If you’re ever looking for the perfect happy hour spot in Hong Kong for drinks with friends, Dining Concepts may well have nailed it with the recent opening of Lilya Moroccan Lounge and Bar on Wyndham Street. The trouble is, it’s unlikely you’ll leave this place after one or two drinks, as the setting makes you want to stay all night!
From the moment I stepped out of the lift, I was amazed by how beautiful Lilya is. The entrance wall is layered from top to bottom with colourful Babouche slippers that you cannot help but want to photograph, even when the lift door repeatedly closes on you! Stepping further in, I continued to be impressed by the beautiful décor and comfortingly warm red and orange hues. The bar is lined with stunning mosaic tiles from Fez, one wall is adorned with dozens of silk tassels in complementary shades of red and orange, whilst another is dotted with mystical Fatima hands. On the ceiling hangs a huge, ornate brass lampshade especially designed for Lilya, whilst hand-crafted doors lead out onto a gorgeous terrace with white stone walls reminiscent of Marrakesh streets.
The authenticity does not stop at the décor, however. Lilya is proud to have an almost entirely Moroccan team, starting with General Manager Tom Brusse. Behind the bar is Moroccan native and award-winning mixologist Younes Ateyah, whilst in the kitchen is Moroccan Head Chef Ahmed Boulalam. Even the DJ, who completes the scene with his chilled Arabic beats, is Moroccan.
Although you can find them on the menu, if your Friday night tipple of choice is a standard beer or a vodka soda, go somewhere else, as Lilya is all about the cocktails. These aren’t just any cocktails, however; these are unique and rather quirky Moroccan-inspired cocktails, beautifully presented in custom-made drinking vessels that are seldom a standard glass. One of my favourites is the Majorelle, a deliciously refreshing gin-based cocktail made with cardamom syrup and basil, served in a cute little tagine.
I also enjoyed the Lilya Mojito, which is an upgraded (and much stronger!) version of the rum-based classic, topped up with yuzu liqueur and sparkling wine, muddled with lemongrass and served in a stunning teapot.
If you prefer something stronger still, try the Oriental Fashion, Lilya’s take on an Old Fashioned, made with 27 Moroccan spices and served literally smoking.
Although Lilya considers itself more of a bar than a restaurant, you can graze on a selection of Moroccan bites to complement your cocktails. I really enjoyed the Moroccan Briouates (pastries), particularly the kefta beef and lamb meatball ones, as well as the cow, sheep and goat’s cheese pastries with olives.
We were a little disappointed by the pastilla, a traditional pigeon pie with almonds and cinnamon, which sounded much better on paper than it actually was, as unfortunately the meat was very dry and it wasn’t worth its $178 price tag.
We also tried a selection of ‘salads’, of which the Zaalouk, made with aubergines, tomato and harissa, was my personal favourite, with the spinach with confit lemon sauce coming in a close second.
Given not only Lilya’s location, but also its elegant décor brought in mostly from Morocco, you can’t expect a night here to be cheap. Cocktails are all upwards of $120, whilst bottles of wine are $500 and up. The salads are very good value, at $58 each, whilst the pastries are double the price for four pieces. It’s worth trying Lilya during their ‘Happy Moroccan Hours’ (6-8pm Sunday to Wednesday), when drinks are buy-one-get-one-free and there are special prices on snacks.
If you’re someone who appreciates beautiful things, you’ll definitely appreciate Lilya.
Lilya Moroccan Lounge and Bar
2/F, 77 Wyndham Street
Tel: +852 2526 2578
Open Mon-Sun 6pm till late