Looking for a slice of original French culture on Hong Kong Island? Forget about the holy trinity wine-cheese-baguette, and take a look at a café-pétanque instead.
Hidden in a tiny street in Shek Tong Tsui, Les Boules is the only café of its kind.
Its name, les boules, the balls in French, refers to the main characteristic of this café : la pétanque, a popular ball game, particularly famous in Southern France.
Eric Masson, publisher and owner of three bookshops in France, left his country nine years ago to land in tax-heaven Hong Kong, importing pétanque to the island.
In 2007, he created the Hong Kong Pétanque Club that has been holding games and tournaments on every Sunday since then.
“First, we started with HKPC on Lamma Island and it was quite successful; that’s how we had the idea of the café,” he said.
Les Boules opened in December 2009. Masson found himself lucky to find a place that could accommodate a bar, a stage, a lounge and, most importantly, a three-lane clay bowling pitch.
From the food served and the music played, to yellow flags hanged in the stairway reading Ricard -the traditional anise alcohol served in Provence and very popular amongst pétanque players- the place has an undeniable French Touch.
However, Masson would rather see his café as a multicultural place, encouraging social gathering and introducing an original pétanque experience. Local people, expats, students, Les Boules attracts a happy and eclectic crowd every evening.
“Pétanque is a very social sport, you can play in pair, in trio or in bigger team,” he said. “Whether you come alone or not, eventually you’ll meet people.”
Les Boules – Café Pétanque
18, Woo Hop Street
Shek Tong Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel: 2872 0102
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday