Versatile spaces broaden Hong Kong F&B scene
Versatile spaces offering attractions as well as food and drink are broadening the Hong Kong F&B scene, according to the HKTDC website Hong Kong Means Business.
Among them is Butcher & Baker Cafe in Hong Kong Island’s Kennedy Town. Launched in November, the space includes a butcher’s shop, florist, bakery, restaurant and children’s play area under one roof.
“Many young families who have returned to Hong Kong from Canada and the US have experienced this style of restaurant overseas and understand the concept,” says Wayne Parfitt, founder of F&B group Castelo Concepts, which set up the space.
A similar venue, set to open next month, is Bali export Potatohead, featuring a restaurant, retail, listening space and coffee shop, in Sai Ying Pun on Hong Kong Island.
Learning while being entertained is another take on the concept, with fine-dining club The First Floor in Central being an example. The venue provides food demonstrations, workshops and tastings. Since opening in November, it has hosted events with partners in the fields of artisanal cheese, sherry wines and Hong Kong craft beers. Cooking demos have included blue-cheese ice cream, stout macaroons and ricotta cheese. Its current edutainment focuses on umeshu (Japanese plum wine).
“We have created a dining club where guests can come in for lunch and dinner, enjoy cigars in our private cigar room, sign up for events and visit our retail area, which stocks gourmet products such as balsamic vinegars, African chili sauces, Spanish olive oils and truffle products,” says John Park, head of lifestyle group Experience Creation, which runs the venue.
He believes that while other restaurants also offer some form of edutainment dining, the level of participation and interaction varies. “A highly knowledgeable and entertaining sommelier, for example, could be interacting with customers and sharing interesting knowledge on specific wines, and this can be considered ‘edutainment’, as could menus designed to show different cuts of meat. I think consumers will increasingly begin to expect these kinds of dining experiences from restaurants.”
Many fashion brands have created dining concepts , such as the Agnes B chain of cafes and restaurants and the Armani Bar plus nightclub Armani Prive. Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz has taken this a step further with its lifestyle concept Mercedes Me, a showroom/restaurant and event venue with F1 race screenings, art exhibitions and fashion shows. It launched in Hong Kong in September, and its kitchen and bar feature such items as cheesecake Martini and signature dish Spanish Octopus with puffed pork skin, potato foam and smoked paprika.
Providing a “third space” away from work and home is the idea behind MyHouse, billed as a wine, music and dining venue with a focus on natural produce. It was launched in Wan Chai in October by sommelier/curator Alison Christ, who refers to her customers as “house guests”.
With more than 1000 records to choose from and seven turntables, MyHouse is attracting music aficionados. “Our resident DJs Arun R and Romi Behl use only vinyl, too. It was a bit of a struggle to find DJs willing to do this, as records are heavy and people don’t want to carry them.”
The venue has just opened its first art exhibition, in collaboration with the Cat Street Gallery, by US artist Chrissie Downing, who is in residence for three months.
As well as offering only sustainable seafood and free-range meats, Christ also stocks a range of natural wines, including biodynamic and zero-sulphite vintages and orange wines (made from white grapes and aged with their skins and seeds).
Seeing this third-space concept work back home in the US gave her the confidence to launch it in Hong Kong, says Christ. “It can be difficult to encompass so much, but it is possible. People who like wine, for example, usually like art, so there’s a crossover of interests.”
It took her a year to find the right location, and Christ is hoping to take the concept elsewhere in Asia, including Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, if she can find the right local partner.