LIT­TLE HONG KONG

Air Canada enRoute - - MONTRÉAL -

ITRUST THE HOST­ESS AT BAIJIU RESTAU­RANT. I TRUST HER EVEN AS it looks like she’s lead­ing me straight into a wall, Plat­form 9¾–style, at the back of the rau­cous din­ing room. Be­fore I can ob­ject, she pulls open an an­tique cabi­net to re­veal Lit­tle Hong Kong, a 16-seat se­cret bar tucked be­hind Baijiu. As the cabi­net swings shut, the noisy restau­rant crowd mostly muf­fled by soft jazz purring from a phono­graph, a sense of peace de­scends. The diminu­tive hide­away was de­signed to evoke Vic­to­rian-era Hong Kong with rich colours, gold leaf­ing and risqué wall art. It’s the kind of place where a $30 ne­groni seems like some­thing I must try, rather than some­thing out­ra­geous; it’s so much fun to watch the skilled bar­tenders bob and weave around each other like ath­letes toss­ing a ball, and it makes what’s in the glass twice as de­li­cious. (G’Vine Nouai­son gin, a cel­e­brated French spirit dis­tilled from grapes and botan­i­cals, is what makes the ne­groni so costly.) I in­tend to stay for one or two drinks, but linger much longer, re­luc­tant to give up my cov­eted spot and won­der­ing if there’s such a thing as barstool time-shares.

ABOVE,FROMLEFTTO RIGHT Poster girls: 1930s ads for Ja­panese body mois­tur­izer, Chi­nese cig­a­rettes and a Hong Kong liquor mer­chant set the scene; bar­tender An­dré Bober shows us the door.

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