Tunny Grattidge: ‘Hong Kong is exploding’


Australian Bartender editor Sam Bygrave visited Hong Kong back in August, and fell in love with the city. He met Aussie expat Tunny Grattidge, who runs Chachawan on Hollywood Road, for a quick drink and to talk about the challenges of running a bar in Hong Kong — and the opportunities to be had.

As told to Sam Bygrave

I’ve been in Hong Kong for a year and three months. Originally my role was to step on board for the brand Chachawan. It’s a part of the JIA Group, so we work with Jason Atherton.

My role was to build Chachawan as a brand as well as being the beverage director. I came on board as the bar manager, and I was in charge of the drinks program and training but now I’ve also gone onto the floor as well.


Hong Kong, in terms of opportunity and creating a brand, and to market a brand for yourself, is amazing. Culture-wise, in terms of instilling a passion for the industry, it’s incredibly difficult.

Bartenders don’t become bartenders in Hong Kong because they have a passion for it, they become bartenders because they have no other way of getting money and they want to get drunk. That’s how we start, but you learn to love it.

It’ll take a long time, but I do think that, particularly with the media outlets we have now, bartenders getting into magazines and with the help of social media, they’re starting to see that there’s a life out from behind the bar. It is a lifestyle and a culture.

My usual hangouts are The Pontiac — it’s your neighbourhood bar with cheap alcohol, layback shots. I’m not a big cocktail drinker, so I generally go for a nice glass of wine, so La Cabane — it’s cool, you can sit there and watch the world go by. Ham & Sherry, the back bar has a world map type of cocktail list, they’re bringing in sherries, and the food’s good.

Ship Street in Wanchai got dubbed Star Street, because they’ve got four Michelin starred restaurants in the street.

They want mocktails. It’s the Asian culture, man. What we do here at Chachawan is we know we’re a Thai restaurant so we infuse Thai flavours into the culture.

In Hong Kong, it’s based around tea. Every restaurant you go to in Hong Kong on a Monday to Friday will generally have a set lunch, where you get a free tea, iced tea, iced coffee or a hot tea. So if you can translate that into a cocktail program, you take the tea flavours and put it in with a low ABV, you get massive sales.

As the general culture itself, the punters here don’t have more than two cocktails before they’re pissed. So to prolong that they want something a little bit watered down, something a little bit sweet, something not so alcoholic.

Antonio Lai, at the Quinary, he’s got a massive following among the local crowd, and he says that he’ll have a table occupied for 45 minutes to an hour on two drinks. So his new venue, The Envoy, has a two drink minimum, so a $200 (HKD) spend per head, for each person on the table, because he’s realised that people want to sit down at the table, but they don’t really want to drink.

More often than not, because it’s such a transient city, people are willing to help each other out [in terms of expats]. It’s more the local Chinese, Hong Kong people who are a little bit more arrogant, as opposed to expatriates. Especially in terms of service — the expatriates are a little more hospitable for the fact they’re so used to going to Chinese restaurants and the service is not great.

That’s probably one of the worst things about Hong Kong: when you go into bars there’s a 50/50 as to whether you’re going to get a clean line for your beer. Drink bottled, safest choice.

It’s on the cusp of exploding, Hong Kong will become something like Singapore. Singapore has this massive understanding of being a cocktail city, and the culture is great. It’s translating to Hong Kong now.

The number of expatriates coming to Hong Kong to take part [is huge] — 86 Michelin stars in one city in the past year. There’s a shitload of money to be had. If you have the opportunity, it’s a great place to set yourself up.

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