I live near the Island Shangri-La and the Hong Kong Conrad.  They’re just a hop, skip and an underground tunnel away.  I also live for live jazz, swank hotel bars and cold martinis.  So I’ve become a regular at both The Shangri-La’s Lobster Bar and the Conrad’s Pacific Bar.  One excels where the other fails and I find myself torn between the two.

First, the Shangri-La is the Shangri-La.  Hong Kong is the hotel’s base, and it’s flagship property doesn’t mess around.  It’s posh but not pretentious, luxurious not obnoxious, grand without going gaudy.  The Lobster Bar is a bit frilly for my taste (think lavender and lanterns), but I understand it.  We’re in Asia.
The back lit bar spotlights the impressive liquor selection and redirects your attention away from the lackluster views of Victoria Harbor and the skyline.  It’s all very Jack Nicholson talking to the ghost bartender in The Shining.  In fact, you half expect to see the kid in the Big Wheel and those Beluga Whale headed twins.  “Come and play with us, Danny.”

The Conrad is not on its home turf and it shows.  It’s as if the place doesn’t know how Asian to get without making guests laugh out loud.  So it tries to have it both ways.  It’s definitely more masculine than the Shangri-La.  The furniture is massive, the common areas less decorative, and the Pacific Bar slightly suburban.  It’s almost too spacious, the haphazard placement of the tables arranged not with the band in mind, but in spite of it.  It’s the lobby lounge that nearly forgot it had live music.

But here is where the Conrad excels.  The views are better.  The windows are bigger.  The furniture is more comfortable.  And though you might not get the coziness of the Lobster Bar, you do get a comfy couch and the relatively unobstructed views of the harbor and skyline.

But guess what?  No Grey Goose, only Belvedere.  Call me uppity, but I really think I can taste the difference.  Grey Goose rules and the Shangri-la has it.  I just belly up to the bar at the Shangri-la and my lady bartender says, “Grey Goose straight up with a twist.”  I smile.  She even knows to bring me those deliciously sinful chips with the pepper.  I never eat chips in real life.  Only at the Shangri-la.

The Pacific Bar doesn’t serve chips.  They serve peanuts and rice boogers (crackers).  How cheap can you get?  They even have the nerve to serve it in this fancy little sliver tray.  They’re peanuts for Christ’s sake, not cashews, almonds or even Brazil nuts.  Why not just open the plastic lid and hand us the tin can?

But my Pacific Bar waitress is cute in that scruffy, disheveled, “I can’t believe I got this job but I’m gonna be me God dammit” kind of way.  When she sees me she yells, “Belvedere martini!” and smiles without reservation or any regard for her surroundings.  I love her!

So it all comes down to the music.  And this is where I’m fickle.  I prefer the Shangri-La to the Conrad, but if the woman who fronts the Lobster Bar’s band is lackluster, I’ll happily go to the Conrad.  If the Conrad’s singer is second-rate, then I’ll happily return to the Lobster Bar.

The Lobster Bar has recently replaced the sultry songstress, Danielle Eva, with Senorita Velveeta.  And though the amazing pianist and bass player are still there, Velveeta’s voice makes me cringe.  And her repertoire is straight out of a bad airport hotel lounge.  Pobrecita.

I just hope that poor bag of bones with the thin voice isn’t still singing at the Pacific Bar.  Poor girl looked as if Stevie Wonder did her makeup.  She was all eyelashes, rouge and lips.  She looked like a zip-lock bag.

Red and blue make green!

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