Article by Deina Ida Blancaflor / Photos by Mark Anastacio
A place to drink illegally. Created in America in the 1920’s when booze was made illegal, speakeasies are also called blind pigs or blind tigers inspired by the hidden spots people went to for drinks during the prohibition. Today’s speakeasies are often small and impossible to find; they are nothing more than small, intimate bars with non-descript doors and barely any signage to be seen.
Their bar design closely resembles Pingpong 129, a famous underground bar / ping pong place in Hong Kong.
Lan Kwai Hong Kong Cuisine was the brainchild of a group of friends’ shared experiences in Hong Kong. What’s magical about this place is that each element – from the interiors to the wall designs to the menu and everything else in-between – involved a piece of memory carefully picked from those trips.
Venturing into the unknown and the not-so-touristy-places of HK, specifically along the streets of the infamous Lan Kwai Fong (where the name originated), they wanted to bring that experience to Manila where intimate conversations over good food and drinks are often overlooked and speakeasies are long-forgotten.
Did we pique your curiosity? Let us give you five more reasons why you should check out LK ASAP.
5. The place is Instagrammable.
Don’t be deceived by its seeming innocence from the outside – it may just look like a small, dark restaurant atop a milk tea place; but what quaintness it exudes from the outside, loud, neon lights it features in the inside. Lan Kwai isn’t just famous for their red neon lights, which automatically give you that speakeasy vibe; they also feature Jappy Agoncillo’s art splattered on their walls both and within and outside the place. With these lights and the ambiance, every photo is sure to be perfect for your curated feeds and timelines.
Snap a photo with this fixture and your friends will surely wish they were there, too.
Fun fact #1: Jappy Agoncillo finished these paintings in only four hours on the day of the soft opening itself!
4. They cater to everyone!
Interestingly, different kinds of people go to Lan Kwai at different times. LK could be a walwal bar, a peaceful family lunch, a quick fix for your Chinese cravings, or even a chill drinking place perfect for catching up with your kumares. “We really wanted to appear like a Chinese restaurant,” Bea Policarpio, one of the owners, explains. “It’s diverse — that’s what we created; that’s what we wanted,” Marco Baluyut, another owner, gleefully adds.
Pro tip: Families dine there during the day and during weekends; yuppies and foreigners flock there during Saturday evenings; and students dominate the place from Wednesdays to Fridays.
Fun fact #2: Their very first customers were an old couple. “They entered LK and they were like, do you have Chinese food here?” Bea recalls.
3. Their food won’t break the bank.
Lan Kwai Hong Kong Cuisine’s menu ranges from dim sums to rice toppings to noodles – perfect for whatever sudden Chinese craving you may have. Their menu is like a compact version of what you would normally get in Chinese restaurants. Each item is a favorite of one of the owners, their personalities shining even through their food.
Headed by Enderun’s Executive Chef, Justin Baradas, you’ll feast on quality food and delectable meals. The best part is that they’re all pretty affordable. “We understand our location (that it’s really near the universities), so we made everything affordable – one that a student could afford with his/her baon,” Bea explains.
Dim sum fix! Left: Pork Siomai (3 pcs for P59 or 6 pcs for P99), Right: Prawn Hakaw (2 pcs for P99 or 4 pcs for P189)
Braised Beef Brisket Noodles (P249) – perfect for rainy days.
Their best-selling Crazy Rich Asian Nachos (P199) – best shared with the barkada over drinks.
SEE NEXT PAGE: 5 Reasons Why Lan Kwai Speakeasy is the New Hip Place