A wet and rain-soaked weekend is coming up, so I thought I’d share with you photos from two of my favorite Sunday brunch joints in Hong Kong… you know just in case those junk boating plans fall through. Whenever Sunday rolls around, everyone always asks the same question… What is the best brunch in Hong Kong??? And if you’re like me, you think it’s a Google search away, when in reality, the information you’d get online as feedback could even be more painful to get through. Let me help.
The “Best brunch” depends on a lot of factors for different people. Some are all about “views” and some are about “ambiance”. For me, that criteria is important, however in addition, I find the most important elements of a great Sunday brunch is that A. It has to be Western (unless it’s outright dimsum which is fine), B. It’s gotta serve amazing juice, coffee, and bloody maries, C. Eggs. It’s gotta serve eggs or eggy dishes well, and lastly D. The special Added extra something that only a unique restaurant can provide… and its not necessarily champagne. (Though that’s an easy tack on that’s very welcome.)
+ “Old World Becomes New Classic” // The Principal
The Principal, is one of Hong Kong’s classic hidden gems, located on a little tucked-in corner on Star Street. The restaurant, owned by the Press Room Group, IS a destination that doubles as a sleepy neighborhood locale. The interiors are fresh, clean, and crisp… and earthy. Reflected ceiling is in timber, the back wall is clad in light clay brick tiling, and the seating in a light beige and brown madras with a slight blue-grey tint. Tables all have a bit of plant life in a clay pot, everything seems very… mediterranean. The design for the fit out, by Australian studio, Hecker Guthrie, serves as a nice and subtle backdrop for the restaurant’s offerings, delicacies reminiscent of old world flavors, but adapted for a modern, urban palate which expects innovation.
Executive Chef, Jonay Armas, honed his craft in Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain, including La Terraza del Casino and El Chaflan in Madrid, and El Raco de Can Fabes in Barcelona. Regularly, meals at The Principal come in three “travel” inspired set menus, but for the Sunday Brunch, it’s the world’s buffet… direct to your table.
The menu begins with a “Picnic”, when the waiter brings to your table a wicker basket filled with items and things in glass jars, tin cans, and cheese wrapped in paper. Items in the basket, which are then carefully laid out on the table include; a Strawberry and rhubarb yoghurt mousse, cold cuts and cheese, liver pate, Moroccan-inspired hummus, Anchovies in Vinegar-garlic-olive oil, and freshly baked bread.
For some people in Europe, that’s it for Brunch… but if you’re a guest at the Principal, like me and my sister were… it’s the first course of a six course meal.
For the rest of the meal (you know, it’s 6 courses like I said), we were served a delicious ceviche, tempura made of seasonal vegetables, eggs cooked sunny side up in front of us and served with free range bacon, and lastly for savory, the Sunday Roast… a Spanish suckling pig served “Korean Style”, wrapped in lettuce.
And of course, there’s no full meal without… Desserts!
These beautiful creations include cakes that taste like Snickers Bars, frozen raspberries with pop rocks, Pina Colada Profiteroles, chocolate meringue lollipops, and of course… Churros. Delicious.
Service at The Principal is extremely on point, and attentive. And for a price of 740HKD, the six course Sunday Brunch also comes with bottomless Champagne (a Brut Le Mesnil-sur-Oger), a selection of Wine /Beer, Juices, fancy water, and Graffeo Coffee or Harney and Sons Teas. NOT BAD. Great even!
+ “Dockside and Farm Fresh Simplicty” // Fish & Meat
Fish & Meat is definitely one of my most favorite new restaurants in Hong Kong. Not only is it designed by one HK-based designer I admire (and whom I had the pleasure of interviewing before), Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose, but the Fish AND the Steak are both equally divine… at least for dinner! I was recently invited to taste the new brunch menu which has just launched last month… and it’s just not any other brunch menu… it’s brunch… with the addition of a BUTTERMILK. PANCAKE. STATION. I kid you not.
For mains on offer here (besides the Buttermilk Pancake Station itself with homemade toppings like Vanilla Cream and Caramel Sauce)… is an Organic poached egg Brioche with Truffle, Pan Fried Sea Bream with fennel and green pea puree, Organic Sunny Side Eggs, and a Cedar River Prime Sirloin… to name a few of what our table consumed.
Unlike The Principal, Fish & Meat is really visible to its neighborhood location on the corner of Glenealy and Wyndham Street, with the right amount of glazing on both sides to let plenty of sunshine in, and vantages to the city out. Ambiance? Design? Check. Views? Check.
Fish and Meat’s general philosophy, a sensitivity towards “farm to table” methods of sourcing, preparation, and serving are all on point even for Sunday Brunch and is evident. It really feels like you’re being served farm fresh food in a farm fresh environment. Compared to The Principal, you can get more relaxed here and be a little bit louder… but then again, it depends on what kind of mood you want for Sunday Brunch.
I also had my fill of the “Cold Buffet”, a selection of fresh oysters and mussels, and a few salads made of beetroot gravlax, crab, watercress, squash, asparagus, and even the basic Ceasar is also available. There’s a delicious farfalle pasta in red pesto and burrata also on offer for those carb-inclined.
Service at Fish & Meat is also quite good and personable, and generally matches the menu’s casual attitude. The mains are delicious, but you know… if you can do it… have the the Steak or the eggs. You won’t regret it!
So that’s my brunch wrap up, a picture summary of my two favorite brunch places. It’s not too sceney nor is it overwhelming. They’re both buffets on an intimate scale, and with each having their own unique offerings. If you check out any one of these brunch places this weekend, be sure to tag me on Instagram @theWanderlister, so I can inspect and comment on all your delicious #SundayBrunch #FoodPorn.
EAT The Principal . 9 Star Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong . T: +852-25633444 / EAT Fish & Meat, 32 Wyndham Mansions, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852-25656788
Going to New York City for work and play gave me a chance to make some visits to a few cool destination stores by my favorite brands, for men. If you’re a guy and you only have a day or two to fit in some shopping in the city, I strongly suggest highlighting Nolita and Bleecker Streets to your lists, since these two neighborhoods carry a good selection of casual menswear brands to fit most tastes.
Please note, nothing in my NYC #wanderlist covers formalwear or suiting, but there are some selections available at a few of these stores that can offer a full range of styles for most any occasion. (For bespoke suiting, I recommend the NYC outpost of Hong Kong’s iconic menswear tailor, The Armoury.)
+ FINE THREADS // Black Fleece on Bleecker Street
In 2007, Brooks Brothers launched a youth oriented label,Black Fleece, in collaboration with Mr. Thom Browne, who won the 2006 CFDA Award Winner for menswear just a year before. Yearning to break free aesthetically, from their main Brooks Brothers line, the Black Fleece label allows for the brand to offer a selection of menswear for a new generation of guys who may not be so familiar with the traditional Brooks Brothers suiting, but are ready to embrace elements of “dandy” suiting in their day-to-day lives. With Black Fleece, designer Thom Browne gets to make clothing for a wider demographic of men who seek to embrace his modern look, underpinned by the Brooks Brothers level of quality and craftsmanship.
The corner store on Bleecker Street is intimate, carrying both men and women’s. Customers and staff know each other there on a first name basis, and when I went, everyone who showed up at the store, were pretty much return customers. This is a good thing for me to notice, especially because the clothes are so playfully quirky and a-traditional. I suppose the intimacy in shopping experience for Black Fleece is really about the support of their customers who just “get” the brand concept from the get-go. (And FYI, the service quality in Hong Kong’s flagship on Wyndham Street is absolutely the same level. Top notch and personal. I hope they keep it up!)
+ STREET STYLE // Saturday’s Surf NYC on Crosby Street
Yes, Saturday’s is an urban shop in New York City for those into surfing culture. I know… crazy right, because where can you actually surf in Manhattan!? While I was there, twice, during my last trip, I did witness a guy purchase a surfboard and then packing it up on the spot. So yes, in New York City, surf sells at Saturday’s Surf NYC.
Saturday’s is essentially a casual men’s shop selling “street style” with a splattering of elegant buttoned down looks and up-market T’s and sweatshirts. The reason why I support this local brand, which first opened its doors in 2009, is that while it speaks to a particularly niche and quirky customer (urbanites who are engrossed in surfing culture), its collection… from apparel, to bags, to shoes, to accessories, pretty much have a strong and consistent aesthetic base line which a broader design-focused demographic can appreciate. Everything is either grey, black, or primary colors in palette, and for the patterns or stripes that appear in their collection, it’s pretty bold in a pop art kind of way… yet clean and modern. This kind of stylistic integrity is a great position to be in, especially for a young brand wanting to make a mark in casual street wear.
Some of my favorite things about the shop… browsing Saturdays Magazine, the brand’s modern take on the classic surfer magazine and checking out the back garden where you can just sit and chill with a cup of delicious La Colombe coffee from their destination coffee shop in store.
+ ARMED CANDY // Miansai on Crosby Street
Miansai’s Crosby Street location in Nolita has only been operating for less than a year (opened in December 2013), but already it seems like the flagship has been there since the establishment of its brand in 2008. Founded in Miami, by New York born, Michael Saiger, Miansai’s men’s jewellery is now coolly retailed in 40 US States and 36 countries, including Mr. Porter (which ships internationally), and Kapok, Harvey Nichols, and Lane Crawford, here in Hong Kong.
The Crosby street location offers the full array of Miansai’s products, plus leather goods, with all items Made in the USA by its team of 30 craftsmen. If you’ve been shopping in Asia, and think you’ve seen all of what Miansai has to offer re: nautical themed bracelets, think again, this tiny shop in New York carries everything you’ve seen and so much more, including new designs, fixings, and clasps, recently launched for its 2014 collection of wares.
My favorite is the cuff design, made of .925 Sterling Silver, 14K Gold and Rose Gold, and for some items, 18K Gold. Have a sip and sit in the in-house tea room as you enjoy browsing and the trying on of all things Miansai. (FYI. You can also build your own bracelet.)
+ CURATED STYLE // Odin New York on Lafayette
10 year old menswear boutique, Odin, has been on the curated menswear scene way before menswear became a staple on everything from everyone’s Pinterest and TUMBLR boards, to their multiple-broque closets. Founded by partners, Paul Birardi (ex-buyer at Macy’s) and Eddy Chai (ex-advertising art director), Odin has held their own, courting working gents from all walks of life who care about fashion and style, plus now college students and even some female shoppers.
The store on Lafayette Street, a 2000 square foot, ex-Chinese Noodles factory, was a hands-on experience for the founders, building and designing everything themselves to house menswear multi-brands from the ground up. Since establishing the boutique, Odin has collaborated with American retail giants like Target, the Gap, and boutique labels like Matsuda, Rag & Bone, Common Projects, Mark McNairy, Alex Mill, Todd Snyder, and Engineered Garments.
The Lafayette Street shop offers personal styling services for a wide range of products available from the house’s own label to the likes of Thom Browne’s main line, which I bought a few pieces on sale.
+ ALL AROUND STYLE // Club Monaco Men’s on 5th
Not quite in Nolita and Bleecker (we’re talking 5th Avenue), but just a walk away from the iconic burger joint, Shake Shack in Madison Square Park where my friend Andy and I had our lunch, is the heaven that is Club Monaco’s 5th Avenue store. I don’t know about you, but I’m obsessed about all things Club Monaco (and its been a few years now), since I’ve done style collaborations with them in Hong Kong years ago and since their menswear line was taken on board by Menswear designer, Aaron Levine.
The 5th Avenue store is indeed a mecca for those who are “Club Monanites” (okay Made this moniker up) offering a full selection of CM classics, essentials, and specialty seasonal items in playful prints, colors, and elegant (ie. non baggy) and fitting menswear silhouettes. Accessories and outerwear complement easy to wear CM items from the brand and partner “Made-In-America” labels. Shoes include a great selection from Grenson and New Balance. The huge two-story store looks like an old-time Department Store from the turn of the century, and also fits a florist, a bookstore by the Strand, and an outpost by my favorite Williamsburg café, Toby’s, for those inclined to stay awhile after a full shopping experience.
+ GROOMING // Fellow Barber on Crosby St,
On Crosby Street adjacent to Miansai and Saturday’s, be sure to check out, Fellow Barber, one of four of these barber locations in New York City and Brooklyn. Fellow Barber is committed to offering all patrons a traditional barbershop experience without the pretense of a salon. Because everything is “traditional”, all Fellow Barbers are expertly trained to provide classic men’s cuts with straight-razor shaves.
The shop on Crosby Street carries a wide array of products, including shaving kits, body soaps, and moustache/beard wax for the discernible gentleman.
#theWanderlist: Intersecting Art and Design at West Chelsea's Hotel Americano
After my six day stay in Williamsburg, I packed up my bags and moved to the opposite end of the map, to Manhattan’s West side, where I spent my last two nights at the Enrique Norten-designed, Hotel Americano. Enrique Norten’s firm, TEN Arquitectos, is originally from Mexico, however projects like Grupo Habita’s 56 room boutique- Hotel Americano, opening in 2011, helped Norten establish a permanent presence in New York.
Compared to Williamsburg, the West Chelsea/High Line art district, is too a bit off the grid from Manhattan’s usual buzzy and traffic-crazed neighborhoods. So technically, staying at Hotel Americano, with its chain-mail clad facade veiling the hotel like a soft protective blanket, gives the building a character of introvertedness re-establishing a getaway experience right in the middle of the city.
The rooms have this minimalist Japanese x Scandinavian ambiance, with all the beds low on a timber-finish staging area. I stayed at the “Downtown King” room, where the soft glow of the window provides, a subtle Rothko-esque backdrop… and lifting this curtain allows for a more dramatic urban backdrop through the picture window.
Materials are minimal… mirrored stainless steel working desks, fair-faced concrete flooring cool the touch, white marble tiles within the bathroom’s interiors, a glass and steel partition with a fritted pattern separating the shower from the bedroom area… all very modern reflecting contemporary architecture palate without losing the comfort sensibilities of “home”.
There are aspects of the room which is considered luxury… the iPad with an amazing selection of music and muzak which I had playing in the background the whole time, a great selection of self-labeled snacks (like the rich sea salt chocolate bar which everyone needs to try), and (the one item I loved the most), a bathrobe in soft denim. It’s fantastic.Unfortunately some items, ie. room speakers were not working (they are supposed to easily connect to the iPad), no complimentary drinking water in the room, and no coffee machine. But those are minor gripes for a hotel with just the right amount of comfort and generally amazing low key and personal Manhattan service.
Public areas are cozy yet not cramped. The design is very streamlined and completely Manhattan-modern-minimalist done right. Ok, at the very least it reflects the general ambiance of this area of Chelsea, with the neighborhood’s rustic factory facades and cool gallery interiors of every ground floor space. I loved the negative/positives of President Obama in cool Instagram-ish glory in the lobby’s sitting area. We think we’re cool? He’s definitely been there and done that.
Speaking of “gallery interiors”, it was so cool to meet up with Hong Kong-turned-Manhattan graphic designer, Danielle Huthart, and art critic / consultant of everything, Shana Beth Mason, together for an art + hotel jazz brunch on my last sunny Saturday in the city before jetting back to Hong Kong. According to the latest M art map, I counted roughly 200 gallery spaces in West Chelsea around Hotel Americano. Like Shana says, the West Chelsea art scene is largely commercial, and the real experimental stuff worth seeing is in the Lower East Side (understandably). However, we’re already here for brunch, so we might as well see what’s around right?
Some cool shows we saw, digital prints on canvas by Linda Meiko Allen, titled Figmenta, closing July 31st, 2014 at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery.
Physical large scale collage works on display by Gabi Trinkaus at Claire Oliver which ends this month.
PACE Prints Chelsea has the latest neon works by Ryan McGinness on display.
Our two favourite shows… this sexy one, titled Goldenboy by Jeff Bark, which has since ended at the Hasted Kraeutler, consisting of prints and a sculptural tableaux.
And we also loved these very formal, yet hyper-real paintings by Pierre Dorion at the Jack Shainman Gallery.
Every year, Paul Kasmin’s gallery exhibits a free curated not-for-sale-show. I was so lucky to have been there when the space across the street from Hotel Americano was curating a superb show by Russian-Jewish painter Chaim Soutine, noted for his amazingly thick and messy brush strokes in muted colours, depicting animals and items he finds at the market. Not since a 1950 MoMA retrospective of his work has all his works made it for a non-sell exhibition under one roof.
A complimentary show by Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin’s other space on the corner of 10ave and Hotel Americano’s 27th street, feature vibrant watercolors of animal creatures from various fables depicted in a very illustrative moments.
Architecture lovers will love walking around the the neighborhood to revel in buildings that seemingly never age…
And the new sky-high mansions that take their place. This one below attempts at the quirk factor.
There are some more cool buildings, as one gets further south around W. 14th Street, like this Samsung shop with a twisted tower. If you know the designer’s name, please let me know!
There’s a wonderful building on 66 Ninth Avenue, called the Porter House, by SHoP Architects (with the black facade and vertical LED stripes.) You can’t miss it. It’s almost a landmark. It’a warehouse turned residential building.
Speaking of twisted, watch out for Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum to open next year.
And along the High Line park (a newly opened public green park ON TOP of the old High Line railroad tracks) designed by Diller + Scofidio, there’s an architectural view of the big everything else; the “white sails” building by Frank Gehry dubbed the IAC, on the West Side Highway, and adjacent to it Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue.
Speaking of the High Line, the second phase of the tracks just opened up, and it’s wonderful to be there. Views are framed… literally.
As for the first phase, the area closest to the Meatpacking District… the park’s architecture and its fixtures, are aging quite elegantly.
Across the street there’s a cool concept store called, STORY… claiming to have a “point of view of a magazine, changing like a gallery, and selling things like a store.” So basically the shop’s VM changes four times a year to a theme. And when I was there, the theme was “COOL”… which is appropriate for the summer. The “COOL” idea is reflected in the lightweight structure of straws, and held together by snowflake fixings at its intersection.
For restaurants, you can check out fusion-dim sum at the new, Buddakan NYC, a “modern-Asian” dining destination in a converted cookie factory designed by Christian Liaigre and founded by Stephen Starr also of Chelsea’s Morimoto. I enjoyed my drinks and food here and wish I had more than just bar snacks. The staff were very friendly, and the innovative selections, like their classic, “Edamame Dumplings”, is something definitely to look forward to, again on my next visit. It’s adjacent to the Chelsea Market… you won’t miss it.
I will miss this neighborhood. It’s in the middle of Manhattan, yet generally less rushed and more relaxed.
Thanks Smith Hotels and Hotel Americano for a great stay!
FYI. The red “summer wool” jacket i’m in the wearing in the #selfie above was tailored by Moustache in Hong Kong. I strongly recommend them and their work if one has time in Hong Kong to get anything tailored.
This month was the first time I really ever experienced Williamsburg. Before this visit i’ve only heard about the district or passed through it in Brooklyn… but have never been to hang out. On my last New York trip, I wanted to give Williamsburg a go for the sake of the blog. I ended up staying there for a solid six days!
Most would call Williamsburg a quintessentially “cool” neighborhood. It’s hard to believe that so much happens here, and its only about a size of 10 city blocks… a mere fraction of the total size of all of Brooklyn.
Additionally, Williamsburg style is now a kind of global style… at least within the last five years. What’s going on in this little corner of the world in terms of its “Old is New Again” lifestyle, i’ve seen exported replicated in many new destination hospitality and dining establishment everywhere else, including Hong Kong.
Basically I was back in New York City to attend a friend’s wedding and to get some work done for the firm. In the free time that I did have, I was able to check out aspects of what actually is cool to see and do in the Williamsburg ‘hood, and why it’s earned a reputation as a global trendsetter. Check out our findings below!
+ THE LOWDOWN
Overall, from a purely urban observation… I categorize Williamsburg as a calm sibling of Manhattan. The kind of frenzy that one would find in the main city, you just do not get in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s generally low building heights and lush tree lined streets guarantee an oasis, reflecting its role as a historical suburb. With the on-going gentrification as of late, especially in Williamsburg, you get a careful mix of old buildings, juxtaposed with newer architectures. Some buildings attempt at quirkiness, in a subtle and usually non-offensive way. A good example of this is perhaps the new EMS station clad in glass I photographed above on the intersection of Roebling and Metropolitan Avenue by Michielli + Wyetzner Architects.
Of course there are worse offenders. On the way to the Domino Sugar Refinery to visit some public art, I saw new buildings lined up on the Kent Avenue waterfront reflecting that general middle-america aesthetic, the kind of mixed-use development and architecture design solutions which mirror urban redevelopment in anytown inner city. The rent here is indeed expensive (i’ve asked), but apparently going for only half the price per square foot still of a comparable property in Manhattan.
Speaking of public art, we ventured to see the summer’s “IT” show, new commissioned work from African-American female artist, Kara Walker, via urban art programmer, Creative Time. The piece, titled, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plan, is located at the soon-to-be-demolished-but-urbanistically-iconic Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg. The exhibition is free, and when it closes in July, the refinery will be torn down to make room for more of the gentrified development expected of Williamsburg’s waterfront.
Walker, whose work is defined by her interest in race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity, sculpts a female sphinx 80-feet long and 40-feet high in 80 ton blocks of white sugar. Life-sized child figurines, (perhaps children of the sphinx???), were cast in boiled sugar, reflecting the color of the sugar before undergoing refinement. The art was free, urban in scale, and open to the public, and got everyone from different boroughs into Williamsburg for the weekend. The work asks the public to contemplate the disappearance of the historical refinery for a more gentrified waterfront, and perhaps mull over the community of people who populated the neighborhood before gentrification took hold.
Besides the Kara Walker exhibition, there is hardly an art scene in Williamsburg. Artists DO live and work here, but showing is all in the Lower East Side, West Village, or Chelsea High Line (we’ll get to this in later posts.)
+ HOTEL LIFE
There are not too many new destination hotels in Brooklyn at the moment due to the city’s organic and slow approach to development. However, there are two prominent low-scale urban boutique hotels in Williamsburg adjacent to each other and along McCarren Park worth checking out. A destination for locals and seasoned travelers alike, one hotel is the Wythe Hotel, located in a converted factory, and the other, where I stayed via booking through Mr and MrsSmith Hotels, is the McCarren Hotel & Pool, a destination for Brooklyners in search for weekend sun at the pool or stars on its scenic rooftop bar.
I can’t really say much for the Wythe Hotel, since I didn’t have enough time to visit (I’ll check it out next time), but I was pretty content with my stay at McCarren Hotel. It’s got this quirky and minimalist Scandinavian-chic interior design in a completely new-build block development. Compared to most luxury urban stays i’m used to, McCarren is generally straightforward urban hotel when it comes to offerings, but the rooms are fully stocked with all the drinks and snacks you need, plus good wifi and a great espresso machine. The hotels’ bars and pool area is a local destination, and not intimate by any means because it’s such a nightlife and weekend destination for brooklynites.
With it’s central Williamsburg location, a mere 5 minutes walk to all the best “IT” cafes, restaurants, and tourist must-sees… this tastefully designed hotel is a great option for urban travellers and at the right price. My only gripe is I wish they had breakfast options in the weekend (which they don’t because the restaurant which caters for the hotel only opens for Brunch on Weekends). But besides this minor gripe, the staff was generally friendly and helpful with everything and anything I needed.
+ COFFEE HOUSE CULTURE
I really enjoyed having breakfast and chilling out at Toby’s Estate Coffee. Toby’s has two locations, the original roaster in Williamsburg on N. 6th Street and another one in the Flatiron District in the new Club Monaco Flagship store (will get to this in a later post.) But Toby’s prides itself in roasting all its coffee in Brooklyn, and sourcing beans direct from source in Congo, Bolivia, Rwanda, Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia without in-betweens.
For me the best part was the selection of food available on the menu. I can still taste the amazing “Espresso Glazed Bacon” with scrambled egg breakfast sandwich (please let me know if I got this wrong, but I couldn’t find the menu anywhere online). I also loved grabbing iced coffee and sitting outside to watch dreadfully “trendy” people pass. North 6th Street is such a scene! (The game I liked to play is count the tattoos… you figure it out.)
Another place to check out for coffee is Urban Rustic Market & Cafe, a few blocks down from McCarren Hotel on McCarren Park. Urban Rustic is a fantastic small grocers and full deli, seemingly offering all the kinds of sandwiches you can think of made to order, utilising “ethically sourced” ingredients. What this means? All meats are “cage free”, all eggs are organic and from local farms, and meats are roasted in house.
I again had a bacon, cheese, and egg sandwich here on onion bagel, with a great cup of simple all American black coffee. (There’s nothing like the bacon on offer in the states… it’s just more hearty.) Also check out Urban Rustic for sunset beers. They carry an amazing assortment of beer from all the local breweries in the New York State… this plus the comfy bench seating outside next to the park, you’ve got an amazing way to end the day right there.
+ WHAT THE HIP EAT AND DRINK
Williamsburg has a pretty amazing amount of destination cafes, bars, restaurants and eateries for such a mid-sized burrough. I don’t have any more room on this blog post to post all on offer, but I can pretty much zero in on a few of my favorites.
For breakfast it’s all about Pies ‘N Thighs adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge for some unforgettable signature “Chicken and Waffles”. I don’t know how Americans can have a plate of three chicken plus waffle plus fixins, when I barely finished one plate sharing with a friend. I didn’t get to taste the donuts and pies here but I heard they were legendary.
For general gastro-pub fare plus some good people watching, there’s always the highly-rated restaurant, Five Leaves. I came here at the suggestion of my friend who’s friends with the owner. There’s plenty of inventive and playful food serving “New American” dishes at this bistro. The place is run by Ozzies and is a brunch favorite for locals. I was hooked on their truffle fries and deep fried oysters.
To keep it “real”, we grabbed dinner at Marlow & Sons, also on lower Williamsburg (near Pies N’ Thighs) adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge. Marlow & Sons, was one of the first handful of restaurants which placed Williamsburg on the culinary map many years ago before anything in Williamsburg was considered hip. To this day, Marlow & Sons still serve innovative (also New American) fare, fully flavoured. Although their fish mains are the best here, the real highlight is their broad selection of oysters. The wine selection to pair the meal with is just as fantastic.
For those who like Mojitos and Margaritas (I Don’t), the cool hang out at Nights and Weekends, a-see-and-be-scene kind of bar with that almost “block party” kind of atmosphere. Drinks are are rum-centric and bar snacks, like fried shishito peppers, have a Caribbean bent. Everything is casual.
+ SHOP STYLE
What Williamsburg lacks in art galleries, makes up for it with the amount of retail places where you can spend their hard earned cash. The neighborhood is just inundated with design shops, bookstores, boutiques, gift stores.. you name it. I was close to buying a few things at GANT, but the staff was less than hospitable so I left… and I walked in (and quickly walked out) of the new Urban Outfitters there. For some reason I was always at Duane Reade… anyway, there’s a couple of shops I want to highlight, however.
Check out the new “style meets street” Menswear shop, Gentry, next to Toby’s Estate on North 6th Street, and has great frontage. Gentry is the brainchild of menswear connoisseur, Justin Dean (photographed above), and features a curated selection of the world’s top niche menswear labels including, knitwear from S.N.S. Herning, blazers from Ovadia & Sons, colorful printed buttoned down shirts from Gitman Vintage, and delicious dress shoes from Carmina. Justin is generally on hand to help customers find and style, a serious-yet-casual bespoke look that’s right for them.
On the opposite end of “curation”, there’s the all-in-one junks shop, Brooklyn Junk, located on Driggs Avenue. Brooklyn Junk is every junk shopper’s dream come reality. Plenty of eighties prom dresses here for aspiring Bushwick drag queens, lots of ceramic ware, mod lighting, and antique furniture here for the new home, and lots of memorabilia, knick knack, and old photographs that people just love to collect. I found my sister a beautiful leather purse for 10 US Dollars.
+ LIVING LOCAL VIA AIRBNB
It was my first time ever booking and staying with Airbnb, and I have to say… I absolutely loved it. Thanks to Airbnb, I was able to spend four nights at this loft in a converted factory all by myself. The cool owner of the loft, an artist named Daphne, was actually a friend of a friend (the website/app shows mutual friends), and lives next door in her own studio space. I only saw her when checking in, and was occasionally in touch via sms.
Overall, for those who can’t be bothered to stay in a Hotel, and would rather have a travel experience, as close as possible to a local way of life, Airbnb, has plenty of properties right within any destinations’ “it” neighborhoods. My loft was on the second floor of a multi-level artist factory farm, also in the center of Williamsburg. The sheets and towels were clean (maid service was offered), and the design and decor was truly my style, reflected by a masculine and old world aesthetic which I loved. The wifi was fast and efficient (great for working), and there was plenty of cable (great for being lazy.) The kitchen had all the utensils and things I needed to make simple meals (which I did not do), and the space was big enough for 2-4 people, just in case you were keen on inviting friend/s over.
My first impression? This was a great first time experience with booking and staying in an Airbnb property, and I would definitely do it again.
Overall I found my Williamsburg / Brooklyn experience really lovely and a nice respite from Manhattan’s busy streets. I’d like to thank some really cool friends… my friend Veronica for spending time with me and showing me Marlow & Sons, which I think is now one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan.
Also I’d like to thank my best pal, Andy Chow, founder and curator of Doppelstandard (ex-Standard Vintage), for taking the time to hang out with me and show me around Brooklyn (and basically other cool parts of Manhattan.)
I’d also like to thank this gorgeous lady for allowing me to take a photo of her at the Kara Walker exhibit. She’s just gorgeous. That’s the face of New York chic, right there. Elegant, relaxed, urban, and sophisticated.
Others things to try… try walking across the Williamsburg Bridge from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side. It’s free, and a great way to experience the city… from both sides!
By now we have more information about the various special exhibitions and programmes being produced in association with, around and loosely in relation to Hong Kong’s second Art Basel. One of the earliest reveals was at the beginning of April when Art Basel and Chief Curator of Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Yuko Hasegawa, released the full list of artists participating in its 2014 Encounters group show. The annual Encounters exhibition is to be presented amongst the Art Fair’s booths and is an opportunity for fair organizers to broadly interact with the audience in a uniquely playful way through large scale works of the hottest artists making a mark today, with the sponsorship of their respective galleries.
London- and Beijing-based Hong Kong artist Morgan Wong, presented by Pearl Lam Galleries, finds exhibiting at this year’s Encounters a great opportunity not only to showcase his work but also as an opportunity for him to engage the audience interactively. “I am delighted that this work can be realised in the scale that is needed to create a stage of contemplation for visitors, especially during Basel week, which will be so busy for everyone,” says Wong.
Other artists like Hong Kong’s Gallery EXIT artist, Yang Xinguang, is happy about his participation in the show, but surprised at the same time, “Previously (my work) has been considered not appealing or glamorous. However, I’m very happy about the shift in attitude and I believe people who love my work are great collectors.”
Asked about their thoughts on the collectors that come through Art Basel, STPI / ShanghART’s Sun Xun thinks that today’s generation of collectors are generally the kind that develops with the artists over time and prefers to keep a close relationship with them. Sun is also happy with the visibility he’s gotten through his gallery and the fair over the last two years. “I believe Art Basel is a good opportunity to build up communications with collectors and artists around the world,” he says.
Although one would think just zeroing in on seventeen artists is complex enough, Hasegawa has space issues, acoustics, size, and openness to contend with in relation to the works. “It is a huge open space and we cannot make new walls within that space. The work’s presence have to be strong independently and I have to select proposals with these conditions in mind,” she says, “My aim is to create a situation which is between institution and market, looking, learning and buying together.”
Works from Top: STPI - Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Sun Xun, 鯨邦是人間樂土 – Jing Bang is a Heaven, 2013. Photos courtesy of Singapore Tyler Print Institute and the artist. / iPreciation, Lee Wen, Ping Pong Go-Round, 2013, Presented at ‘The Realm in the Mirror - the Vision out of Image’ At Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum (2013). Courtesy the artist and the gallery. / Gallery EXIT, Yang Xinguang, Blue, 2013. Courtesy of Gallery Exit and the artist.
#theWanderlist: Chinatown 'Chinoiserie' Stylings at Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou
Above, Ping Pong 129. Below, Fu Lu Shou
Chinatown-style ‘Chinoiserie’ is chic again thanks to two new nightlife destinations in Hong Kong, Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou. The first venue, a Spanish-based gin bar, actually opened softly this past March… the same week of my birthday, and is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, co-owner and bar manager, Juan Martinez Gregorio, originally from Spain.
Juan has been living in Hong Kong almost as long as me, and worked in corporate marketing for fashion brands like Puma, before letting it all go to follow his dreams, which is to eventually start an intimate F&B venture, hence Ping Pong 129 in Sai Ying Pun, his latest passion project. Meanwhile, Sydney transfer, Ping Lam and her husband, moved to Hong Kong less than two years ago, and immediately opened up dream lifestyle businesses with the hugely successful The Nail Library on Po Hing Fong, and now with Hollywood Road’s Fu Lu Shou, a new rooftop lounge and restaurant serving up American and English Style Chinese Food just the way a few of us who grew up with it… love it.
+ “History, Gin, and A Bit of Art”
At Ping Pong 129, Juan serves up smooth and refreshing gin-based cocktails, 40 of them, each with their own particular brand of gin from around the world, plus 10-12 more gins from distilleries in Spain. Each Gin and Tonic is garnished with a variety of herbs, like rosemary, basil, and thyme, or lemon and orange peels, and served with their own particular kind of tonic water to really bring out the best in the Gin’s unique flavour. There’s the Indi tonic from Seville and a Wilkinson tonic from Japan.
However, the most appealing thing about Ping Pong 129, is that it is housed in a beautiful double-height basement, unassuming within its own neighborhood. One can drink a refreshing gin cocktail while sitting in a tastefully, spacious bar that once served as a local Ping Pong gym. The whole effect is laid-back, relaxing, and very pleasant.
Juan’s silent partner, an interior designer and art collector, displays his own collection of local Hong Kong art elegantly throughout the space’s “as-found” walls in a very planned and methodical way. The art’s positioning in the bar’s interiors is pretty cheeky. Iconic works by Hong Kong darling, Nadim Abbas, a series of Chinese Windows with black mirror, are placed above a heavily tiled wall on the same level as actual Chinese windows within the found site.
Other artists’ works, like Tsang Tsou Choi’s (King of Kowloon) graffiti based prints blend seamlessly with the rough finish of the existing wall.
The furniture is retro, with some of the sofas and loveseats clad in a patterned print, reminiscent of the decades depicted in Wong Kar Wai’s film, In The Mood For Love. Even the simple red door on 2nd Street, is the original door to the Ping Pong Gym. Juan and company just added a bit of red neon this door to highlight that the bar is opened for business. Ping Pong 129 is a great example of a business moving into an untapped neighborhood’s old building, and offering something new to lifestyle, while simultaneously paying tribute to a site’s existing space.
Ping Lam’s Bali-esque outdoor lounge space at Fu Lu Shou is clad with a giant size graffiti print of the characters; Fu, Lu, & Shou, a Ming Dynasty concept of deities representing, “Happiness”, “Prosperity” and “Longevity”. Ping, who identifies completely as an Australian with Hong Kong-based roots, went for a niche market in the city, by offering Western style “Chinatown” favorites for those of us who’ve grown up fed by Chinese Food in the West. Of course Western based Chinese food is completely a unique concoction, loosely rooted in the East, but is completely different than what’s on offer in Hong Kong.
Ping is quite brave for serving dishes like, a “Big Arse Dim Sum” (a giant “siu mai”), English Style Prawn Crackers, a Sweet and Sour Pork (which hit the right spot), Kung Pao Chicken (the best non-sichuan version of this dish i’ve tasted), Beef in Black Bean Sauce, and other delicious surprises like the Fried Banana. My date and I knocked down about 4 servings of Old Fashioned each. (A little secret about Ping and her husband, they’re both crazy about Scotch Whiskey, so while scotch drinking is not overtly “Chinatown”, i’m glad their love for Whiskey is not wasted here.)
Things I want to point out is Ping’s taste in decor and interior design. Fu Lu Shou, definitely gets a lot of its design details correctly, the G.O.D. Mahjong Pillows on the lounge areas for instance, the hanging bird cage chairs, the modern rattan furnitures, capped off with candles on a heritage low-armoire… even the bar’s tabletop is lined with mahjong pieces. I especially like the metallic screen stenciled on the main-dining feature wall inside the restaurant with the words, “Eat, Drink, and Be Prosperous”. The rice bowls are authentic “chinatown” style, imported from Paris’ own Chinatowns (hard to find in Hong Kong now), and chopsticks are available grouped together on a tin container in the middle.
The food is a better version of the American Chinese Food you grew up with, because there’s no fake powder-just-add-water stuff here, and no MSG. All ingredients are fresh and sauces made from scratch. The mixologist behind the bar comes to Fu Lu Shou from the Upper House which explains the smooth blends of his drinks. Give it all a try. It’s like being “back home”, but even better because you’re not eating in a mall and you feel very good about it from the beginning right to the very satisfying end!
EAT Fu Lu Shou . 7F, 31 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 23368812
After arriving in Mumbai’s fabulous new Terminal 2 Airport for a long three day weekend… I knew that any fears I had for visiting India for the first time would be allayed.
The futuristic airport, designed by SOM (Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill), recently opened its doors this January. Gone are the days of dealing with long insane queues (apparently I wouldn’t know) at immigration and having to dodge cows to get to the taxi. Nope, this airport, called the Chhatrapati Shivaji, defined by its sculptural concrete shells of its parametric architecture, creates a feeling of a calm forest. The shells are meant to represent an arrangement of apeacock’s feathers, the national bird of India. But we don’t care. It’s beautiful, it works as an international airport where most other countries fail, and best of all… it’s such a serene airport to arrive to and leave from. (If only if the staff were a bit chipper though!)
Of course things only got better as we discovered the rest of Bombay throughout our long Easter’s weekend. As it was our first time there, my strategy was to “Wanderlist”, by visiting heritage and cultural destinations, while also spotting the new, the cool, the modern, the NOW… which basically means its design spotting and shopping in parallel. (You can check out my previous post on Mumbai heritage here.)
+ MARKET // Chor Bazaar and Elephanta Island Markets
First off, in terms of “cool markets” it’s a tough call. There’s a bunch of tourist traps in the city you should avoid… ie. The Colaba Causeway Market adjacent to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The goods on offer there, a mixture of metallic globes, religious ganeshes, candle stands, and oil lamps, are produced on the cheap, and a hassle to get anything of good quality. May I suggest you visit the Elephanta Island Markets (on the pathway up to Elephanta Caves) if you want any of these kinds of gifts (which DUH… we did). All of the kitschy gifts are on offer and at a much better quality than Colaba Causeway… without the horrible hustlers bothering you. Elephanta IS a religious UNESCO world heritage site after all.
As it turns out, the most pleasant shopping experience we’ve had in the city, was a market that locals told us to avoid… the Thieves Market aka Chor Bazaar. We heard all the horror stories… ie. watch your pockets and they all sell stolen goods. Be that as it may, no one bothered us while we shopped endless alleys for vintage items, junks, and knick knacks you can’t find anywhere else. It was a sunny Sunday, and a generally calm and relaxed shopping experience. Everyone was respectful, polite, and friendly. I highly recommend the Chor Bazaar.
This is the place I got great silver and marble boxes.
There are no guard dogs… just guard goats… vicious they are.
I had a good quarrel with Jim over whether or not we should be “wasting” time visiting Bungalow Eight in Bombay. In his mind he didn’t see the point of coming all the way to Bombay if only to see the likes of Lindsay Lohan or Nicole Richie stomping around drunk. However, when I finally got him to look it up, he realised that it’s not the Bungalow 8 (as in the club in New York City), but Bombay’s “Bungalow Eight”, the first with the moniker in the world… an interior design haven of re-appropriated antiques and modern turn-of-the-century pieces, plus a dress and accessories shop of original Indian design.
When I asked the helpful staff where the name “Bungalow Eight” came from (since there are so many ridiculous nightclubs in the world which have since tainted the name), they told us that it was named after founder, Maithili Ahluwalia’s family home in India, having have no comments on the other establishments… meaning they must be copycats.
On offer at the brand’s three-level 19th Century shophouse, are vintage homewares and furnitures on Level 1, childrens wear and textiles on Level 2, and fashion on Level 3 designed by a former group designer of Lanvin and Saint Laurent, Mathieu Gugumus Leguillon. The Jewellery on Level 3 is the work of Maithili’s mother, the iconic Jamini Ahluwalia. There’s not much here for menswear, but word on the street is… they will be launching a collection soon.
SHOP Bungalow Eight . Grants Building, 17 Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba, Mumbai -5, India . T:+91-2222819880
+ FASHION // Bombay Electric
Around the corner from Bungalow Eight is Bombay Electric, by far the coolest and most stylish independent fashion boutique we’ve visited in Bombay. The shop, which carries inspired styles in bold colors and prints for both ladies and gents, really captures the youthful energy of the city in its curated goods of Ready-to-wear items, costume jewellery, bags, and other design oriented gifts.
Around four people told me to check out this shop before shopping here, and i’m glad I did. Menswear had a buy 2-get 1 free deal that day and we just couldn’t resist.
According to their staff, Bombay Electric is a platform for design ideas and intersection for style exchange. Products on offer include fashion by great independent Indian designers such as Manish Arora Paris, Bodice, Pero, and jewellery by visionaries such as Aunterra, Amrapali, and Nitya Arora.
My pick? This great carry-all envelope bag by 11-11 made of recycled plastic for the exterior skin, and a nice quilted seersucker for the interior padding.
Definitely you can’t leave Mumbai without getting a dose of style at Bombay Electric.
SHOP Bombay Electric . 1 Reay House, BEST Marg, Colaba, Mumbai -1, India . T: +91-2222876276
+ DESIGN // Design Temple
Thanks to friends in both Hong Kong and India, we were lucky enough to be introduced to amazing designer, Divya Thakur, the founder and creative director of Design Temple. Divya launched Design Temple in 1999 and has since been represented by global design media as well as exhibiting her work in shows around the world. A darling of London’s Wallpaper* Magazine and a staple at Milan’s Salone Del Mobile, Divya’s work extrapolates Indian mythologies and brings these themes to life in her furnitures and prints, catering to a new generation of design aficionados both in India and abroad. When we met up with her at her shop, Divya was in preparation to set up an exhibition of new furnitures at the Nordic Hotel in Stockholm, which runs from now to the end of June this year.
Set in the historic Churchill Chambers building also in Colaba behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Divya’s shop carries a good selection of design items she’s created either alone or with collaborators, ready to take home as gifts for others or for yourself.
Jim and I both purchased Divya’s Lingam Candles to bring back to Hong Kong, however we also wanted to get our hands on her various cheeky prints and rugs… as well as a set of these cool stackable “Pillar Pods” which transform from a table and chair set, to one tall table.
Alas… maybe we’ll just have to wait until Divya sets up a global online store for these bigger purchases! We definitely thank Divya for her time chatting with us!
A few blocks away at the cool Kala Ghoda district behind the Prince of Wales museum, we made sure to have a delicious seafood lunch at Trishna’s (the best), and afterwards walked on to check out this really cool new shop called, Obataimu, which is Japanese-Engrish for “over time”.
Obataimu is the brainchild of its founder, designer Noorie Sadarangani, whom we met at her store. Heavily influenced by her travels and studies of the Japanese philosophy of “Wabi-Sabi”, an aesthetic movement celebrating slow art and individuality, Noorie’s 600 sq.ft. shop also houses an atelier and tailoring school where customers can work with in-house tailors to build a wardrobe of easy to wear shirts, trousers, and dresses of a cotton-viscose mix. All fashion items in the store are samples only, and new ones for you can be produced only after measurements have taken place.
Of course this all part of her “Obataimist” way of life, a focus on using the time beyond the building of the product itself to transfer information, knowledge, and study, from shopkeeper, to customer, to tailor, in an effort to elevate contemporary consumption towards a level of an artisan relationship.
Unfortunately if you want something to-go and purchase clothes on-the-spot, it won’t work since that consumist attitude will have to be set aside. According to Noorie, the making of a shirt can take an average of up to five days. Goods can be picked up at the shop or delivered to your home… in India or anywhere else in the world.
Oh yes… she also produces furniture and light installations.
SHOP Obataimu. Shop G3 Machinery House, 11B. Bharucha Marg, opposite The Pantry, at Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400023 . T: +91-84548445854
+ The Rest Of The Best // Other cool places you need to check off on your ultimate Bombay #wanderlist…
Support the local design industry and purchase their naughty greeting cards from FILTER at the Kala Ghoda District…
Cool off with a signature iced coffee at The Pantry Cafe also at Kala Ghoda…
Have a bite of an epic vegetarian kebab at the historic Bademiya stand behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel…
And pamper yourself with an ultimate “Warriors Massage” at the Jiva Grande Club Spa at the Taj Wellington Mews.
That’s not all that’s available TO DO in Bombay, but if you follow this #Wanderlist, visiting these places and neighborhoods is a surefire way to get acquainted with all that’s cool in India’s best modern metropolis.
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Emmanuel Balayer Consultancy Services in Mumbai and Fe Valvekens of A Day With Fe in Hong Kong for introducing me to the amazing people that made for a wonderful Mumbai itinerary. Also thanks to Sheetal Pritmani from MILK Shirts for more cool advice on where to go and what to do in the city.
SHOP Filter Shop . 43 V.B. Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Behind Rhythm House, Mumbai -1, India . T: +91-2222887070 / EAT The Pantry Cafe . Yeshwant Chambers . GF, Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai -1, India . T: +91-2222678901 / EAT Bademiya . Shop No. 7,8,9 Botawala Building, Horniman Cir, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai -1, India . T: +91-2261612371 / SPA Jiva Grand Club at the Taj Wellington Mews . No.33 Nathalal Perekh Marg, Colaba, Mumbai -1, India . T: +91-2266569494
#theWanderlist: Gateway to Bombay, Our 5 Historic Hotspots
Those who follow me on my Instagram account already know that I’ve spent Easter 2014 in Mumbai, whichfor this post, i’ll be calling, Bombay, as the locales do!
The trip was notable because it was my first time ever in India, acting only as a plus one for Jim, who booked his tickets first in order to meet old friends from London who now live within Bombay’s city centre. I usually spend my Easter vacations at home in the Philippines, but since tickets to Bombay from Hong Kong are a sliver of a Philippine fare these days, I thought I’d save money and actually fly to India on Jet Airways for less than 2,000 HKD with tax. Most Hong Kong people are scared of India, which is why tickets are so cheap…I believe.
India and specifically, Mumbai, has had a very long history which runs about three centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. The city, which was once a Portuguese and British Colonial trade outpost since around beginning at about 1500 to mid-1600’s, plays an important role today as India’s Economic, Cultural, and Entertainment centre. The port city is located right on the Arabian Sea, and its character as a waterfront destination is very much still active to this day. As of 2011, the population of the Bombay has reached to about 12.5 million inhabitants, and continues to attract migrants from all over the country to help contribute to its melting pot of different cultures which consists of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, and Sikhs.
For our three day Easter tour, we focused our itinerary mainly on two kinds of destinations; the first part being Heritage Sites (unavoidable since the whole city is well preserved) and the second part we tried to find Design and Lifestyle Destinations that are making a contribution towards Indian contemporary life now. This two part approach to planning Bombay is pretty much how I’ll split up both my blog posts on this wonderful city.
Here is a quick rundown of all the most important “Must Visit” Cultural Heritage Sites we checked out during our visit there.
+ HOTEL // The Taj Mahal Palace
We were originally going to do Bombay “backpack” style, but after seeing images of the The Taj Mahal Palace in both my Wallpaper* and New York Times 36 Hours guides, it wasn’t too hard for Jim to convince me to be a part of history and stay at India’s first five star hotel which turned out to be the only way to really experience the country for the first time. This seaside hotel is in the centre of India’s old historic city located in Colaba, at the tip of the Archipelago. Although it was partially destroyed due to the 2008 terrorist attack on the old palace wing (where we stayed), the hotel has been fully restored, and is once again its full-on fabulous self.
The building, commissioned by Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, opened its doors to its first guests on the 16th of December in 1903. This year marks its 110th Anniversary, and the building is still undergoing restoration works to this very day… preserving its contemporary and modern art collection (which runs by the hundreds), as well as its original architectural finishes, materiality, and colours.
Even though we booked the Tower rooms (built in the 1970s) there was an opening and we were lucky enough to have been upgraded to the Palace rooms with butler service on the 6th floor overlooking all of Mumbai and the fabulous grand swimming pool (which used to be the front carriageway and central fountains.) We were given a behind-the-scenes guided tour of several of the palace suites, including the suite where John Lennon and Yoko Ono shacked up for 5 days without leaving, the Ravi Shankar suite where his daughter Norah Jones spent the night, and the Tata Suite… the hotel’s humongous Presidential suite (next to our bedroom) where President Obama stayed. All these suites had an amazing view of the Gateway Arch. If you stay here make sure to have a room that allows you to have an iconic breakfast experience at the historic Taj Mahal Palace Sea Lounge and keep an eye out for weekend Indian wedding performances in the central atrium dome, making an already festive stay… that much more theatric!
Additionally, you may watch out for a memorial outside the Tower lobby for the victims who died at the hands of the 2008 terrorist attacks. The “Tree of Life” sculpture that stands out there once stood in the same area where it was bombed. Thankfully… the tree sculpture was spared and now standing with the names of those who passed away.
It’s a fabulous hotel, with amazing service. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat!
+ MUSEUM // The Prince of Wales Museum ie. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
Built in the same Indo-Saracenic style of architecture as the Taj Mahal Palace, and in fact designed at the same time, The Prince of Wales Museum, opened as an actual museum only in 1922… but only after it was utilised first as Hospital in the First World War.
Today, the Museum, named Shivaji who founded the Maratha Empire, houses and displays a unique collection of Indian Archaeological and Natural History Archives. Art works collected by benefactors from the prestigious Tata Family are also on display, depicting mostly English pastoral art along sides Chinese and Japanese Porcelain and various religious artifacts.
The museum’s offerings is a mixed almost messy-yet-charming-bag. However the buildings and gardens surrounding this century old structure are so lush and wonderful, you’ll forget how things are supposed to be and just appreciate visiting a museum the way people have visited it all these years. Not much has changed with the way this museum is run. Nothing about it is “contemporary” or “new” in any respect, and we love it.
Because it was right outside our hotel, The Gateway of India was our first tourist stop. And out of all the tourist destinations we’ve seen, its generally a horrific “trap” with tons of hustlers. That said if you can ignore them, it’s certainly beautiful piece of work… a basalt based structure that stands 26 meters high to commemorate the landing of the King George V and Queen Mary at the Apollo Bunder, the site, in 1911. Funny thing about the Gateway, it was originally built out of Papier Mache for quite a while. The finished Arch, also in the Indo-Saracenic Style, was fully completed in 1924.
The last British troops marched out ceremoniously through the arch after India received its Independence from British rule in 1948. Today you have to arrive here or leave here if taking the boat to our next stop… The Elephanta Island…
The day we visited, Good Friday, was also the day India celebrated its Archeological Heritage Day. A Good thing for us, the Elephanta Caves in the Elephanta Island located in Mumbai Harbour… was free! After gleefully saving about 150 rupees (2 USD), we went inside to check out all the amazing man-made caves at the top of the island, originally called Gharapuri. There are about six man made caves in total to visit, however the one to see is really the big Main Cave where at the end of the central Nave on the north-south axis, is the awesomely preserved sculpture of Shiva with three faces… about six meters in height. One of India’s most notably significant works of history, the three faced Trimurti Sadashiva piece represents destruction (male to the left), protection (centre), and creation (female to the right).
Thank God at least this piece is well preserved. The Portuguese, who used the site for firing practice around the 1600s, haphazard management by the city, and increasing amount of visitors, endangers what’s left of the sculptures here. The other caves have no sculptures, since they have been moved to the Prince of Wales and other museums for archiving.
What we did appreciate was that foreigners were the minority visitors. Most who were around here were Indians from other parts of the country. We also enjoyed seeing school children sketch out parts of the sculptures… it was nice to see. Expect an hours boat ride each way from the Gateway Arch. The crowd is very VERY local Indian, and you pretty much get into any boat which departs every 10 minutes. Depending on the crowd you get in the boat with you… it’s sure to be an adventure.
+ ARCHITECTURE // Ghandi’s Mani Bhavan and The Laburnum Mansions
If you want to see Bombay’s luxuriously historic houses… you’ll want to take a walk down Laburnum Road in the lush Gamdevi Precinct near Downtown. Mahatma Gandhi lived at the mansion called, Mani Bhavan on #19 Laburnum Road, from 1917 to 1934. The three-story mansion actually belonged to his patron, however this was Ghandi’s headquarters during a pivotal time in history when he coordinated and initiated the Non-Cooperation, Satyagraha, Swadesih, Khadi, and Khilafat movements.
The building was immediately turned into a memorial in 1955, 7 years after his assassination in 1948. If you go, you’ll basically see a full library of Ghandi’s books plus other books devoted to Ghand-ist principles of Peace, Non-Violence, and Human Equality. There’s a movie and more books on the 2nd floor, his bedroom on the third floor, with a full on diorama (actually helpful) of putting his life on multiple perspectives… and in scale.
However, as an architect, I find the house was nice and interesting to visit, as well as walking down the same street to check out similar luscious turn-of-the-century homes in various degrees of preservation. Overall its a nice quiet residential street, and very interesting for those looking closer into the life of a historical leader as well as a contextual representation of a specific time and place of which this street is a great example.
We also briefly checked out other amazing sites like the Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shvaji Terminus), a great piece of architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Site based on the St. Pancras Railway Station in London. We also saw the incredible Dhobi Ghat, washer’s area next to the main railway and new Bombay city centre. Around our hotel there’s so much Art-Deco structures, and a great example of it is the REGAL Cinema structure, which today still shows a series of Bollywood Films. The only temple in the city we visited was the Jain Temple on Ridge Road on Malabar Hill. It was opulent, yet boutique in scale.
But for all these other sites one, one really has to take a train, to do the laundry, to watch a movie, or to worship in order to really appreciate the essence of each place. They’re all nice to visit, but if you only have a day or two for a Heritage visit in Bombay, the Top 5 sites should do the trick for you.
#theWanderlist: Man Mo Cafe Honors Tradition While Infusing The New
I’ve always thought that Upper Lascar Row, aka “Cat Street” parallel to Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, was one of the best preserved streets in Hong Kong. Walking through this pedestrian-only alleyway, lined on both sides with an amazing selection of Chinese Antiques, traditional furnitures, and vintage junks, I really get a sense of Hong Kong’s craft and aesthetic history because it’s all here on display. To me the 100 year old Cat Street really feels untouched, and locals and tourists alike can still come here to find items, decorative and historic, real and replica… to take home that is uniquely of an old Hong Kong style.
On a rainy Wednesday evening, when all stalls were closed, I came in after work to check out for the first time the Man Mo Cafe, the first concept restaurant to open on Cat Street. For better or for worse, once one “destination” restaurant opens, others will follow… however its on this street that founder of Man Mo Cafe, Swiss-born chef Nicolas Elalouf, aimed to not only establish a Chinese-focused restaurant which was rooted within history (possibly an unavoidable decision due to such an iconically historic site), but to formulate a humble Cafe which allows Elalouf to combine his own expertise for what he had learned in the west in order to create something new for Hong Kong.
I doubt that a “Destination” restaurant was Elalouf’s intent with Man Mo Cafe, however, armed with a duo of amazing chefs, one from Robuchon and another an award winning chef from the Original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Elalouf has made it clear that his fusion dishes are unlike any other. Scores of restaurant reviews from the likes of Hong Kong Tatler and Time Out Hong Kong have been published since they’ve opened earlier in the year, and all have been unanimous… the balance of the eastern tradition of dumpling making, with the western tradition of preparing delicacies, is absolutely achieved in their signature dishes.
Some of my favorites include the Burger Buns (glazed Char Siu Bao) featured above, which come complete with a vial of thousand island dressing that you squeeze into the bun after biting off the top of it.
The Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese Dumpling.
The best… this Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao will melt in your mouth.
This Panfried Shanghainese, Truffle and Brie Dumpling, is another best dish.
We loved this savoury Steamed Ratatouille dumpling, filled with delicious vegetables and a tangy tomato sauce. (I felt like I was eating a Western dish… but I was eating it with chopsticks from a steam basket).
To end the dinner we had a taste of Man Mo’s famousNutella Ball in Sesame Seed Pastry.
As well as a bit of these delicious HK Egg Lemon Tarts.
Daphne’s Hong Kong facade works on display is one of a planned series of rotating exhibitions for this simple yet elegant space.
Daphne’s exhibition is actually going to get extended because works have sold and new works have just been placed up on display this past week to take its place.
Here’s a photo of all of us with Chef Nicolas at the end of the evening.
Word on the street is that there have already been offers to purchase this independent restaurant by a bigger restaurant group. Whatever happens to this place, hope the quality keeps up. The pricepoint is not that bad either, about 800HKD for two people. The service is fantastic and food items get made only when ordered, so dont expect to rush your meal and give it some time.
EAT Man Mo Cafe . 40 Upper Lascar Row (Cat Street), Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852 26445644 . Tue-Sun 12-3 and 6-Midnight
Last month, Ning Lau, founder of digital style platform, Who-Are-Invited, was able to get together a group of unique and cool individuals in the city to discuss each of their interests in art for an online editorial titled, Discovering Art.
Who-Are-Invited was established by Ning a year ago for the purpose of bringing together “creative talents from all walks of life”, representing the diversity of Hong Kong and China’s vibrant digital community through stories and editorial content. Using this platform, Ning is able to introduce a group of “interesting and exciting individuals” each week including “journalists, fashion designers, bloggers, artists, musicians, and readers/followers”, all showcasing their personalities and work via a series of “strong and impactful fashion visuals”.
Ning reached out to me before to discuss appearing in one of her other projects within the Who-Are-Invited platform, but due to scheduling conflicts and tight deadlines, we were never allowed the opportunity to align. This time around Ning proposed an interview at The Cat Street Gallery, basically an institution on Hollywood Road, whilst a show by Gina Jones, titled Southern Brights, was on display.
I really like the work of New Zealand based Jones, who actually trained and practices as an Architect, but now uses what she knows in relation to composition, material, and form making, to introduce new kinds of works that are focused on pop-color and formal play on a 2D plane.
The shoot included a dear friend, former Vogue China’s Editor and Stylist, Grace Lam, who believes every kind of Art, whether it be fashion, painting, or music, can have elements which can bring happiness to others, which is the most important thing. She herself appreciates Modern abstract art the most, especially if the work references fashion, like the art of British practitioner, Martin Gaye “Spartacus” Chetwynd.
Also in the shoot is Creative director, Kenji Wong, founder of Growth Ring, who works on all creative aspects from fashion to interior design in relation to his customer’s needs. On weekdays he explores different galleries in the city to find some inspiration for his work. Although technically not an artist, Kenji is inspired by the way Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, plays with light and space.
I discussed my thoughts on how and what I look at when I view and assess art, as well as my forever obsession with the works of Richard Diebenkorn and Mark Rothko, who pretty much inspired my earlier architectural representational sketches.
Hong Kong Tatler’s fashion editor, Justine Lee, was also part of the shoot. While Shoes and accessories for the shoot were provided by Hogan Shoes from their Spring-Summer 2014 collection. Photography for the campaign was taken by the ever cool, Calvin Sit.
TOP, Ease (2012). MIDDLE, Murmur (2014) ABOVE, Antony Gormley with his self-portrait, Form (2013).
In the month prior to Art Basel, the Hong Kong branch of White Cube is playing host to a new show by the world-renown sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley, titled States and Conditions, Hong Kong. Usually Art Basel month is a great way to present the heavy hitter artists, however the choice to exhibit a Gormley show prior to the annual art fair may have something to do with A) the gallery wanting an introspective Gormley show to shine bright above the hustle and bustle of fair traffic and/or B) a Gormley show is just plain difficult to literally sell an Art Basel crowd.
The “difficulty” is partly due to the site specificity of the Gormley show. That said, it’s a very good exhibition and one that needs to be seen before May 3rd. If you miss it, you’ll be missing out on an opportunity of a moment. Based on Gormley’s own project drawings available via the exhibition’s catalogue, the works created for White Cube Hong Kong are meant to be experienced at that site. Taking one piece away from this context would be like breaking up a family. According to the artist at his talk, the “sequence of architectural volumes (of the gallery space, is) an opportunity to create a connected narrative.”
And all parts of the show are connected. Every work is a qualifier of the previous work, according to Gormley, and what is presented here is thought forming, process, and various manipulation of volume, emphasizing that the interconnected acts is a full spectrum of creation (with every chapter readily available for sale, of course).
In his talk at the gallery two weeks ago, Gormley states that White Cube Hong Kong is a “privatized gallery”, a prime example of the “architecture of capitalism”. However he takes this opportunity to present new works as an act of subversion.
White Cube Hong Kong has only been operating for about three years, yet no one has proposed work, quite like Gormley, which speaks directly to the gallery as a manifested product of its physical site and as an art market destination in Hong Kong.
Small Prop 111 (2013)
It’s within these found conditions, all defined literally by a logical series of White Cube-like rooms, Gormley responds by imposing 90-degree surfaces to a sculptural self portrait; a lone work on the 2nd level of the gallery titled, Form (2013), which pretty much evolves to become the behemoth piece that is Murmur (2014), located on the street level space right underneath it.
Gormley responds to the gallery’s starkly geometric and commercial existence with a counter proposal of space, one that is derived from the evolution of his own proportions.
Strain II (2011)
Murmur (2014), as with all other works in this show, celebrates the opportunity to formulate a discussion between our raw animal natures, our bodies, and our conscious choice to confine / and define ourselves via cubic spaces, something that is not of our natural world and can potentially be a segregative experience in the process.
And outside these cubic spaces? Back to classic “Gormley” studies in Reserve (2013) where the object’s human proportions is itself the one true shelter in unison with the wild.
My plan was, instead of having a big party I would have a dream week of food tastings from four fresh dining hotspots i’ve never been to and two I wanted to revisit. In the previous post, I wrote about the delicious entrecote from La Vache, the humble yet delectable offerings of ABC Kitchen, and the wonderful pairings found at Ham & Sherry.
In this post we end with the last three… a fun yet underwhelming revisit to La Cantoche, an amazing re-experience at Fish & Meat / Stockton, and a new burger discovery with Beef & Liberty.
+ “Fun French… I Used To Love It, Now I Just Like It”
The last time I was at La Cantoche, was for a media tasting with about 12-14 of us, and the plates from the entrees to mains were generally flawless in presentation to delivery. Some dishes, like the Rice Krispies in Lettuce Wrap were infectious while the Roasted Camembert Cheese with Potato Balls and the Reblochon Cheese Chicken Cordon Bleu were divisive. This time the Camembert and the Cordon bleu were the star attractions of the dinner, but that’s because everything else (even the Rice Krispies) were generally dry (as in not moist) and underwhelming. The birthday chocolate cake was 1-note sweet, flat, and dry. At the media tasting, the Camembert and Chicken Cordon bleu probably tasted the same as at my birthday, but because every other dish tasted so delicious, juicy, and fresh, we couldn’t help but compare.
Conceptually it’s a fun restaurant from a French-Viet guy (present almost every night) who wanted to take basic home cooked French fare, but mix it with a bit of the Asian twist he grew up with. Unfortunately, when we started putting photos on Instagram and Twitter, another “La Cantoche” from Paris tweeted back saying this:
I checked out the website of the Parisian La Cantoche, and sure enough, it’s also youthful twist at French fare, with their logo’s font being similar to the one being used in Hong Kong.
Do we have a Chinafied version on Hollywood road perhaps?
In the end of the day none of this would have mattered if the food stayed the same quality as the Media Tasting… but that’s the media tasting. I love the ambiance and vibe here in general, but I from the last time I was here, to now… it was a bit disappointing and not really consistent. That said my birthday table had about twenty of us, and there was another birthday table of about 20 people as well. We RSVP’d over a month in advance, so I’m sure they were more than ready.
Thanks to these guys for showing up and celebrating with me!
Also thanks to the Lovely Louise for planning it, making it happen, and putting it all together!
EAT La Cantoche . GF, 227 Hollywood Road on 5 Wa Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852-24260880 . Walk Ins Welcome
+ “Fish, Meat, and Drinks To Die For”
Okay let me tell you about Fish & Meat. This place is crazy excellent. I’ve only been to this place once with friends (NOT a media tasting) and I can tell you 100%, Fish & Meat is the best new place for… well… fish and meat. From the pre-drinks, to the entrees, to the mains, to dessert, then post-drinks after at Stockton below, it’s by far an excellent and hearty meal that takes you somewhere else… like a European Seaside community or something to that effect. I’m not so sure about the back story, but the “on point” theatrical yet restrained ambiance of the restaurant’s decor is by designer du jour Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose, whom I interviewed recently for INDESIGNLIVE Magazine.
Everything on the menu is everything you could possibly want in a menu from a Western seafood restaurant. The offerings are straightforward, with the key element being that is focus on classic simplicity with a big dose of heritage touches.
For my dinner we had the fish, a Whole Roasted Italian Sea Bass with Fennel and a tasty Romesco Sauce, and meat, a 32 Oz Prime Beef Rib from Kobe with a house Bearnaise and Salsa Verde. The menu says they’re for two people, but we were more than stuffed with the four of us. When ordering don’t miss out on my favorites, the Sweet Corn Polenta, and the Grilled Fennel with Celeriac, Saffron, and Verjus. For Starters a selection of from Roasted Bone Marrow, to Fresh Baby Spanish Octopus, and Soft Duck Egg Raviolos are available. Don’t skip the Sicilian Lemon Tart with Country Clotted Cream at the end.
Overall everything in the meal was finely cooked, at the right temperature, with the right zesty flavours, leaving every one just right and more than satisfied. The restaurant is on the pricier side, but I really feel that i’m actually getting European flavours, and not just an imitation.
After Dinner, make sure to remind your hostess to allow you entrance at the “super secret, speakeasy” bar downstairs called, Stockton. Also designed by Charlie & Rose. Stockton has some of the finest fancy “mixology”-esque cocktails in the city. It’s adventurous while being not to feminine or trendy. I love whisky and this place has amazing whisky based cocktails. Try my two favorites, the Athole Brose featuring a Blended Whiskey with Wild Heather Honey, Oatmeal, Drambuie, Luxardo Amaretto di Sachira, and topped with Double Cream or the Brass Monkey, an HM King with Compressed Citrus, Maca, Lucuma, Vanilla Gum, and Chuncho Bitters.
When i’m around the Central area, Stockton is the new “local” for me there. I’m not a Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong bar street) type of person so this place is a good go-to, always punctuating a night’s out after dinner.
The decor is lovely, and the space is filled with found antiques from Thailand and Paris… making it feel like an authentic pub, rather than a theatrical reproduction.
+ “New Burger Joint I Really Like, Plus the Korean Fried Chicken…”
My sister and I ended my #JJsBirthdayWeekofEats, with a Sunday brunch at Beef & Liberty, a new beautiful burger joint on Level 3 of that three-story modern commercial building on the corner of Wing Fung Street and Star Street. I didn’t know much about Beef & Liberty before I got here, but I was just a fan of the branding work by WHITESPACE HK and the wall mural by Los Angeles based artist, CYRCLE, that you can see from the street. (Even though I’m obviously a foodie, i’m a design tourist first.)
According to their website, Beef & Liberty is a “modern homage to the original beefsteak clubs… originating in eighteenth century London.” Guys, it’s a burger shop. And a pretty good one at that. The meat is hormone-free grass fed beef from Hereford and Angus cattle, naturally raised by small-scale farmers in Tasmania.
My sister and I shared one burger (it was the 6th of 6 major meals straight) and one appetiser. We started with the Crispy Chicken Wings, which are basically Korean Fried Chicken. The wings are huge and the skin is cooked crisp. While it is saucy, it doesn’t take away from the crispiness of the dish nor is it too oily either. It’s a perfect wing and Korean chicken served just right. For the burger we didn’t order the Classic (I rarely do for fancy burger joints like this), but instead ordered the Green Chili Burger… a burger with green chili slices, jalapeno relish, cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, and mayonnaise. The burger was big enough to share for two, but not too big to sink your teeth into without ingredients slopped around because of it. The bread here is perfectly pan fried, and absorbs the oil well… meaning it doesn’t fall apart. The beef was cooked rare (how I like it), with the jalapeno relish and green chili giving an interesting southwestern tex-mex twist to the flavour.
We ended the meal with dessert (who doesn’t)… a Warm Skillet Cookie & Cream, which is exactly what it says it is. The chocolate chip cookie is freshly baked and the clotted cream is homemade, balancing the overly sweet cookie. I’d definitely come back here again.
EAT Beef & Liberty . Star St. Precinct, 2F, 23 Wing Fung St., Wanchai, Hong Kong . T: +852 28113009 . Reservations Recommended
Overall the dinners were great, but most important was that I was with friends and family members which made the experience very memorable.
I also just wanted to quickly show off some of the great presents I got this year; like this hilariously amazing sweatshirt with a “United States of James Franco” print on it from RAD in Paris.
Other cool gifts; check out these travel bags from my friends Eddy and Jason. Eddy makes these amazing camo totes from his label, Compound By 3 Spirit and Jason just launched a menswear leather accessories label called Hammer & Needle. (The travel books are via my other pals Katrina, Jason, and David from Louis Vuitton.)
Now that my amazing “Jesus Year” 33 is over… I can’t wait to continue to work that much harder creatively moving forward into the coming year based on the cool stuff that has happened within the last twelve months.
And of course, much Gratitude to the everyday. I don’t forget this.
#theWanderlist. Six Meals in Six Days; La Vache!, ABC Kitchen, and Ham & Sherry To Start
Celebrating a birthday is a very interesting thing. There are transformative years, like a celebration of a decade’s past or even half that, when the appropriate way to celebrate a threshold is a grand birthday bash. Then there are the odd years when its that weird transition, like in my case, turning 34, which is neither as cool as “Jesus-Year-33” or as exciting as 35. In this situation, you wonder… if the birthday is worthy of any big bash at all?
Everyday is indeed a day to celebrate living and breathing, that said, we always should find an excuse to throw a party, a dinner, or anything for a celebration. Life’s short ya know? So while I usually throw big bashes in Hong Kong every year for the birthday, this year… I wanted to try something else… an “Intimate Dinner” series. And because I am who I am, I chose to celebrate this year with six intimate dinners… claiming the entire week for celebration. (The seventh day is gym day.)
For those who have a week of dinners to spare, value intimate conversations, as well as entering a “weird age” not warranting a grand bash, I suggest scheduling a few dinners big and small with all your fabulous friends so that you catch up with each and everyone one of them over tasty food and drinks, instead struggling a “hello” over loud music.
In the case of Hong Kong, a foodie haven, a birthday week is a perfect opportunity to sample the newest and best this city has to offer in the Dining scene, and for me a great way to “wanderlist” all the freshesr hotspots for the blog. I even created an Instagram hashtag, #JJsBirthdayWeekofEats. Here’s to the first three meals of the week…
+ “All You Can Eat Fries With Rib Eye”
Our “Birthday Week of Eats” began at one of the newer restaurants in town, La Vache. At La Vache, you can pretty much have anything you want… as long as what you want is a Trimmed Entrecote Steak with fries and a walnut salad. That said, there’s only one thing in the menu to get right, and they passed with flying colors. Entrecote with fries is a staple meal in plenty non-descript urban cafes in France. In Hong Kong’s La Vache, it’s the star of the show. Using USDA grade Rib Eye, your steak is cooked any way you want it, with melt in your mouth unlimited french fries, and a light walnut salad to start, all for less than 300HKD. An iconic and addictive “Sauce Maison” is also a reason to go back. Drinks and a Dessert cart (great selections) are available as an add-on to the meal.
Decor is surprisingly light, modern, charming, tasteful, and really has a feeling of being located in Paris. I especially loved the cool illustrations of Paris everywhere you look. This most likely has something to do with making you feel like you’re having a dining getaway.
There are no reservations here at La Vache so pick your visit here wisely.
EAT La Vache! . GF 48 Peel Street, Central, HK . T: +852-28800248 . No Reservations
+ “Europe’s Best In Da’ Hood”
For my second night of dinners, me and the boys went to check out the famed ABC Kitchen, pioneered by a couple of chefs from the now defunct M at the Fringe. What makes this place interesting is that those two chefs are basically cooking up signature dishes which earned M at the Fringe it’s accolades, awards, and fans. These renegade chefs are offering 5-star dishes democratically at not-so-M-on-the-fringe prices.
Contextually, there’s no hoity-toity here. ABC Kitchen is located in a cooked food hawker centre in the middle of Sheung Wan. The only thing that’s fancy about it is an amazingly iconic suckling pig (also from M) that everyone orders, the red and white checkered table cloth, and an extra personal and friendly service that’s seemingly alien to the city but expected in an HK family run cooked food eatery.
We tried the beetroot risotto, the seasonal mussels, the foie gras with toast, and all of the desserts. Overall we were completely impressed by the Kitchen’s classic European fare, served here using fresh ingredients, at a truly affordable price.
Despite its very compact space, Ham & Sherry, a new Ship Street locale by the super duo, Yenn Wong and London-based Jason Atherton, is such a cool and beautiful drinks and dine destination. A big contribution to the charm is most likely the smart use of Catalonian-inspired blue and white tiles from wall to floor, plus framed mirrors throughout, giving a feeling of an expansive social house in Spain, all under the creative design direction of Shanghai-based studio; Neri and Hu.
Wong and Atherton first collaborated on 22 Ships across the street, serving Spanish tapas in a completely inventive way. Gone are the fusioned influences of 22 Ships, but instead Ham & Sherry, pairs classic Spanish selections, like a range of Iberico Bellota Hams, a creamy mixed Seafood Paella, a scrumptious Salt and Pepper Chipirones (Squid), and a dish of Garlic & Chilli Prawns, with an impressive selection of sherry. The idea to have a sherry-based destination eatery was initially due to the success of the sherry offerings at 22 Ships. Some of the 50 choices of sherry at Ham & Sherry include a range of moscatel, manzanilla, and classic finos.
If you ARE new to Sherry, your wait staff will be more than happy to assist you in pairing each of your dishes with the right Sherry of choice or vice versa. If you’re feeling up for it, you should have both Ham & Sherry and 22 Ships in the same evening, some people do. Since this is my third night of birthday eats with three more nights to go, I decided to pace myself instead.
EAT Ham & Sherry . 1-7 Ship Street, Wanchai . T: +852 25550628 . No Reservations
The rest of #JJSBirthdayWeekofEats to come! Stay Tuned.
Okay. Let me just put it out there and get the obvious criticisms i’ve been hearing on and on about about Zaha Hadid’s design for the new new PolyU Design Jockey Club Innovation Tower out the way. Ready? Here goes:
CRITIC: The Tower is out of context with the rest of the Hong Kong PolyU Campus in Hung Hom.
ME: This is a criticism that most new “avant-garde” iconic buildings get around the world in relation to their context. And really… the language of this urban brutalist dream that is the HK PolyU campus is a product of its time and does not reflect what design innovators are doing at this point in time. Any further investment in architecture should support new ways of form exploration and form making.
CRITIC: The Tower facade, defined by a series of white aluminium fins is too flimsy.
ME: Actually I think it’s quite okay. I get that the horizontal striations are generally in line with the rest of HK Poly U’s Horizontal red bricked striations.
CRITIC: The windows and the buildings are too difficult to clean and maintain. They need to erect bamboo scaffolding to clean each area.
ME: You got me on that one.
CRITIC: The floor layouts are too crazy.
ME: Actually the floor layouts are not bad. Each floor is a kind of place that is different from floor to floor. The corridors are as important as a place of gathering as are the classrooms. I would imagine design students could be more open to congregate within these playful spaces than traditional narrow corridors and boxy classrooms.
The vertical circulation without use of lifts is easy, using a main escalator from the Ground Floor Gallery to the First Floor, with subsequent floors connecting via a series of easy sloped staircases which are quite comfortable.
CRITIC: The paint job is a cheap white paint with no gloss or special finish. Design students can just easily scratch it.
ME: Agreed. I too am worried about the white paint used in the interior spaces, since it is a design school and different materials are always being lugged around by students.
Now that all those critical statements are out of the way and addressed, lets focus on the Good. Yesterday we had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting at the Innovation Tower’s official opening to the public with Zaha Hadid and company in tow. After seeing a series of speeches, all the guests were immediately invited to rush into the new building to what turned out to be an open house.
Here’s a few facts; the PolyU Design school was first established in 1964, which makes it 50 Year Old. In 2009 BusinessWeek rated its Master’s program as one of the World’s 30 Best Design Thinking Programmes. In 2013, PolyU Design became the only school in Asia to get in on Business Insider’s World’s Best 25 Design School list. While there is no Architecture Programme being housed here, they do teach Art / Education, Communication Design, Digital Media, Interior Design, Interactive Media, Product Design, Design Business, and Multimedia Entertainment Technology.
Construction work on the school began in 2009, shortly after Zaha Hadid was named Design Architect. Four years later, the building completed in August 2013. In total, it houses 15,000 square meters of net floor area, accommodating about 1,800 staff and students.
While true that the building has its faults (what building has none?) overall the impression that I get here is that a Zaha building was achievable in a conservative city full of red tape like Hong Kong, and by the looks of some of the finishes… seemingly with the constraints of the allocated budget, which, correct me if i’m wrong, was about 40 million usd.
BRAVA. TO. HER.
I mean, look at these spatial moments. It’s pure ArchiPron!
#theWanderlist: Zaha Hadid x Stuart Weitzman in Hong Kong
London based award winning Architect, Zaha Hadid, is everywhere in Hong Kong these days. For one, I’ll be attending the inauguration for her project for Hong Kong Poly U in two weeks, the Innovation Tower, Zaha’s first stand alone building in the city. Additionally, for those who have been shopping at Landmark Men’s Neil Barrett store in Central within the last two years, would get more than a hint that the shop is a Zaha-designed store. And priced at a whopping 1,500Euros online, sources say that Zaha’s United Nude shoe collaboration has been a hit in this city and mainland China as well.
Now taking our love for shoes and architecture to the next level, look what I spotted walking around the Hong Kong IFC Mall the other night… Hong Kong’s brand new Stuart Weitzman flagship, one of a handful in the world designed by Zaha Hadid. Hong Kong and the Milan stores are some of the first in operation. Other locations to follow include New York City, Rome, and possibly London and Beijing.
While the stores will conceptually be unique to each location, Hadid tells DEZEEN Blog that each “design is divided into invariant and adaptive elements to establish unique relationships within each worldwide location,” yet will all be conceptually and formally developed as if from the same family. This is to help establish the spatial direction as that uniquely of the Stuart Weitzman brand.
Enjoy my photos, and check out the shops (for architectural study of course. ahem.)
Seen&Scene: Chen Fei and Izumi Kato, Chinese and Japanese Painters Debuts Solo Shows Together at Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong
Above, “There will be a day to see you again (2013)” Acrylic on Canvas and “Step Father (2013)” Acrylic on Canvas, both by Chen Fei.
Young Chinese artist, Chen Fei, born in 1983 in Shanxi, is making a solo come back to Hong Kong via Galerie Perrotin. Fei, who was originally discovered by gallerist, Nicole Schoeni, first exhibited here with Schoeni at her 2008 group show, Niubi Newbie Kids and Niubi Newbie Kids 2, and then had his first Hong Kong solo also with Schoeni in 2010 with Bad Taste. With Schoeni Art Gallery closing its doors recently, Galerie Perrotin, has stepped in to offer Chen Fei his second Hong Kong solo titled, Flesh and Me.
"Sorrowful Peasant (2013)", Acrylic on Canvas by Chen Fei
With Flesh and Me, Chen Fei explores further his usually cinematic themes of him and his heroine via a stylistically, “Supreflat”, approach. According to Nicole Schoeni, Chen Fei and his work is representative of a generation of Chinese Post-80’s youth who grew up in an essentially consumerist and media centric society, devoid of the discussion of politics. His works may not be politically conscious, but is telling of generational influences via pop-culture narratives with an overtone of cynicality, humor, and anime violence.
"See Yourself (2013)" Acrylic on Canvas, by Chen Fei
Seven new works adorn the space, each painted with the typical obsessive meticulousness that Chen Fei has been known for. The depiction of his subjects, a woman and his own self, depict Fei’s interests in flesh as it relates to sexuality, pain, ownership of the body, mortality, and perhaps our place in the universe.
"Dark Stars (2013)" Acrylic on Canvas, by Chen Fei
The specificity of the Chen Fei’s work runs in stark contrast to the works of Japanese, Izumi Kato, which adorns the main central gallery that one can see as they enter the space.
Untitled works from 2013 by Izumi Kato
Born in 1969 at Shimane Prefecture, the exhibition at Galerie Perrotin, marks Kato’s first solo show outside Japan in career that almost spans two decades. Owing to his responsibilities as primarily a painter, to the two-dimensional medium of the canvas, Kato seeks to create a better way of not recreating our world, but creating a new one within that flat format.
While Chen Fei seeks to reflect the Japanese graphic obsession of a precise “Superflat” style, Izumi Kato is very comfortable with letting compositions arise from the application of paint from his own fingers wearing vinyl gloves and typical rubber kitchen spatulas. The effect of the medium combined with the alien-like beings depicted in his works, enable Kato to create new worlds with new characters unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Untitled from 2009, by Izumi Kato
Three dimensional figures, propped up on plywood platforms on the wall or on ready-made furniture, help Kato break the wall of the painted image, and bring his characters into our own space, where they seem happy enough to inhabit.
Those who know me personally know that my addiction to multi-tasking and juggling of several projects from both being a designer and blogger keeps me up on my toes so high that I’m basically flying on my own space ship. This is the reason why to some, I must look like some kind of “Space Cadet.” Additionally, some may also consider me “Spacey” because of my vocal (to my close friends) beliefs in the active exploration of a “non-physical”/ spiritual universe. What the!? You Ask? Let me explain.
This means that, although I’m personally not religious (spirituality too boxed up according to other people’s definition), I believe in a “metaphysical” order to the Universe, meaning that from my perspective on things, the Universe we see is a sliver of a portion and a by-product of what is actually REALLY out there. And just because one can’t materially and physically feel, see, and directly measure something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This has been conceptually confirmed theoretically in science within the last 6 months.
Living in Hong Kong, has been an amazing contributor in helping me foster my interests in the esoteric study which among the many “spiritual” topics I’ve been interested in, is Feng Shui. Additionally, I’ve noticed that every successful or creative person I know in this city, even those who seemingly only believe in the worship of money, have at one point or another, seeked the counsel of a Chinese medicine doctor, a Feng-Shui master, or a neighborhood temple’s local clairvoyant. From the culture of “paper burning” as a way to honor the dead visibly on sidewalk streets, to the iconic towers of the city designed by the likes of Norman Foster and IM Pei, Feng Shui has had a presence almost everywhere, shaping this unique first world city.
Feng Shui is older than Christianity and dates back practices to around 6,000 years ago in China, and is essentially the study of the correlative relationship between each human being and their spatial universe, using maths to calculate your relational physical elements “fire, water, earth, metal”. What Feng Shui allows people (who believe in it) to do, is to manipulate the physical environment they live and work in, so that this environment can work on their favor from a more “balanced” standpoint, balancing luck in career, relationship, and health in an yearly basis in relation to each individual. For 2014, I’ve finally gained a new local Feng Shui expert (I used to rely on my hobbyist aunt from Texas) in the name of the very stylish, Thierry Chow.. With fellow spiritualist, writer, and social media personality, Johannes Pong (below right), we met up with Thierry, and her boyfriend, Canadian artist, Peter Yuill (below left), for a welcome dinner in the neighborhood to discuss more of her work as both a budding Feng Shui master and the converging of her practice with design work for a new generation of dual-language/dual-culture believers.
Thierry who has been featured locally with profiles in several magazines and websites like Sassy Hong Kong and Lifestyle Asia, has only just begun her practice. An apprentice of “legendary feng shui master”, Chow Hon Ming, her father, Thierry seeks to give modern solutions for people living in today’s world. She plans to soon design modern furniture and home items, which combine basic feng shui principles, that look and feel good from a design perspective. For the month of February, she even held events with her dad at the Little Square space on Square Street which is really fantastic for her new career because Little Square gets the cool young crowd, a completely different audience relative to your aunts and grandma, for example.
After dinner with Thierry and Peter, Thierry agreed to reorganize my home based on Feng Shui principles for 2014, as well as give me one of her special readings in which she assessed my whole life via that feng shui point of view. I’m here to tell you that Feng Shui needs not to be about old school crystals, weird statues, and balls with running water… in fact, as part of the modern incorporation and principals, it too can be stylish. Here are a few things I’ve had to do to integrate well spatially with 2014:
+ Money Corner
I had to get all “red” in the South Corner of my flat because this year my chances for wealth have doubled if this corner was “activated”. The aromatic diffuser, replaced fish bowls and tacky waterfall machines. Thank God for Thann Hong Kongat K11 and their diffusers! The red painting I sourced from Pinterest.com, plotted out in hi-resolution and framed myself. The charms (looking like a pot of Gold) are gifts from Mischa and John Hardy.
+ Lucky Wrist
Because I naturally have so much “fire”, Thierry advised me to wear less read, and more soothing colors to reflect colder elements like water and metal. Ie. Jewellery. Even though men have begun to wear more jewellery and wrist pieces as part of today’s Dandy-inspired looks, I’ve just preferred to wear watches. After asking readers on Twitter where I can source “silvers” and “golds”, my friend, Angus, told me that Kapok on St. Francis Yard sells the full range of Men’s Miansai bracelets. Any of them would work, but I decided to purchase the Rose Gold Cuff. It’s a solid brass base with a 24K Rose Gold plate. I’ve been MORE lucky ever since.
+ Green To Grow Relationships
My most favorite part about finding stuff for the home is filling it with plants. I was happy to buy more plants for the center portion of the flat, especially ones that looked a little more “floweri-sh”. Its best that one gets flowers for the relationship corner, however if the plant only looks like a flower, that can pass as well. Although I love flowers, they’re really a bit too high maintenance.
+ Red, Yet Earthly Work Chair
I was tempted to purchase this “Chinese” Style chair from Ikea, because according to Thierry, it’s best If my Western corner (My work corner) had more earthly elements. Also Red is a very lucky color for career, while the timber seat reflects more of the earthly vibe needed for this specific area, which is different for everyone. I ended up not getting the chair because it wasn’t available, and upon further research online, the chair had quality issues. I just wanted to point out, that solutions for Feng Shui can be stylish while also a fun challenge.
+ Socks for Lunar New Year
Despite the fact that I’m supposed to wear less red, universally, everyone is supposed to wear red socks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The GAP in Hong Kong had these amazing knitted boot socks at 30% off. It’s a great excuse to buy great looking pair of socks, while sticking to this superstitious rules in a fun and stylish way.
I also wanted to point out for the month of February, BOOM Magazine released a special 2014 Feng Shui Almanac that totally looks old school. This is one of Thierry’s latest projects, and a way for her to make the practice be relevant to our generation and integrating her work with design. It’s quite cool. Some cool content on here is a guide on where you should stand at a bar in relation to your Chinese Horoscope and a guide to how to twerk.
(Twerking is not related to Feng Shui in anyway FYI.)
Also I spotted Peter’s work area he shares with Thierry. Thematically, he’s into metaphysics too.
Born in 1929, LA-based architect, Frank Gehry, needs no introduction. Being relatively the most populist of all starchitects of his generation, Gehry is also easily the most touchy-feely of the bunch. A straightforward practitioner, his exploration of form is unabashedly sculptural without the theoretical mumbo jumbo that guides the fluid works of Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenmann, and Thom Mayne of Morphosis, for example.
The architect-as-sculptor liberates Gehry to do what he does best, design form without constraints, which includes the computer. Those who have studied Gehry’s work know that his studio is filled with hundreds of physical models, and there’s the old legendary tale of his designing Bilbao from a cocktail napkin. But because this is architecture and his stuff needs to be built, his projects go through a process of rationalisation, which eventually has to work structurally, as well as respond to a site’s scale constraints.
Funny however that while his latest buildings and his non-habitable works like his corrugated cardboard furniture series – Easy Edges (1969-73), Experimental Edges (1979-82), and the Knoll Furniture Series (1989-92) – all focus on trying to make the thing kind of not look like the thing it is supposed to be, the Fish Lamp studies, of which the latest versions of them are currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong, are exactly what he names them to be. The angle here is not really about the restraint of formal explorations as to what the fish can be, but really about the earlier brief that started it all, a request by Formica Corporation to Gehry to create something new with their plastic laminate product, ColorCore, in the early eighties. Gehry’s Formica product is a thin sheet of glossy plastic laminate, which when broken and ripped, reflect the scales of a fish when grouped together. The properties of the torn plastic gives the sculpture different levels of translucency, especially when the LED within the fish is turned on.
According to Gallerist Nadia Chan of Gagosian Hong Kong, these fish lamps, 33 new pieces in total and exhibited amongst four Gagosian galleries around the world, were all hand sketched by Gehry and are site specific to the floor plan. Eventually like all architectural works, his sketches are further studied on computer, and built in his California studio by hand. The hand-chipped fish scales are then individually glued piece by piece on a wire armature built based on the computer’s model.
Not a surprise, Gehry sells well, and the Hong Kong showing, tied with the Lunar New Year, is considered the grand finale of all four Gagosian shows. Hong Kong has the most new works of these Koi light sculptures, a lucky symbol by Chinese standards. An extra treat to Gehry fans is his inclusion of a big black alligator sculpture located at the very end of the visitor’s path.
The exhibition, ending on 1 March 2014, has already sold well for the gallery. A single fish or a school of them can be acquired making sure Gehry’s offerings easily adapt to Asian spaces. The architect originally planned to make a press appearance in Hong Kong for the show’s opening, but sources say, due to health and schedule, he was not able to make it to this side of the Pacific. Noting his age, this may very well be the last we see of new fish from Gehry at such a grand scale.
For those who want to see his fish on permanent exhibit, there is always the giant Fish Sculpture at Vila Olimpica at Barcelona (1989-92) and the Standing Glass Fish (1986) at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which will be situated at their sites pretty much forever.