Famous for triads, crime films and street food, Mong Kok is starting to hold its own as a nightlife destination

Line your stomach

Regardless of the day of the week, Mong Kok nights go late, so start slowly. Thankfully, the recently opened The Ale Project (TAP) is the perfect venue from which to launch a night of debauchery. Located in the quieter Soy Street area, TAP offers dozens of local and international craft beers paired with a bread-focused artisanal menu, ideal stomach lining. Squeeze yourself into the smaller-than-expected venue and order a pint of the Hong Kong Black seasonal winter beer (HK$65) from local brewery Young Master. Follow that with Lap Cheong Schmear (HK$58), onsite-made duck liver pâté and pork lap cheong on TAP's signature "beer bread".

The Ale Project, 15 Hak Po Street, tel: 2468 2010, Tue-Sun, noon-2am,thealeproject.com


Go upmarket

Crammed into some of the densest neighbourhoods in Hong Kong as a shot-to-the-heart gentrification effort, the 183,000 sq ft Langham Place looms over much of central Mong Kok like a crashed spaceship, full of high-end shops and seemingly endless escalators. Thankfully, between the chain restaurants and coffee shops, the developers have squeezed in some excellent drinking establishments. Two of the best are in the Langham Place Hotel. Start at the old standby, The Backyard, a surprisingly posh outdoor bar opposite the lobby that can be crowded in the summer but is lovely this time of year for a sundowner. Drinking outside in Hong Kong is a rare treat (especially for smokers), and space heaters and relaxed lighting make this an enjoyable experience even in the heart of winter — still, wear a jumper.

Afterwards, take the lift to the fifth floor to Alibi, Langham Place's newly refurbished wine bar, which focuses on mixology and wine tasting. Staff were more than happy to go into great detail about the ingredients in our drinks and the attention to detail showed in the end product. They don't skimp on ingredients and use only the finest spirits, including some hard-to-find tipples that had us giddy, such as the spectacular Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon. With prices for cocktails on Hong Kong Island nearing the HK$200 mark, these HK$100-a-pop cocktails alone were worth the MTR journey.

The Backyard, 4/F (Lobby) Langham Place Hotel, 555 Shanghai Street, tel: 3552 3028; Mon-Fri from 5pm, Sat, Sun and public holidays from 3pm;langhamhotels.comAlibi, 5/F Langham Place Hotel, tel: 3552 3028; Mon-Thu 8am-1am, Fri, Sat, Sun and eve of public holidays 8am-2am


Refresh and recharge

Leave the glitzy commercialism of Shanghai Street behind and head south, stopping to gorge yourself on the street food for which Mong Kok is famous, from fish balls and stinky tofu to meat skewers and deep-fried veggies. The sei bo, or four treasures — vegetables and tofu stuffed with ground meat and fried — are especially spot-hitting. While friends recommend late-night music and coffee joint Full Cup Cafe, most of this four-floor establishment was closed when we arrived, with what staff were there unable to explain why. The decor is cute in the hip local mode, but the vibe was quiet and artistic — not a great choice for a stop on an all-night rager, but excellent for a cup of coffee and live music.

Instead, we decamped to Aqua Cafe, a bar with a nautical theme and large number of aquariums. This bizarre watering hole — with perfunctory service, cheap and heavy pours, and an expansive outdoor terrace — is one of the last of a dying breed of true Hong Kong dives. We will certainly come back. While finding the bar can take some doing — it's hidden away on the third floor of a barely noticeable building entered through an alley — drinks are cheap, and the vast quantities of sugar in the cocktails will keep you buzzing. If you want something a bit less cloying, their Salty Dog — gin and grapefruit juice served in a rocks glass with a salted rim — packs a punch and will help replace electrolytes, softening the blow of the inevitable hangover.

Aqua Cafe: shop 302, 3/F Ho King Commercial Centre, 2-16 Fa Yuen Street, tel: 3693 4818, Mon-Sun 4pm-2am Full Cup Cafe, 36 Dundas Street, tel: 2771 7775; Mon-Fri 3pm-3am, Sat, Sun and public holidays 1pm-3am (though may close earlier), fullcupcafe.com.hk


Go out with a (cheap) bang

Swanky cocktail bars are all well and good, but for an authentic Mong Kok time, you have to take in some dive bars, many of which have been around since the neighbourhood was more like its on-screen depiction. Near the Prince Edward MTR station lies Tung Choi Street and a strip of nearly identical dice and darts bars serving cheap and cheerful standbys. Relive your college days by hitting each one, playing Chinese drinking games or electric darts. If you feel your energy flagging, stick to Jagerbombs (HK$88), though this may make it difficult to go to sleep at anything like a normal hour.

Prince Lounge, 224-226 Tung Choi Street Hours, Wing Sum Building, 230E Tung Choi StreetBC Lounge, 220 Tung Choi Street Riders, 218 Tung Choi StreetPenthouse, 216 Tung Choi Street Piss Bar II, Hip Shing Building, 214 Tung Choi Street