The most basic and, many would argue, the most fun kind of party is the house party. House parties run the gamut from the basic fill the fridge with beers, lower the lights, roll up the rugs, and put on some music affairs, to proper catered events. House parties tend to be smaller (especially in tiny Hong Kong flats) and more casual. The low-stakes laid-back vibe of house parties also means they are the perfect venue for fancy dress.
The venue: your house (flat).
The food: nothing says just-out-of-university like a house party without food. Aside from it being nice for your guests, food will also help soak up the alcohol, keeping your friends conscious and your things unbroken. A great way to serve a lot of food with very little work is by making your party a potluck, in which each guest is encouraged to bring one dish. Even something as basic as a dip can make a world of difference at a house party, and there are plenty of easy recipes for fast finger food (see our tips from food editor Susan Jung). If you want to throw a dinner party, but don’t fancy spending the day toiling in the kitchen, Pomegranatepomegranate.com.hk offers sophisticated sensibility and home-cooked flavours.
The booze: a bucket full of beers, a few bottles of wine, maybe a bottle of vodka and some orange juice are all fine and good, but serving up a few simple cocktails can elevate the whole affair. Setting up a basic party bar is a breeze, according to Michael Callahan, a self-described spirits evangelist from Proof & Company Spirits, and co-founder of Singapore’s legendary of 28 Hong Kong Street. “Put together a basic kit with shakers, stirring glass, strainers, and jiggers. Keep it simple,” he says. “No more than three or four cocktails on offer, as it starts to become a logistics nightmare.”
Too much work? “Hiring a bartender is usually not that expensive, and has two benefits: You’ll look fancy with your hired help, and you can now focus on hosting and schmoozing,” says Callahan. “Ask yourself if you want to work or if you want to socialise.”
The music: perhaps the most important part of a house party is the music. It’s your house, so take care of the tunes yourself. Make a few good play lists to suit a few different moods beforehand so you won’t have to constantly keep running back to your computer.
Ed Rollo from Sol Passion Music has lots of experience with amateur DJs. “I think they forget to keep the music consistent. You’re never going to please everyone.” Though it may be tempting to let your guests hook up to your sound system, Rollo says that’s a slippery slope towards chaos. “I would rather listen to two or three good DJ’s over the whole night rather than seven iPods changing every 30 minutes.”
According to John Mahon of the Paragon Sound System, it can be hard to know when to kick things up a notch. He recommends you prepare a folder of tracks for dancing and keep at the ready – drop in one or two to test the waters and raise the temperature, if the energy is growing, continue.
Who to call and expert tips: “If it’s a late one, better pop round to the neighbours with a nice bottle of something dry, white and expensive the day after. Otherwise don’t expect any lai see next Chinese New Year,” says Rachel Frost, managing director of Hush Up.
If you want to throw a theme party, do it right: “If you’re having a themed event, get on the internet, watch films for inspiration, collect posters, and attend as many parties in the same style as is feasibly possible,” says Frost. Themes can be anything from historical: the Wild West – though if you’re not a Native American, leave that headdress at home – or the Roaring Twenties, to more involved concepts, famous political assassins and their victims, anyone? Sometimes simple themes are the best.
A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Fish House Punch
1.5 cups superfine sugar
2.2 litres water
1.1 litres lemon juice
2.2 litres dark rum
1.1 litres cognac
114 ml peach brandy
If you have too many guests for your space, you’ll have to leave the house. Luckily, Hong Kong has venues of all types to suit your party needs. A proper venue party would be too much work for you to handle on your own, and still host, but fear not, these are the best DJs, party planners, and caterers money can buy.
The venue: one of Hong Kong’s best warehouse venues is The Factory in San Po Kong (facebook.com/thefactoryhk, tel: 2327 3300). It boasts a huge space and full professional kitchen. For a truly iconic Hong Kong party rent out a “ding ding” (hktramways.com) or Star Ferry (starferry.com.hk). If you want to get a little wilder, a new venue called Illusion in Lan Kwai Fong (email@example.com, tel: 6346 8969) is perfect for proper party animals with its large dance floor and beer pong tables.
The food: many of Hong Kong’s best restaurants offer catering services. We were thrilled to hear 22 Ships (22ships.hk) has joined the list..
The booze: there are plenty of good bartenders for hire in Hong Kong and the venue can usually arrange something, but event planners in the know say not to underestimate the people-pleasing simplicity of ice buckets full of wine, bottles of beer, and a bit of bubbly.
The music: now’s the time to splurge on a DJ. Janette Slack (facebook.com/janetteslackworld) is an awesome one who can play almost anything. For something a bit more ambient, give Frankie Lam (facebook.com/djfrankielam) a try, or for today’s hottest pop, hip hop and R&B call up Bz Li (facebook.com/DJBz.li).
Who to call and expert tips: if you want someone to take care of all the logistics for you, talk to Robert Rogers at Events Man (eventsman.com).
One of the most popular and tricky type of venue for parties is a hotel room. Be careful or you can find yourself on the wrong end of a steep bill, or an angry general manager. We hear from a good source that the W is the most tolerant when it comes to parties.
Take it outside
Hong Kong is an outdoor raver’s dream. Many of us have been to great parties on the beach, in the jungle, around a BBQ pit, and even in an abandoned bunker. Planning an outdoor rave can be tricky with all the red tape, but the pay off is well worth it.
The venue: it is important to get in contact with the appropriate people before throwing a party on government land. For example, if the land is under the protection of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, they’ll need to make sure you have insurance before throwing a party. The bureaucracy is a pain, but as long as you don’t get any noise complaints you should be fine. The basic rule: the wilder the rager, the more remote the spot.
The food: the easiest option is to plan your party near existing barbecue pits. There are great beach-adjacent barbecues in Shek O, and Lamma Island and on many other beaches, plus most are near shops where guests can buy ingredients and stock up on beers.
The booze: you do not want to be hiking around with a full bar on your back or trying to make jello shots in the sand. Keep it simple: bring more ice than you need – even in winter, says Callahan, about 20 per cent of it will be lost to meltage – supply the first couple of dozen beers, then tell guests to bring the rest. Maybe hide a bottle of tequila somewhere just in case.
The music: setting up a good sound system in the great outdoors requires expertise. Services such as Sol Passion Music (solpassionmusic.com) can rent equipment, supply DJs and technicians.
Who to call and expert tips: if you want to speak to one company to organise your entire outdoor bash the choice is obvious: Hush Up can handle everything from outdoor cinemas to pop up hot tub parties, and have run the Secret Island Party since its inception.
Don’t forget to do your homework. “It’s a fairly time-consuming process trying to wade through all the red tape,” says Frost. It’s important to tick all the boxes and always have contingencies in place.”
Still worried about noise complaints? The people at Sound Off Silent Disco (soundoffexperience.com) have a novel solution. Looking to spice things up? Talk to Face Slap (faceslaphk.com, tel: 6761 3690), a group of face and body painters.
Call us old fashioned, but there’s nothing like dusting off the tuxedo and stepping out for a bit of champagne and ballroom dancing. Just be warned: throwing a soiree is not easy, and doesn’t come cheap.
The venue: hotel ballrooms are some of the best and most popular destinations for black tie events, but there are other stand-alone venues such as the recently opened Espace (espacehk.com). The 4,000 sq ft marble-floored venue in Central exudes elegance and class. If you want to do it outside, you’ll need an appropriate tent. Try Hip Hing Canvas Awning Limited (canvas.com.hk).
The food: not just any caterer will do. Wow your guests with Three Dice Kitchen, Hong Kong’s first molecular gastronomy catering service (3dicekitchen.com).
The booze: the caterer should be able to handle the cocktails but one thing you’ll need for a respectable soiree is plenty of bubbly. Champagne Etc. in Central (etcwineshops.com) has an unbeatable selection, but most wine shops and even supermarkets offer a discount if you buy in bulk.
The music: for a proper black-tie bash a standard DJ and sound system simply won’t cut it. You’ll want to go all out with lights, effects and good production. Benson at Avollusion avollusion.com can help. For a DJ with a twist, why not try something old school? DJ Gramophone Man (gramophone.hk) mixes from old 78rpm records on two beautiful antique gramophones.
Who to call and expert tips: as you’re hosting, you should be the best dressed in the room. Head to Jantzen Tailor (jantzentailor.com) in Central where Hongkongers have been buying formalwear for years. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to plan, and coordinate your high-end shindig, give Epique (epiquelifestyle.com) a call. Harsh Roopchand from Epique has one philosophy when it comes to black-tie parties. “I often think of The Ritz-Carlton’s motto: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen’.”
DON’T FORGET THE NIBBLES
Party food doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but as a host you should make an effort to feed your guests. A selection of hard cheeses is good; serve them with savoury biscuits.
You can also set out a large bowl of raw vegetables (carrot and celery sticks and small tomatoes), and serve them with hummus (drain a can or two of chickpeas, rinse them well and drain them, then purée with a couple of garlic cloves, some tahini, fresh lemon juice and salt. If it’s too thick, add a little cold water and olive oil).
Inexpensive canned olives will have a lot more flavour if you drain them, drizzle with olive oil, and add chopped fresh garlic, a sprinkling of dried oregano leaves and chilli flakes (but don’t overdo it — if the olives are too spicy, your guests will drink more).
If budget allows, buy a cured ham, roast it the day before the party and chill it. Set it out on a large cutting board with a carving knife and let people slice their own meat. Serve with small dinner rolls, and condiments like Branston pickle.
Chicken wings are a good option: buy frozen ones and let them thaw. Drain them, then cut them between the joint into the drumette and middle joint pieces. Dip the wings in melted butter, then coat in seasoned flour (plain flour mixed with salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic salt). Lay the wings in one layer on a baking dish lined with aluminium foil. Bake at 250 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, turning them once. Susan Jung
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