"Back-alley Blade Runner-meets Akira the comic-meets early-1980s-Hong Kong in a Melbourne laneway."
That's how Victor Liong, owner-chef at Lee Ho Fook, describes the intimate bar he's added to the ground floor of his cutting-edge Chinese restaurant. It's as good an explanation as any.
The idea for the bar – an intimate space bathed in neon-pink light that Liong wants customers to treat as both an extension of the restaurant and a standalone venue – came during a recent trip to New York.
"I was inspired by how the buildings looked after they were closed; there were many places that had a subtle glow," Liong says. "I'm trying to amalgamate a vibe I felt while cruising around New York with the space I have, using the touches of light artists such as Dan Flavin, James Turrell, Francois Morellet and Keith Lemley. It's been a fun project."
While everything from the upstairs menu is available, there are bar specials, tasty morsels that Liong believes work better in a bar environment. That might mean the Macanese pork bun (a deep-fried pork chop enveloped in a tender-crisp bun, with sriracha) or chicken crackling, to be washed down with an ice-cold Tsingtao or Hawthorn IPA, one of several Victorian craft beers on offer.
New bar manager Hamish McShane (previously of Sydney restaurant Mr Wong) has conjured a neat cocktail list, with things like the My Fair Daisy (tequila, lemongrass, cucumber and lime) and the anti-nightcap Fook 'N Hook, a spirited blend of rye whiskey, chilli vermouth, coffee and cocoa.
The result is very Asian, sort of New York – and very Melbourne.
Open daily 5.30pm-late.
11–15 Duckboard Place, Melbourne, 03 9077 6261, leehofook.com.au