Beer Alley: Lost in Hong Kong pub in Vietnam
Those of us who grew up in Vietnam in the 90s would be familiar with scenes in TVB dramas – open-air street stalls, cool alleyways, and of course, Hong Kong Street lined with colourful signage and neon lights hanging from the sides of the buildings. Which is why Hem Bia: Lost in Hong Kong, translated as Beer Alley: Lost in Hong Kong, is such a hit with Saigonese.
The pub, which has drawn a full house almost every night since it opened in June this year, looks like a TVB drama come to life. From neon and Cantonese signages to a classic Chinese song playlist that drama fans can sing along to, every detail in the decor is made to transport you to Hong Kong.
An immersive experience
Image credit: @desmondzhu
The first thing you’d notice about Hem Bia is its Hong Kong-inspired exterior when you come across its entrance, tucked away in an alley of Bui Vien zone on Pham Ngu Lao street – home to a hodgepodge of bars and clubs.
The pub looks like a real alleyway in Hong Kong because of its retractable roof; it’s breezy and bright, and even if it rains and the roof is closed, the ceiling is still high enough for it to not feel claustrophobic.
Pair that with retro neon lights, Hong Kong-themed art prints plastered all over the walls that are designed to look like shops and open-air kitchens, and it’s easy to get tricked into thinking it’s just another street in Hem Bia – which is what happened to many passers-by, according to the staff.
Photo spots at Hem Bia: Lost in Hong Kong
Cuong, co-founder of the pub said that the space has “replicas of the shops that [he] remembers from [his] most favorite movies” and he’s a big fan of Kung Fu Hustle. He also wanted to create a space where people can hang out over a round of drinks and tavern grub after work, and to bring to life movie scenes that he had great childhood memories of.
So you’ll see mainstays of TVB dramas, such as the grocery stores, book stores, and the roasted meat stalls, as backdrops in the pub. There’s even a portrait of The Landlord of Pig Sty Alley from Kung Fu Hustle at the entrance – a testament to the owner’s love for that movie.
The two most iconic spots are the balcony that overlooks the entire pub, and the staircase set against a wall of Hong Kong-style posters. You’ll look like you’re really “lost in Hong Kong” in the pictures taken here, so there’s almost always a queue to get these IG-worthy shots.
Image credit: @foodloversaigon
Menu at Hem Bia: Lost in Hong Kong
The only beverage served at Hem Bia is beer, so if you’re not a beer drinker but still want something to drink, the staff will recommend a lighter-tasting Tiger Crystal (VND39,000, ~USD1.68). Other beers offered include Budweiser (VND39,000, ~USD1.68), Coronita (VND45,000, ~USD1.94), and Hoegaarden Rosee (VND69,000, ~USD2.97).
Food-wise, you can expect a range of classic Cantonese food, such as mixed dimsum and pork dumplings (VND 59,000, ~USD2.54 each). The curry fish ball soup (VND 59,000, ~USD2.54) is a must-try. It’s served with a fresh and crunchy banh mi, Vietnam’s national baguette, that you can dip into the aromatic soup. The fish balls are also soft and springy.
Image credit: Hẻm Bia : Lost in Hong Kong
Vietnamese all-time favorite snacks are also featured in the menu, including the must-try fermented pork with chilli and garlic (VND69,000, ~USD2.97), grilled cuttlefish (VND139,000, ~USD5.98), and steamed veal leg (VND89,000, ~USD3.83), among other street goodies.
You can order and pay at the table, and the wait is less than ten minutes, even when the pub is packed.
Why you should visit Hem Bia: Lost in Hong Kong
Hem Bia sits up to 100 guests at any one time, and you’ll find young, working professionals from the ages of 20-40 years old visiting Hem Bia for its aesthetics, but it’s the laidback and unique vibe that brings you back. Even if you’re not a beer connoisseur, you won’t feel left out or excluded in the diverse crowd.
The success of the pub has led the founders to consider expanding into more outlets in Saigon. But instead of simply replicating this Hong Kong concept, Cuong says they may look to other countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Japan or Korea for their next concept pub.
A unique pub to visit in Saigon
Hem Bia: Lost in Hongkong is a unique and affordable place to hang out in a busy and bustling place like District 1. Besides beer and lots of neon lights, the pub is also a visual treat for those who love Hong Kong’s art and culture, especially TVB fans who are looking for an authentic Hong Kong experience in Ho Chi Minh City.
Reserve a table on Hem Bia’s Facebook page here.
Address: 175/19 Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1, HCM city
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 4PM-4AM
Telephone: 767 891 079
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Cover image adapted from: @kenz.huynh1910