An Interior Opera

Back at the beginning of July KEF opened their first Music Gallery in Central, a stunning spatial experience merging music, art and design.

Z53A7354Being a renowned British manufacturer of premium audio products who stand for engineering integrity, design innovation and acoustic quality, KEF wanted to go all out for their Hong Kong flagship and make it a manifestation of their brand and these values. As an overture for the brand, the launch of the showroom represents an important milestone for their development and expansion in Asia, so they collaborated with Conran and Partners, a renowned British design studio to create a space that would be memorable and distinctive.

Continue reading An Interior Opera

Made for action – Queenstown, NZ

Queenstown in New Zealand has long been rightly identified as the
adventure capital of the world as it is the birthplace of
thrill-seeking tourism, home to many adrenaline-laden world
firsts – welcome to the action-packed epicentre of the world

new z covers (8)New Zealand was the last mass region on the planet to be settled by humans. Being late to the inhabitation party, this has given the island country a distinct ecological advantage, as the two main landmasses and all the smaller islets within it now boast a vast biodiversity of life unlike any other in the world. This has also given rise to the adventurous outdoorsy national spirit that New Zealanders have long been known for, which naturally comes with the territory, and is not surprising for a populace living amidst some of the most dramatic topographies on the planet.

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Pretty Crabby – Fatty Crab

Having successfully gone from Malaysia to New York, the hot and slightly weirdly-named concept that is Fatty Crab has now arrived in Hong Kong with a bang.

Fatty Crab RestaurantA few years ago, when the concept of Fatty Crab was first opened by the expatriate Fatty Crew in New York City, the concept at first received a mixed reception amongst reviewers and diners alike. Having emulated and taken a name from a small no-frills hole in the wall in Malaysia, the group culturally tailored it slightly to the Big Apple market, with consistent elements such as the dingy interior and scrumptious large spicy crabs at the heart of the menu remaining. In time, the concept caught on and, like the accepting diverse foreign atmosphere that is NYC, the cultural import that was Fatty Crab grew to be an astounding hit. Now, the group has just brought the concept to Old Bailey Street in Hong Kong, home of the Hairy Crab. To make it work here, the group worked to customise the concept slightly more for the local market, with an upmarket and raw edgy styled interior making the restaurant perfect for the local Soho crowd.

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Working Space Age

The explosive growth in staff mobility is having a seismic impact on the future of office design

Feature23Nov13The workspace of today is undergoing a profound shift. As human living is transformed by the modern need for greater mobility, flexibility and sustainability, a revolution is taking place in attitudes to work environments.

“Space is changing,” says Simon French, global design director at Regus. “It’s not all about the four walls around you. Technology is freeing people from their desks, and workspace has got to reflect this. This means more drop-in space, more hot-desking, and more flexible multi-use spaces. Gone are the days of one person, one desk.” Continue reading Working Space Age

Blue Meat – Blue Butcher

Industrial chic merges with quirky rustic ornaments and a subtle speakeasy theme in this engagingly designed meat-focused Sheung Wan restaurant.

24 - CopySlipping comfortably onto the meat bandwagon that has been trending in the restaurant scene of late is Blue Butcher, an eye-catching new establishment from the people behind PLAY and the Mexican-themed Brickhouse. However, instead of just sitting on the bandwagon, the folks at Blue Butcher are shaking it around, with the restaurant touting itself a ‘meat specialist,’ rather than a steakhouse. This is not without good reason, as they are the only restaurant equipped with a walk-in pink salt dry aging room in Hong Kong. The practiced chefs prepare, bake, age, and hang everything in-house using age-old recipes and modern techniques. They also use the freshest produce and herbs from local organic farms, with a menu of unique and award-winning cocktails standing out as well. Continue reading Blue Meat – Blue Butcher

Profiles on social media get Likes and dislikes

tor.jpgThere is no denying that social media is now part and parcel of the way many of us work. With recruitment firm Robert Half putting the figure of Hong Kong professionals using LinkedIn at 600,000, the importance of social-networking websites to the business world is only expected to grow.

Social networking websites are among the most popular ways of nurturing professional relationships today, says Pallavi Anand, director of Robert Half Hong Kong. Continue reading Profiles on social media get Likes and dislikes

Area Guide – Wan Chai/Admiralty

View 62 / The Executive Centre at Three Pacific Place –

View 62As one of Hong Kong’s first urban areas, Wan Chai is a busy commercial hub that is home to many small and medium-sized firms, as well as consular offices and shipping companies.

Located midway between the west and east sides of Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai boasts an efficient, convenient and highly accessible transport infrastructure. The district also has numerous office towers, parks, hotels and an international conference and exhibition centre.

All of these make Wan Chai an attractive locale for doing business, with establishments such as the recently opened View 62 and The Executive Centre at Three Pacific Place set up to capitalise on the area’s corporate population.

Occupying what was formerly the R66 restaurant atop the Hopewell Centre, View 62 boasts a stunning panorama and interior design. As the city’s only revolving restaurant, it is ideal for a working lunch, after-work drinks or meeting and greeting clients.

The restaurant was conceptualised by two-star Michelin chef Paco Roncero, who is known for his avant-garde cuisine in Madrid. Thus, amid View 62’s
contemporary interior design, one can savour contemporary dishes such as the creamy omelette in a martini glass or the Chilean sea bass with “Iberico Air” (foam from 60-month-aged Iberico ham).

After lunch, business road warriors hoping to catch up on some work can head to The Executive Centre at Three Pacific Place and choose from 43  offices with customisable sizes. It also has conference and training facilities, including a video-conference room. Tenants at the Grade-A office tower include The Bank of New York, Microsoft Hong Kong and Philips Electronics.

Full virtual-office packages – which come with a business address, phone-answering service, mail and message management, plus 60 hours of workspace use and three hours of meeting room use – start at HK$3,200.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, December 2012

Steak Out – Carnevino

The talented people from Dining Concepts have done it again, with Carnevino being another successful partnership between the budding restaurant group and the New York-based chef Mario Balti.

With the dust has barely settled on the opening of Mario Batali’s Lupa in LHT Tower on Queen’s Road Central, the busy chef-lebrity has just opened his second restaurant in Hong Kong, Carnevino, in the same building one floor above. Although both restaurants are targeted at a similar set of clients, Carnevino is slightly more upscale and formal than Lupa, with the new restaurant actually being part of an award-winning chain from Las Vegas. Continue reading Steak Out – Carnevino

Bay of Distinction

As a place where metallic winged giants once soared meters from the washing lines of people’s tenement apartments, and where an unpoliced mini-city formerly survived outside of society without law or order, the noisy, gritty and captivating Kowloon Bay is a little spot where the Hong Kong of old still lives on.

Gallery here. Continue reading Bay of Distinction

Sightseeing with a Conscience – Ecotourism, Kota Kinabalu

Envisage – if you will – the tourism of the future, and no I don’t mean some Richard Branson utopian form of space tourism, I mean the kind of Star Trek tourism where you could beam yourself into another life for a day, Total Recall style. Imagine if science fiction came true and you could be just like Arnie – you could buy yourself a piece of memory revealing the idyllic escapade of a lifetime. There would be no environmental problems, no harmful detriments on society, not a centimeter of construction or pollution involved, and no greedy conglomerates to steal profit or culture from the locals. Welcome to the future, welcome to ecotourism.

Actually, in all honesty you can just go straight on imagining, because my allegorical metaphor isn’t specifically exact, but ecotourism does mange to alleviate some of these problems. I am sure most people have heard of ecotourism by now and it really is a love or hate concept. You either take the hedonistic ‘live life, screw the environment’ standpoint or stand on the opposing ‘bored of classical tourism, let’s have an authentic experience and save the environment at the same time’ side. I may refer to the latter stance sarcastically, but really whomever ecotourism attracts; the eventuality does more good than harm.

Continue reading Sightseeing with a Conscience – Ecotourism, Kota Kinabalu

Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong hotel

Shanghai ifc, 8 Century Avenue, Lujiazui, Pudong 200120 China   

Although the impressively groundbreaking Ritz Carlton Hong Kong just opened barely a few months ago another equally impressive milestone from the group has been making a steady stream of waves over in Shanghai city for the past few months as well. Officially opened back at the end of last year, the Ritz Carlton Pudong is a marvel to behold and, like the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, the fresh new Shanghai property also boasts a large number of breathtaking feats, including Shanghai’s highest al fresco dining and wining venue, awe-inspiring design traces, plus unrivalled hotel-wide views over Shanghai. Developed by Hong Kong locals, Sun Hung Kai Properties, the hotel is a real stunner and it is unmistakably evident that no expenses were spared in the creation of this masterpiece. Set amidst the upper floors of the Cesar Pelli-designed Shanghai ifc, the hotel reaches for design and architectural heights, which it achieves with class. The cloud-touching property is an integral feature of Shanghai ifc and it enters in as the second Ritz Carlton in the city, and seventh in China. The interiors are just as perfect as the exterior, with designs from Singapore-based Richard Farnell and restaurants by Japan’s legendary Super Potato.

The 285 modern Art Deco rooms feature a lush array of textures, materials, furnishings and technology, with Blu-ray players appearing alongside coffee pod machines, beautifully-designed free-standing bathtubs, and more marble than you can shake a stick at. Richard Farnell’s touches also prettify the property throughout, with patches of real Stingray skin decorating some of the public areas, and meeting rooms which feature an Alice-in-Wonderland chic. For business and conferences one could not get much better, with the hotel’s 1,135 metre square ballroom supposedly being the second largest hotel ballroom in Shanghai. There is also over 2,250sqm of conference and meeting space, with plenty of natural light and outdoor spaces as well. The climax of the hotel is the 58th floor lounge and restaurant called Flair, which has a split-level outdoor terrace with views directly across to the big ball of the Pearl Tower – quite possibly the best rooftop bar in the world.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, July 2011 

 

 

 

Workers stay bullish on economy and job hopes

The new Michael Page Employee Intentions Report reveals that most workers have faith in the strength of the Hong Kong economy. Completed in June, the online survey polled entry-level to senior-management professionals on salary expectations, confidence in the job market and general employment outlook.

Of the 700 respondents, 42 per cent rated the current job market as strong. Some 40 per cent also indicated they are likely to change jobs within the next six to 12 months, with over a third of those who wished to move citing career progression as their primary reason. Half of those surveyed also said they would ask their current employer for a pay rise.

In light of these results, employers will likely need to look at ways to hold on to staff over the next year, says Anthony Thompson, senior managing director for Hong Kong and Southern China at Michael Page.

“Employers need to focus on retention and will be expected to enter into salary negotiations to keep top talent – that is, individuals with the experience and knowledge to drive the business forward,” he says, adding that jobseekers are paying special attention to career development plans, something hirers should be wary of.

Employers should also be mindful of the fact that average salary rises look set to grow. Over a third of respondents are aiming for a rise of 6-9 per cent, far outpacing expectations from the same time last year.

However, Thompson adds that while remuneration is important, there are a number of other ways employers can encourage top talent to stay with them.

“We increasingly find that candidates are focused on their career path and not just what is in it for them now,” he says, pointing to the impact of career progression on willingness to stay put.

Part of what’s fuelling the higher expectations, he suggests, may be the current wealth of job opportunities. Much of this, Thompson says, is attributable to the strength of the mainland economy, which is prompting many firms based there to expand their operations in Hong Kong.

“There is no doubt that China’s economic strength and continued growth are a real positive for the employment market in Hong Kong. Asia overall is performing well compared with most other markets,” Thompson says.

The only exception may be the financial services sector, which continues to be hit by uncertainty, especially in Europe.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, September 2012 

Luxury on High – St. Regis Shenzhen

Experience a new level of hospitality at The St. Regis Shenzhen.

Continuing their foray into China and expanding their palatial presence further in Asia Pacific, the newest St. Regis property in Shenzhen is the latest and greatest from the luxury-centric group and it is a milestone in every sense. The resplendent hotel is housed in the upper fractions of the city’s highest building, the 441.8 meter-tall Kingkey 100 building, which also happens to be the ninth tallest building in the world and the tallest building ever designed by a British architect, who in this case was the highly-acclaimed Sir Terry Farrell. Continue reading Luxury on High – St. Regis Shenzhen

Indian Chic – Lodha Fiorenza, at Goregaon in Mumbai

The ultra-hip global design firm, yoo, just recently launched their latest and one of their most audacious projects yet, Lodha Fiorenza, at Goregaon in Mumbai.

With India going from strength to strength every day and with many Indian luxury properties redefining luxury for the world, it was only a matter of time before yoo appeared in India. Founded by the world’s most celebrated designer, Philippe Starck, and one of the most influential property developers in Europe, international property entrepreneur John Hitchcox, the celebrity-aligned design company has names such as Kelly Hoppen, Marcel Wanders and Jade Jagger working for them.

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With experience spanning 33 different projects and 27 countries, yoo exists to help developer clients compete successfully in the property marketplace, by providing the very best in design, branding and marketing. Their latest foray in India is, fittingly, in Mumbai and it is also fittingly designed by Jade Jagger, the 39-year-old daughter of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger.

Jagger has already designed homes in Morocco, properties in Turkey and apartments in New York, and her work is always respectful of the culture within which the project is located. This is undoubtedly the case with Lodha Fiorenza, which blends India’s rich and varied tradition with unique cultural elements from across the world and Jagger’s trademark style of relaxed luxury.

“I am absolutely delighted to be partnering with Lodha to design Lodha Fiorenza. I have always been inspired by the vivid colours and exotic textures of India; it’s been a wonderful experience to incorporate them in the design of Lodha Fiorenza – a perfect balance between luxury and comfort,” commented Jagger at the launch.

When completed in 2014 the primely-located position project will boast 452 apartments, across four buildings. Milano, the tallest of the four structures, is a 52-storey tower which will rise to a breathtaking height of 600 feet. The building will feature luxurious four bedroom residences and lavish duplex sky villas of just one per floor. Residents will get to enjoy such lavish facilities as a rooftop lounge, an observatory with stunning views of the Aarey colony and the Arabian Sea plus an infinity edge cantilevered swimming pool. The other three towers, Venizia, Sienna and Roma, offer stylish two, three, and four bedroom residences in the Jade Jagger for yoo style. All the homes will be fitted with the highest specifications and include lighting and sounds controls by iPad, German Poggenpohl kitchens, and Italian marble flooring.

Area Guide – Central

LUPA / Compass Offices (Aon China Building) –

As home to some of the city’s leading companies, Central remains unsurprisingly one of the best areas in town for corporate dining, be it for a casual business lunch or gala dinner.

Many of the neighbourhood’s bars, restaurants and cafes have accordingly molded their services, furnishings and cuisine to cater to the needs of the area’s many busy-bodies.

Hearty New York Italian eatery LUPA is one such establishment. The newly opened restaurant has squarely positioned itself in the all-important sweet-spot between casual lunch establishment and formal dining hall. At 5,500 square feet in size, the sprawling interior is equally fitting for large events, particularly when combined with the 2,500 square-foot outdoor terrace, which in and of itself is perfect for a small cocktail affair.

Also new to the district is the latest serviced office complex from Compass Offices. The exquisitely furnished establishment takes up the 16th and 17th floors of the Aon China Building which, situated in the heart of the district, an ideal place to base yourself if you’re in town for a business trip.

The building itself has recently undergone renovation, and now boasts three ultra-posh elevators that are sure to impress even the most pernickety of business clients.

The spaces on offer are each beautifully furnished and offer equally beautiful city views, together with all the connectivity one would expect from a modern office. The shared office facilities include a large private lobby and three well-equipped meeting rooms with comfortable seating for four, six and 14 people.

Compass Offices also houses a banking-grade data centre on site for those with more demanding information technology needs.

Virtual offices are also available and start at HK$598 per month. Meeting rooms on their own go for about HK$50 per 15-minute session. Custom office fittings are also available for long-term clients.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, June 2012

Interior Design Supplement – Interior Design’s Tighter Space

Though the Hong Kong interior design industry is flourishing, the city currently faces a dearth of well-trained interior designers – and this looks set to continue as work from emerging markets in the region is on the rise. The pinch is being felt across the industry, with even the larger interior design firms finding it difficult to recruit designers.

Offering an explanation for the shortage, Logan MacWatt, managing director of Aedas Interiors, points out that the majority of skilled designers are essentially all fully employed.

Continue reading Interior Design Supplement – Interior Design’s Tighter Space

Wonderfully Unconventional – W Retreat Koh Samui

The overuse of words beginning with the letter ‘W’ employed at W Hotels around the world gets kind of galling after a while, but this is one annoyance we are willing to forgo at the W Retreat Koh Samui, which really is, by definition and design, whimsical and wonderful (*shudder*). At the entrance one is greeted by interactive digital floor projections and a large architectural recreation of a lily pond complete with glowing psychedelic floating globules and sunken seats that look like over-sized lotus flowers. From here on in a whole world of chicness awaits where quirky design features abound and create a serious sense of place. In the 75 colourful glass-walled pool villas red marshmallow-resembling light fixtures, modish asymmetrical ceiling fans and other playful eye candy combine to make an impact on the senses, whilst around the resort a number of alluring food and beverage outlets beckon and entice. These include the open kitchens, dramatic glass ceilings and vivid bright blue tones of The Kitchen Table; the raw wood, concrete, and glass elements of the beach-side Sip Bar and Namu Japanese restaurant; plus a healthful juice bar connected to the Away Spa (which boasts Asia’s first Thai/Mexican steam treatment facility). Being a W property, the exceptional design is matched by an exceptional location, which features two separate beaches that converge at a sandy tip. While villas scatter a hillside on one side off from the beachfront, there is a flat plain that stretches out on the other side, overlooked by the various levels of public areas that impressively cascade down the hillside. It is all just a day’s work for this hotel group of cool unconventionality.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, May 2010

Gentrifying Dining – 208 Duecento Otto

Although it’s been happening for a while, 208 Duecento Otto officially secures Sheung Wan’s position as the trendy gentrified dining extension to Lang Kwai Fong and Soho, and when one experiences the idiosyncratic interior one can see why the official transformation of a district can rest on a single restaurant.

208 Duecento Otto is the kind of restaurant that makes us design addicts happy at Today’s Living. Although the design is stunning, this time we are impressed with more than just the aesthetics as the story behind the restaurant is just as appealing, and the people who put the hard work into the restaurant are just as deserving as the designers. Originally a two-storey frozen meat storage warehouse at the end of Hollywood Road, the Singaporean founder of JIA Boutique Hotels – Yenn Wong – decided to build on the success of her eccentric Philippe Starck designed hotel and, combining an attention-grabbing design scheme with a New York-style Italian-American bill of fare, this captivating restaurant was born.

208 duecento ottoThe main district-changing factor of 208 Duecento Otto is the eye-popping design of the place, with an attention to style and detail running inside and even out. As the first overseas project by a Turkish design firm called Autoban, the interior is a spectacular bohemian work of art, and it is clear to see this design firm won’t be strangers abroad after this. The exterior is marked by a striking intentionally-oxidized rustic-looking iron frame, which somewhat resembles an oversized Louis Vuitton suitcase. This is appropriate; given that Chef Vinny Lauria’s cooking style has been defined as “a New York interpretation of rustic Italian cuisine.” Inside the rusticness continues in the spacious bar area on the ground floor where sophisticated walnut wood squared panels decorate the ceiling and flooring, and somehow complement the blue and white ceramic wall tiling, which also bring in an extra touch of orientalism. Some dramatic overhanging lights stand out as well, appearing alongside gorgeous textured wooden tables, a slick marble bar counter, refined leather bar stools and old-looking holed stairs, which have a slightly nautical feel about them. Upstairs, there is more of a sophisticated ambience, with the walnut wood ceiling and flooring continuing alongside more ceramic tiles, but here they are complemented by some leather sofas, an authentic wood-fired Napoletana pizza oven (specially imported from Naples), and a spot of natural light coming in from the large window out the front.

Pastiera Napoletana Of course with such a spectacular design scheme it would be a crime if the food failed to make an impression as well, and luckily the Italian-American fare it does not even come close to disappointment. Overseen by Chef Vinny Lauria, formerly a cook at Mario Batali’s famous Babbo inNew York City, there is a home-made vibe to the food, with every dish prepared on-the-spot using the freshest ingredients available. Apart from the pizzas and antipasti, these are not your generic dishes, with many of the items featuring top-quality ingredients and a signature touch of creative flair, much like the rest of the restaurant.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, August 2010

Architecture Supplement – Building Blocks of the Future

Hong Kong has always been an architectural hub, with some of the best talent in Asia and the world, and, today, its architecture industry is alive and vigorously kicking.

“With its mixed international pool of architects and proficiency gathered over time, the Hong Kong architecture industry is perfectly set up as a hub to serve the region,” says Dominic Lam, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA).

“In fact, more than 50 per cent of Hong Kong architects end up working on projects outside Hong Kong,” he adds.

The CEO of architecture global giant Aedas, David Roberts, shares the same sentiment, describing Hong Kong as a “strategically-placed business destination”.

“The proximity to Southeast Asia is important,” he says. “A lot of clients [from there] look to Hong Kong professionals to provide provisional services for their projects. Hong Kong has a huge advantage in terms of its geographical location.”

However, this regional market is dwarfed by business in China, which has surged two-fold in the past few years. “The workload from mainland China has been increasing, and 60 per cent of the work in our Hong Kong office is from the mainland,” says Roberts.

“Ten years ago, this would have been only about 10 per cent and, looking ahead, the 60 per cent might become 70 per cent soon,” he adds.

This is felt throughout other practices in Hong Kong, too. Kenneth Lui, a director with the P&T Group, even points out that increasing mainland work is putting pressure on local and international architects to learn Putonghua.

“One of the most important things for an architect in Hong Kong now is language – even locals need to learn Putonghua,” he says. “One must also be willing to travel and to work on the mainland.”

Lucy Richardson, managing director of Bespoke Hong Kong, is seeing the same trends at her local architect and designer recruitment firm. “At the moment, 80 to 90 per cent of candidates we place are Chinese, and this is mainly because of the language factor,” she says. “We are finding it more and more difficult to place international architects because they don’t have the language skills.”

Candidates need to know more than just Putonghua though, as Richardson points out. “Those who are most in demand are the locals who have trained overseas, who have had experiences with international practices and are returning home to the mainland or Hong Kong,” says Richardson.

“Although graduates are of interest, the Chinese market is looking for broad-minded architects who have done two to 10 years in a practice overseas, and have come back with understanding, training and experience.”

Richardson also points out that while there are some strong candidates coming out of local schools, Hong Kong-educated students are slightly weaker than their international counterparts.

“I think that the brief set in universities here is a bit basic, and does not really get people thinking – it is a lot more challenging at Australian, British and American universities,” Richardson says.

P&T Group principal designer Remo Riva agrees, adding that creativity is somewhat disregarded in Hong Kong.

“At universities here, they teach that management skills are very important and creativity is more a by-product because it is not so needed or expected,” Riva says. “Even at the University of Hong Kong, the emphasis is not so much on teaching or on creativity, but about training for management skills.”

Creativity is also lacking in the field, where developers dominate and tough regulations restrict architects. “Basically, to be approved, the architecture has to work around and within the regulations and demands of developers, which reduces creativity. In other places, you look at buildings and you can see the developers are more open,” says Lui, of P&T Group.

He adds that developers are also snapping up talent, which means that local demand for architects remains strong.

Nevertheless, HKIA’s Lam says that the architectural scene is healthier than it has ever been, and fresh graduates can expect to start at a competitive monthly rate of HK$30,000 minimum, which is the highest that entry-level salaries have been in the sector.

Roberts of Aedas has the same positive viewpoint. “Hong Kong has been able to grow domestic talent through the universities and educational establishments here, while also attracting international talent, even as markets are quiet in places like New York and London,” he says.

“We have some of the best infrastructure, and investment is continuous with strong all-round optimism and energy levels. This is certainly the place to be right now,” Roberts adds.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, March 2012

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Fashionable Gastronomy – Armani/Aqua & Armani/Privé

As the fine-looking end product of a fruitful collaboration between luxury gods Armani and the arbiters of restaurant taste, the Aqua Restaurant Group, this restaurant was set to be a hit before construction work even began.

If the Greek legend King Midas was a corporation he would most likely be the Giorgio Armani Group, that ubiquitous oh-so-familiar fashion and luxury goods company that needs no introduction. Pretty much any project that gets the Armani seal of approval is bound to be a success in some way or another these days, and this even counts in areas outside of their domain – with their young yet successful collection of restaurants being a perfect case in point. As a fairly new venture for the company their thriving restaurants all boast the Armani signature lushness, with three gourmet restaurants at the Armani Hotel in Dubai plus a flourishing Armani and NOBU venture. They also recently and fittingly moved into bars, with three Armani/Privé’s located in Milan, Tokyo and Dubai, plus the recently-closed Armani Bar in Hong Kong, which was doing well even up to its close.

Not being ones to stand still, Armani have again taken things a step further and, following in the footsteps of the previously closed Armani Bar, they have just launched a new restaurant concept in the heart of the Hong Kong city centre as well – a massive 14,000 square-foot combined bar and restaurant called Armani/Aqua and Armani/Privé. The new innovative luxury restaurant concept is the result of a partnership between Armani and Aqua Restaurant Group, and their could be no better pairing, with the designer David Yeo behind Aqua being a man with flair and finesse, much like Giorgio Armani. In fact, as one of the main masterminds behind the ultra-stylish Hullett House, Aqua and the Michelin-starred Hutong, much of the phenomenal success of the Aqua Restaurant Group can be attributed to David Yeo alone.

Upon entering Armani/Aqua and Armani/Privé it is clear to see Armani made the right choice for a partner, as David Yeo’s design magic has been successfully conjured up again. Much like the atmospheric interiors of restaurants Aqua and Hutong, subdued romantic moody lighting runs throughout, complementing a dramatic design scheme that catches the eyes from the get-go. A fine polished Italian veneer greets one at the entrance and a plush red carpet leads one into the restaurant. Further in a the dynamic design continues where a long black and orange carpet ushers one into the restaurant, which stands out with arches on either side and mirrors behind – a surreal train station resembling space. Inside in the main dining one is greeted by a lava amber bar, which stands out with its light oriental motifs. Behind this more blood reds crop up in the dining area where they are complemented by cozy booths and an abundance of natural stone, wood, glass and steel.

The other main area of the restaurant is Armani/Privé which has more of a club vibe. As the fourth Armani/Privé in the world Armani wanted things to be a bit different and so the space is split into two main parts – an up-beat lounge and a 5,000 square-foot rooftop terrace which offers skyscraping city views reminiscent of a scene from Blade Runner. Inside chic sleek blacks are matched by lush velvet chairs, while outside wooden decking, rattan furnishing and candlelit containers create a romantic yet futuristic mood.

Of course, they do not disappoint in the food arena as well, with an extensive menu that boasts a wide selection of Italian and Japanese fare. While their Italian cuisine focuses on simple, traditional techniques incorporating influences from the different regions of Italy, their Japanese dishes are more experimental, with beautifully fresh ingredients matched by elegant and innovative presentations. This is one powerhouse that deserves to be visited at least once.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, November 2010

The Gentrification of Hong Kong is Destroying These Homes

Billy Clarke heads to the Hong Kong district of To Kwa Wan to capture a last glimpse of homes that will be destroyed by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) next month. The URA ousted almost 380 residents from their homes on Pak Tai Street as part of a redevelopment project, compensating tenants with cash or a flat-for-flat option. We met with the last man standing on a block that will soon be demolished.


Song of Style: Song Saa

We’re just going to say this straight up; there will never be another Song Saa. Like a rare top-drawer gemstone, this boutique Cambodian luxury resort will never be replicated – it’s the kind of place that the phrase ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ was designed for. However, after experiencing the magic here, you’re going to want to visit twice or thrice in a lifetime. We say that because we’re already wishing we were back there (and continue to do so daily).

Continue reading Song of Style: Song Saa

Welcome to the web portfolio of the Hong Kong writer, photographer, editor and dreamer-creator, Billy Clarke.