus as much on the non-alcohol components of the drink as the alcohol makes it much more interesting to plain ol' foodies. The Blackberry Rye, for instance, has pinot noir in it as well as rye whisky, and they really help each other out in making this a balanced, enjoyable beverage. It was kind of like an adult's Ribena.

French Oak Whisky Sour
I love whisk(e)y-based cocktails, and for a long time my favourite whisky sour was at 001. I stopped going there, however, because of mostly service-related issues, so I was more than glad to have found a whisky sour at The Woods, and a brilliant one at that. It's an extremely well balanced drink, both texturally and flavour-wise. The extra oak makes it an excellent gateway drink for non-whisky drinkers too. ( *Cue evil laugh* I shall convert you, one by one...)

Lavender Tom Collins
There have been some minor misses, such as this very dainty Lavender Tom Collins (below). I love cocktails where you can't taste the harshness of the alcohol, but this was like drinking an angel's bathwater - delicate, refreshing, but almost too light. The Cucumber Gimlet wasn't bad per se, but you've really gotta love the vegetable, because it's essentially an essence of cucumber. A little fizz, I thought, might have perked things up a bit. The Caprese is similar in the sense that it was almost purely (delicious) tomato water. The second time I had it, however, the balsamic was just a little too heavy.

For keen imbibers, there's a four course prix fixe, which I was invited to earlier to try (not pictured - the drinks above were a la carte). To be honest, however, I prefer a la carte. Four cocktails in a row with minimal snackage is hard for me. Often the novelty wears off and my palate tires - I like to start with cocktails and end with straight scotch and a smooth, speedy cab ride home.

In general, The Woods is the kind of place I'd go for a civilised after-work cocktail. The drinks are flavourful, if not sometimes a bit too delicate in flavour (not on the alcohol however; they say their pours are a bit bigger than most, and I wouldn't exactly call them girly cocktails because that just conjures horrible images of fluorescent cosmos and the bad parts of Sex and The City that no-one wants to remember). I think they really work as a sort of liquid amuse bouche for dinner.

*Victoria has a beautiful blog and Instagram feed that I'd been drooling over before I knew she was opening a bar!

The Woods
B/F 17 Hollywood Road
Hong Kong
+852 2522 0281
6pm-1am Monday to Friday, 6pm-2am Saturday
Bookings advised

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