Hong Kong; A Quintessentially night on the town

To the uninitiated, Hong Kong is an overwhelming jumble of twisty streets, narrow buildings and teeming market stalls. Businessmen, expats and local traders mingle among a confusing collection of skyscrapers, quirky local stores and premium global brands. 

With a philosophy that insists that life is too short to waste time on second best, Quintessentially Hong Kong addresses the mystery by offering us a window into the enviable lifestyle of Hong Kong’s privileged. An eclectic city that can be tailored to all tastes, our fabulously foxy Quintessentially host – the aptly named Fiona Foxon - artfully guides us through the rabbit warren of streets to discover hidden laneway treasures, private members clubs and hedonistically playful party places. 
Quintessentially's Fiona Foxon & Avey Cortes
Peach & Rose Daquiri at Soiree
Our first stop is a cocktail at Soiree, a stylishly shabby-chic bar frequented by the genetically blessed and sartorially winning. Soiree’s signature cocktail, the Peach and Rose daiquiri, manages to present itself as a dessert, a work of art and a floral tribute in one. With a generous chocolate rim, the smoothie texture of the peach is enhanced by the subtle scent of rose emanating from the rich concoction. Comfortable on the intimate leather lounges, it is tough to wrench ourselves away until we discover our exclusive dinner destination. 

Rachel Jacques at Cipriani
Cipriani Hong Kong is a private members dining club which opened in 2003, a branch of the internationally renowned empire of restaurants around the world. Opened by David Tang and Giuseppe Cipriani, the Hong Kong location prides itself on serving high quality, traditional Italian food to illustrious guests. Counting the likes of Bill Clinton among their regular guests, the impeccable service, flowing wine and warm flavours gave us a taste of the international standards of premium Hong Kong living.

Gauging our predilection for cocktails and dancing, Fiona suggests a post-dinner visit to the Kee Club, a venue that claims to “embrace people from all walks of life – from business professionals to social butterflies”. The Quintessentially name is our passport to the VIP tables, where the gentlemen opt for espresso martinis while the ladies go for lychee. The d├ęcor and service scream luxury, while the Friday night crowd is amped for a party. A mesmerising display of unsubtle wealth and glamour, Kee is currently the “hands down - place to be” on Hong Kong island according to our guides. 
Cocktails at Kee
Whether one falls into the camp of “business professional or social butterfly”, no visit to Hong Kong is complete without a foray into Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), the hub of the island’s late night party scene. Awash with activity and beats at 2am, many an expat escapade has taken place on the colourful, narrow street. Our last Quintessentially stop is at a bouncing club named Fly - complete with shots of coffee patrone, cheesy 80s music revving up the dance floor, and a rowdy crowd spilling onto the street. 

Between hidden wine bars, private clubs and popular discos, our Quintessentially Hong Kong night gives us a window into the fast-paced lifestyle that characterises the city. Often touted as the New York of Asia, the bewildering variety of places to discover with limited time reminds us that life is, indeed, too short for second best.

Quintessentially is global Private Members' Club with 24/7 Concierge Services and exclusive member benefits.  Lifeafterfive* was a guest of Quintessentially Hong Kong.

Guest Post: A shift towards a new era of working

Guest post by Alexandra Hsiao

In today’s performance-focused work culture, Leave of absence is a loaded term. “Lack of focus”, poor performance”, and “burnout" are some of the negative associations which swirl around the idea, implying people only take LOAs because they have no choice, or when they are about to quit.

On the contrary, those three little letters have given me an opportunity to pause from the mad climb up the ladder, take a breath, and reflect. We are concerned with our growth and in our professional roles, but to grow holistically as a person, and in more than one direction, is equally important.

The LOA recognizes a shift towards a new era of work, or “reworking”. We are not one-dimensional robots who want to excel in one role for the rest of our life. This is an age where having one professional role your entire life is unlikely, and (I would argue) stifling. My generation, adept at having hands in many pots, wearing multiple hats, sometimes simultaneously. The model – photographer– entrepreneur is an example that often pops up in Vogue, but my friends - Danz, consultant – blogger – performer, and Paul, consultant – entrepreneur – student, are two real life examples of how we want to live today. Stephen Hawking said: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” and he is more right today than ever before. This desire for flexibility, agility and balance is not a silly, Gen Y whim that undermines productivity and progress – it is good for business, and for society. I am a prime example.

After four years of management consulting, I needed to take stock. I was questioning the work I was doing and my place in the world. Luckily for me, my boss was forward-thinking enough to recognise this and I left Sydney for New York to intern with a social mission startup called Catchafire.
The tech startup industry, which has become popular and newsworthy via the success of companies like Facebook, Twitter and Groupon, seemed a perfect opportunity to put my consulting skills to use in a different context. More than anything, I wanted to use my skills to build something meaningful that would help people.

What I found in the startup world did not disappoint me. Startups are everything that corporations are not. Inherently small - Catchafire had 10 employees when I joined - everyone wears many hats to drive the company forward and operates in perpetual bootstrapping mode. Startups also require true end-to-end thinking, as you are coming up with the strategy, building it, executing it and then evaluating it, iterating continually and often. You have to build it all yourself, and this is difficult but wonderfully satisfying. True startup junkies are visionary but also practical, people-people but obsessed with metrics; technical but commercial.

In consulting, the learning curve for new clients is steep, but in startup, especially with a disruptive product, you are not learning the industry rules but creating them. There were moments when the team, stumped at a moment of impasse, would look at each other and realise that what we were trying to do had never been done before.

On my LOA, I learned more about what I am naturally good at and what I want to do with my life than I have in the past 2 years. Never did I think I would be making sales, or building partnerships, but by the end of my time at Catchafire I was leading the company’s expansion into a new market.

Any company that wants to win the talent war for the next generation should recognise the value in giving their staff time to explore and develop themselves. Australia is ahead of the curve here, with many of the big banks and firms granting this time to their staff. In America, however, the term “career break” draws looks of blank incomprehension from most people. Companies need to give their teams the mental and emotional permission to take this time. Many people are afraid that if they take a LOA, they will be seen as ‘weak’, or lose their place in the succession line.

The rules of work are being rewritten. The popularity of coworking is exploding, the Google 20% rule is being applied in more and more workplaces and entrepreneurship is the new ‘investment banking’. Career breaks are part of this movement, and employers should embrace them as a tool to sharpen their talent pool.

Alexandra Hsiao is an ex-management consultant, design student and author of the blog Startup Summer in the City.


Mini Coupe & Roadster launch @ Bucket List

Bucket List – the hot new pop up bar that’s quintessentially Bondi…a Hamptons-style combination of funky beats, casual cool and breezy outdoor setting...

Eclectic mix of guests in standard Bondi style, from glamarama girls to boys in boardies…

Colourful deck chairs, cheeky Mini Coupes posing like models, jugs of Pimms & Lemonade...

A fitting location for a car that’s more a commitment to playfulness than a mode of transport

For more pics of the event, visit the Lifeafterfive* facebook page.

Bondi Pavilion Bondi Beach
11am-Midnight every day
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebucketlistbondi
The Bucket List on Urbanspoon

A quest for baklava; Abla's Pastries

Photograph from tasteofbeirut.com
An oozy concoction of pastry, syrup and nuts, a sticky melt in your mouth sensation that evokes delight with each bite. With hazy origins but widespread popularity, everywhere from Turkey, Greece, Lebanon and Israel (to name but a few) claim a variation of the baklava as their own. 

The cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures that make up Sydney allows us privileged access to authentic and quality cuisines from far flung corners of the globe. With a newfound baklava obsession and frustrated with infrequent stumbles towards quality, we head to the unlikely suburb of Dulwich Hill to seek out the baklava whispered (by those in the know) to be Sydney’s best. 

A non-descript suburb of Sydney’s inner west, Dulwich Hill was originally settled by immigrants from Greece and Portugal who have left a legacy of exotic eateries frequented mostly by locals. Arriving at Abla’s Pastry, we enter a cavernous room, a Lebanese Aladdin’s cave where the jewels are candy and the mountains of gold edible and delicious. 

An overwhelming combination of shapes and styles, we order one of each (a bargain at $1 a piece) and act like mischievous kids raiding the pantry by impulsively devouring them on the spot. Highlights include the ‘Birds Nest’, wrapped layers of filo pastry filled with cashews and doused in syrup and the ‘Namora’, a blend of semolina, flour and coconut baked to golden brown and topped with syrup. Despite the volume on display, the delicate flavours and expert composition of each satisfy our craving for a quality sample of the famed international dessert. Whether Abla’s Pastry is the best in Sydney, or merely a representative sample of hidden local treasures, it is worth a journey to the west-side to indulge in the real deal.

Abla's Pastries on Urbanspoon


Hong Kong; conquering heights at the Ritz Carlton

Hong Kong. A densely populated city acclaimed for its intense urban nature, the executive lounge at the The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is my first exposure to the magnificent skyline. Seen from the 116th floor of the tallest building in the city, it is breathtaking to see the mountainous range of The Peak dominating the view, overpowering the vast collection of skyscrapers and shiny buildings.

With curved windows to minimise typhoon exposure, the Ritz Carlton was built in May 2011 and has managed to encapsulate the best that Asia has to offer in its 16 floors. Taking the concept of five star to new heights (literally), the personalised service, attention to detail and classy but not extravagant opulence caters to a clientele accustomed to experiencing the creme de la creme of accommodation, cuisine and style.

Our first stop is the world renowned Afternoon Tea at The Lounge and Bar restaurant, which the menu tells us was made fashionable by Queen Catherine in 1633. We sit in luxuriously comfortable lounges overlooking Victoria Harbour as we’re served champagne, tea, and three tiers of indulgent delights. A cello player provides the ambiance as we watch the dancing hues of the sunset, so far above the other buildings that the sun appears level with the window.

Read my full review of Hong Kong's Ritz Carlton Hotel as the NSW blogger for liveeverylastminute.com.au.

The Ritz Carlton
ICC 1 Austin Road West 
Kowloon, Hong Kong


Guest Post: We all scream for ice cream at Ben & Jerry's Sundae Sessions

Guest post by Amanda Barbera

I used to think a choc-top at Hoyts was a treat. But now I’ve been spoilt - by Ben, and by Jerry.

The Ben & Jerry’s annual “Sundae Sessions” Big Charity Launch, held on 5 February by the Bondi Pavilion, shook up the ‘Sunday night at the movies’ tradition which, up until now, I knew no better than to love.

Gone are the 40 minutes of commercials and yet-to-be classified previews of movies starting sometime next year. Left behind are the rip-off buckets of popcorn, Malteasers & other confectionary you’ll get venomously ‘shhh-ed’ at just to open. And no longer do you need to glaciate in cinema sub-zero temperatures and worry that the person you’ll sit down next to after a bathroom break is not the date you arrived with at all.

Pre-movie entertainment is a festival in itself, with sunset performances by the Winter PeopleHungry Kids of Hungary and The Cat Empire perfect choices to get the audience grooving. The vibe was as playful, carefree and fun as, well, a sunny Bondi Sunday afternoon! Maybe it was the sun coming out and the magical beach backdrop; maybe it was the free games & charity prizes. And it’s a sure bet it was the free scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream handed out all evening long. Like the Strawberry Cheesecake? Try Chocolate Fudge Brownie! Demolished Sweet Cream & Cookies? You’ll love New York Super Fudge Chunk. There’s no better way to test every flavour out there than with a licence to keep coming back for more. If you hadn’t realised what the finest, super premium ice-cream tastes like before, you’ll be screaming for the stuff after. 

When it’s time to sit down and watch the inspiring documentary, ‘Life in a Day’, we grab a beanbag, super warm blanket and cocoon under the stars.

And the best part? There’s a story behind every brand and this one’s driven by a social conscience and dedicated activism towards tackling some big global issues. Working alongside ‘Tunes for Change’ and The Cat Empire, the evening raised $20,000 for Australians for Cambodian Education (ACE) to help educate severely disadvantaged children and break the poverty cycle in Cambodia. The proof really is in the ice-cream. 
Johnny Hammond (Ben & Jerry's), Chloe Hamersley and Rich Coombes (Batlow Cider)
It’s another Ben & Jerry’s reminder that ‘capitalism can cure’, and support for the message couldn’t have been easier tonight – EAT YOUR HEART OUT!

Bondi Openair is running from 29 January to 4 March on the Dolphin Lawn next to the Bondi Pavilion.  Ben & Jerry's are hosting Sundae Sessions with free ice cream each Sunday.  The full film schedule can be accessed here.  

Lifeafterfive* attended as a guest of Ben & Jerry's Australia.


Jurassic Lounge; Enter the Dragon

Cries of Kung Hii Fatt Choi, exchange of red envelopes and exotically gourmet dinners took place across the country last week to celebrate the start of Chinese New Year. The year of the dragon is said to be the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac, with the dragon a legendary creature full of fire and mystique. Aptly subtitled ‘Enter the Dragon’, the legend is reinforced when we enter the alternate universe of Jurassic Lounge on 31 January 2012. We are greeted by a dinosaur roaming the museum floor, before discovering comedians, artists and museum geeks demonstrating a myriad of entertaining skills.

Leaving the clipped and corporate CBD, we enter a world of emerging art, inspired creativity and edgy music, a world that ignites curiousity and clamours for use of imagination. We stop at the bar for a zesty Aperol Spritz cocktail (complete with slice of orange), wander past two hot lassies belting out Beyonce karaoke to an onlooking tiger skeleton, and discover a magical range of interactive exhibitions usually frequented by school kids and tourists.

A live taxidermy demonstration (not for the fainthearted), a groovy silent disco and real time art demonstrations are just a few of the whacky treasures on display at this year’s Jurassic Lounge.  Read my review of the opening night of Jurassic Lounge on Eat Drink Play.

Jurassic Lounge is open from January 31 to April 3.  Tuesdays, 5.30pm to 9.30pm, Australian Museum, College Street, city, jurassiclounge.com, $15 (includes a drink on arrival and free entry to FBi Social at Kings Cross Hotel).

See more photos on the Lifeafterfive facebook page.