Tag Archives: dining

Area Guide – Beijing

China World Summit Wing / Regus Business Centre –

It has been said that a new skyscraper is built every five days in China. Beijing, as one of the most populous cities in China, definitely has its fair share of super-tall structures.

Many of these buildings are located in well-planned business complexes that are more like mini cities, with offices, accommodation, restaurants and shops for the many travellers and workers that the developments are aimed at.

A perfect case in point is the China World Summit Wing hotel, one of the capital’s newest luxury accommodation establishments. Managed by Shangri-La and situated in the heart of one of the city’s premier business districts, the property is unmatched in convenience, with plenty of transport links in the immediate vicinity and the Capital International Airport just 45 minutes away by car. Companies in the area span a broad variety of sectors including finance, insurance, trade, telecoms and IT.

The hotel itself is housed in the upper section of the 330-metre-tall China World Trade Centre Tower, which is the tallest building in Beijing and the 33rd tallest in the world. Inside you’ll find a whole host of facilities, many of which are geared towards corporate events. The more notable facilities on offer include one of city’s largest pillar-less ballrooms, a 95-seat auditorium, a rooftop garden and a number of exquisite dining venues, all offering spectacular city views.

Another prominent new opening in the city is the latest Regus Business Centre on the top floors of Parkview Green, a unique pyramid-like structure as accommodating as it is easy to spot.

The suites and offices in the business centre offer all the amenities expected from a modern office. Receptionist and secretarial services are also available, as are a number of plush meeting rooms. Both long- and short-term leasing arrangements are available.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, August 2012

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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

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

Ozone, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Unless you’ve been reading censored news, you’ve probably heard about Ritz Carlton’s return to Hong Kong, and the crowning glory of the hotel is Ozone, the highest (and quite possibly one of the most stylish) bars in the world.

Ritz Carlton Hong KongThe Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has been pretty busy of late. After the 2008 closure of their elegant property in Central the group went silent for a while both here in the city and the region, but now they have returned with a palpable bang, as The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong and their latest properties have shown. Recently the brand has changed their positioning in the market slightly and a slight shift in their design philosophy and service evolution has emerged across their stunning portfolio (particularly in the newer properties). Up on the top floor of The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, Ozone is a testament to this fact, with the bar and light eatery boasting top-notch service and a conspicuously eye-goggling design scheme.

While the ICC is sadly not the highest building in the world, Ozone is, vertically speaking, the highest bar in the world – period. This alone is reason enough to visit the 118th floor venue, but thankfully this is not the only incentive, with the stunning views complemented by top-quality drinks and food, fine service, plus a stunning interior. The interior design was overseen by Masamichi Katayama and his self-owned company Wonderwall Inc., a design company with a difference that has an incredible catalog of exclusive interiors which includes impressive store spaces designed for Bape, Uniqlo and I.T, plus a Tokyo restaurant interior for Harrods, a Parisian restaurant called Collette and more. Although Wonderwall Inc. is anything but typical, their typical atypical design style can be seen all over Ozone, with playful contemporary plastic features appearing alongside first-rate materials and creative atmosphere-building gilding. There is a distinct Alice-in-Wonderland vibe about the whole interior, which was created around the theme of an ‘Edenic Experiment’ – “a man-made environment of nature in an imaginary world,” as the designer overview states. In other words, blown-up inspirations of nature can be seen everywhere, from the dim neon color-changing forest-like entrance through to the beehive-resembling ceilings and marble-shaped bamboo.

Ozone-Ritz-Carlton-Hong-KongAfter being zoomed up to Ozone in an elevator which reaches ear-popping speeds of nine meters per second, one is greeted by an atmospheric entrance area, where layered mirror ceilings, curtain-shaped walls and rock-resembling floor patterns tease and tantalize one’s expectations before entry. Once inside one is greeted by an eccentric white pillar which resembles oversized stacked marshmallows and acts as a visual centerpiece. Further in the interchanging neon colors continue to shine out along the ceiling, where they are complemented by beehive-like ceilings, geometric shapes and flower petal patterns on the walls below. The beehive shapes run behind the bar as well where they take on a web-like appearance. Along from the main bar is a sushi bar, and things get taken down a notch here, where a whitewashed marble counter is matched by marble bamboo-shaped pillars behind. In the main dining area the hive ceiling continues, but globular bubble light fittings add a different touch here. Outside, in the semi-al fresco area where 12-foot walls of glass offer panoramas of the city, there is another bar, and this one takes on an iceberg appearance. Various bar tables correspond with the white ice theme while a few rattan seats and bar stools provide a nice place to admire the view from.

Of course all this perfection would not be complete without a good selection of food and drink, and luckily, Ozone does not disappoint in this area either. Covered with custom-made holograms, the menus contain wonders such as wines that hover around the $100’000 mark, custom-made cocktails and signature drinks, plus a fine selection of sushi, sashimi, tapas, tempura and caviar.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, July 2010

Opening the Window – French Window, IFC

Making much better use of the space than the eatery that previously occupied the site is French Window, coming in as a grand addition to the Hong Kong fine dining scene up on the third floor of ifc Two in Central.

Like most things French, The French Window has an undeniable flair about it, with the interior bordering on art and the food quality coming close to perfection. However, while there is a touch of Frenchness about the interior and there is a French-inspired menu executed by Michelin-trained chef Mickael le Calvez, these are the Frenchiest elements of the restaurant, with the restaurant managed instead by the un-French Miramar Group; the concept helmed by Singapore’s Justin Quek; and the interior having been actually overseen by local design prodigies from AB Concept. Nevertheless, the French theme is still apparent throughout, with the interior loosely (and beautifully) modelled around a classical French château, and a erudite selection of predominantly old-world wines available to complement the food.

As a a rising star and modern prodigy of French cuisine, chef Mickael le Calvez does his best to create a nouveau Gallic menu, but the real star of this eatery is the designer Ed Ng, the founder and director of AB Concepts. 
Created with his award-winning design team from AB Concept, the modishly nostalgic interior perfectly complements chef Mickael’s modern takes on French traditional cuisine – which sees thin tender cuts of lamb placed within a crispy tunnel of fried potato in one dish, and features a tantalizing combination of foie gras and beef carpaccio in another. In much the same way, the designers have also used a similar tapestry of styles and techniques in the design of the restaurant interior, with modern textures and colours effortlessly merging alongside purposely aged mirrors and gorgeous oversized hand-beaten wrought-iron light fixtures, inspired by Parisian street lamps. Alongside the antiquated mirrors there are also textured stone tiles and patterned glass screens, which resemble French windows (which are, by dictionary definition, tall glazed casement window panels). It is this kind of meticulous attention to detail that got the restaurant shortlisted for the UK-based Restaurant and Bar Design Awards in the International Restaurant category.

While these words will not be able to do the interior justice, an attempt must be made here, but do keep in mind that The French Window really is the kind of place that has to be seen to be properly experienced. Walking in from the blinding retail haven of the ifc mall outside is like going down Alice’s rabbit hole and entering another dimension, with the long entrance passageway bearing a resemblance to a French promenade (only indoors). Lush vertical garden panels and atmospheric lighting fixtures lead one down into the space of the restaurant, which emerges as some kind of château or salon, with a subtle homelike ambience permeating the space. This homey vibe comes across through the use of cosy fittings such as the soft carpeting, the mosaic floor tiles and the warm dashes of wood. Nevertheless, this homeyness is counterbalanced with a smattering of modish elements, which crop up in the form of the tantalizingly large wine cellar, the uplifting views of Victoria Harbour seen through the massive windows and the refined palette of cool grey, cream, and taupe tones. When paired with chef Mickael’s ambrosially delectable menu, this interior makes perfect sense and the aesthetic beauty of the environment is further enhanced by the food. Together, it is elements like these that give The French Window its class and finesse – this is an eatery to make Hong Kong proud.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, May 2010

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Game-changing – Mamoz, Causeway Bay

Situated atop the newly opened Cubus building on 1 Hoi Ping Road in Causeway Bay is Mamoz, the latest dining hotspot that is bringing class to the shopping district.

While mainly known as a shopping area, Causeway Bay has always had a lack of up-scale decent bars and lounges. Sure, it always had karaoke bars and cafés but, apart from a couple of outlets that are few and far between, the district has been deficient in classy lounge venues. However that has been slowly changing over the last few years and Mamoz is a testament to that fact.

Designed to impress from the moment of entry, Mamoz takes class and chicness to a whole new level, with the two-floor 5,000 square-foot space featuring an impeccable design scheme from end-to-end. These design features include plush black marble floors, an eight-meter-long bar counter carved from a single piece of lacquered Indonesian timber, beautiful patterned damask leather walls and ceilings, unisex bathrooms lined with burgundy and gold mosaic tiles, plus a vertiginous section of glass floor on the landing of the connecting staircase.

The interior decoration was overseen by the team from Gettys Hong Kong (a firm that is most known for their luxurious work with hotels, resorts and casinos who worked on the Hard Rock Hotel in Macau and the Peninsula Hotel in New York), and they really pulled out all the stops, with classiness and luxe into overdrive throughout. As soon as one exits the elevator on the 27 floor, sculpted wall panels and metal partitions greet one in foyer, where subdued lighting enhances the atmosphere further. One past the foyer, the attention-getting space of the bar immediately grabs the eyes, with more subdued lights working alongside Tetris block-shaped metallic bar stools and subtly retro table lamps and paintings. One is also immediately drawn to the large floor-to-ceiling windows which not only bring natural light into the interior, but also provide dramatic views over Hong Kong. Other highlights on this floor include the slightly oriental chandeliers on the corner tables, the pirate wheel-like chandelier in the private area, plus leather-covered seating and glistening cushions. After scaling the frosted stairs to the second floor, the second floor is just as dramatic with more light oriental decorative motifs, more atmospheric lighting and of course, the main feature glass flooring as well.

While the design certainly makes a visit to this place worthwhile, there is also a top quality selection of drinks on offer with some decent food offerings as well. These include liquid concoctions thought up by expert mixologists and a wine list conjured up by local sommeliers.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, June 2011

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Whisking it Up – Whisk, Mira Hotel

With their face lift and rebranding now fully complete The Mira Hotel has emerged as a top contender forHong Kong’s most stylish hotel, and Whisk is the latest and greatest outlet just recently launched in the property.

When one sees the curvaceous exterior and enters the ethereal realm that is the lobby of the freshly refurbished Mira Hotel one can immediately tell that this is no ordinary property. Reincarnated and renamed as The Mira Hotel, the 51-year-old Hotel Miramar has been reborn after a hefty metamorphosis. A hotel modernization would not be complete without contemporary food and beverage outlets, and The Mira boasts plenty, with Whisk coming in as the dining climax of the hotel.

Whisk is the high point of the Mira’s dining outlets for a number of reasons, but the one that we’re going to start on is the connecting terrace – just because we like it best, and because it is a rarity to have such a substantial outdoor area inHong Kong. While the terrace is technically part of Vibes – Mira’s outdoor bar cum lounge – it is still joined to Whisk (with 20 outdoor seats) and is part of the lush view that gives Whisk’s interior its extra appeal. With exquisite landscaping consisting of eye-catching fire, water and green features, the 4,000 square-foot open-air space is an al fresco haven, complete with barbeque-tapas and innovative drinks. There is also a DJ booth, rattan cabanas and plenty of bamboo, frangipani trees and many more plants to help one get in touch with their green side.

However, the terrace is but a small ingredient adding flavour to Whisk’s overall scrumptiousness, because inside things hot up all the more so. The interior design was overseen by the international interior stylist Charles Allem of CAD Associates, and – having designed exclusive residences, hotels and commercial spaces in places like Palm Beach, Las Vegas, New York, and Bel Air – he shows what he is good at, with atmospheric lighting, frequent spots of natural light and lively retro circular-patterned carpets patterns giving Whisk an uplifting yet unpretentious feeling. With monochromatic black, greys and platinum silvers, circularly galaxy-like chandelier fixtures and plenty of nonstandard low-slung dining chairs, there is a cosmically retro vibe to the interior, but enough touches of elegance keep the space sophisticated and formal. There are various areas to the restaurant, with a barcode-patterned bar greeting one upon entry, a mezzanine area complete with views over Kowloon Park, two cosy private rooms and, of course, the main dining room, which connects up to the terrace.

The good taste doesn’t stop at the interior, with a menu assembled together by Justin Quek, a European chef trained under many Michelin-star eateries throughoutEurope. Quek’s specialty is French fare sprinkled with a touch of orientalism – a forte that he perfected when he was at the widely acclaimed French establishment, Les Amis, inSingapore. At Whisk he brings in a few more European flavours and refines a number of Asian favourites, with items like roasted crackling suckling pig and baked Miso Marinated Cod. In addition there are plenty of juicily fresh seafood options, plus a cellared selection of carefully selected European wines. If these features aren’t reason enough to check out this new establishment then you’re either still feeling the economic pinch of 2009, or simply suffering from cibophobia (totally true definition; fear of food).

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, February 2010

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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