On street level, CBD pub The Civic Hotel looks like any other mid-century Sydney corner boozer, with its tiled frontage, red-brick facade and curvaceous corners. But head for its rooftop to moody new diner Ni Hao Bar, where you’ll be transported to a place that feels a million miles from the inner city – 1970s Hong Kong, to be exact.
The eatery, which opened in February, evokes the free-wheeling buzz of the era; neon signs abound and classic Hong Kong films are projected on the walls. Watched over by murals of Hong Kong acting legends Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen, punters enjoy Cantonese-inspired snacks and sip cocktails that take cues from the flavours and ingredients of the Asian continent.
Owner Howin Chui has pedigree in Hong Kong-inspired dining, having already opened Kowloon Cafe and Kowloon Stir Fry King, both nearby. He’s looking to bring what he loves about the bustling island, particularly its cuisine and nightlife, to Sydneysiders. Ni Hao Bar is his latest venture.
“What I love and miss the most about Hong Kong is its nightlife. There isn’t a place in Sydney where you can just enjoy yourself and feel like you’re in the bustling evening streets of Hong Kong. That’s what I want Ni Hao Bar to be,” Chui tells Broadsheet.
Chui works closely with the venue’s head chef, Bremmy Setiyoko, to deliver a menu of Cantonese classics remixed.
“We wanted to base our menu off Cantonese street food, but with a twist,” Setiyoko says. “There isn’t much modern Cantonese food in Sydney, so we wanted to have a go at modernising it.”
Standouts from the menu include the wok hay cheung fun (Wagyu beef-filled rice-noodle rolls with a smoky glaze); spinach noodles with spanner crab, XO sauce and pork crackling; curly fries with Cup Noodles seasoning (and served in the brand’s plastic-lined vessel); and a Peking duck toastie that brings together the classic hoisin flavour of Peking duck with the oozy mozzarella strands of a topnotch toastie.
“The Peking duck toastie is a personal favourite of mine,” says Chui. “I created the concept and Bremmy brought it to life. Peking duck is tasty, so we knew putting it in a toastie would work. You can’t find it anywhere else in Sydney.”
Not to let its gastronomic efforts hog all the attention, Ni Hao Bar is also causing a stir with its signature cocktails, made with ingredients from Hong Kong and broader Asia.
“We mix our Long Island Iced Teas [dubbed “Kowloon Iced Tea”] with Vita Lemon Tea, which is popular in Hong Kong, and for Asian kids here in Australia who grew up drinking [it]. It also makes the classic Long Island sweeter and nicer.”
There’s also the Yuenyeung Martini – a boozy riff on yuenyeung, an iconic Hong Kong drink combining coffee and tea. Here, Hennessy cognac is infused with black tea then mixed with condensed milk, cold brew and Mr Black coffee liqueur. Five spice is added to the Negronis, while the Pandan & Coconut is made with pandan-infused rum, kaya, red bean and soy milk.
Ni Hao Bar runs various weekday specials, such as two glasses of sparkling wine with a dozen oysters for $20 on Thursdays and a dozen crispy chicken wings with two Tsing Tao beers for $20 on Wednesdays. “We’re trying to attract people to the city again,” Chui says. “The pandemic has been hard on everyone, so we’re running these promotions so we can to get people into our doors during this rough period. We just want Sydney’s nightlife back.”
Ni Hao Bar
Level 1/388 Pitt Street, Sydney
0420 205 020
Wed & Thu 5pm–12am
Fri & Sat 5pm–2.30am