Since opening its doors in May 2013, Hong Kong’s concept of combined restaurant, salon, and art space Duddell’s has been going strong. After extensive media coverage of its opening, which coincided with the inaugural Art Basel Hong Kong, the hotspot received a Michelin star from the prestigious guide in December. We recently checked in with Alan Lo, who started the project along with Paulo Pong and Yenn Wong, to discuss the new award, the inspirations behind the concept, and Hong Kong’s transformation into a global art center.
Congratulations on receiving a Michelin star. What is the concept behind Duddell’s menu?
Thanks! Chef Siu plays homage to the traditional roots of Cantonese cuisine, combining textures and flavors with contemporary presentations. The menu here has a strong focus on high quality ingredients and premium teas and wines.
How do you feel the addition of art in the dining room enhances the dining experience?
The design concept was to make a place that felt like a collector’s home, so the designer had specifically created a space where the changing art work could feature prominently. Combining art and food was the core idea, as we really wanted to share our love of art with the community and allow them to easily access it, and then take whatever they wanted from it.
The Hong Kong and Macau Michelin guide has garnered criticisms from food critics for giving stars to more casual eateries. What do you think of this controversy?
I think there will also be people who agree and disagree with awards and guides. For us, we see the Michelin star as a sort of encouragement to keep doing what we’re doing and continually do our best.
Duddell’s features not only fine dining, but also a gallery, salon, and year-round events and performances. What was the inspiration for the concept?
We’re not strictly a gallery as none of the art we showcase is for sale, but we do pride ourselves on having a strong art program that includes curated shows by world class curators. There really wasn’t anything quite like what we were trying to achieve in terms of dynamism and quality of food and service, but I suppose we were inspired by the classic private art clubs where conversations happened and masterpieces were inspired by the artists and patrons that frequented them.
Why was 2013 the right time to open a space like Duddell’s in Hong Kong?
Art Basel came to Hong Kong in May 2013, which was exactly when Duddell’s opened. The arrival of such an international art fair really tells you how much Hong Kong’s status is growing as an art hub for the world. Of course, for the past few years many international galleries have also come to Hong Kong, and sensing this growing trend, we really felt that the city deserved a place which would serve as a platform for the arts community.
What are the characteristics of Duddell’s typical clientele?
We try to bring in a mix of people through holding various events, such as movie screenings or art talks, through our Art Programme. On the typical weekday, you’ll see the business crowd coming through for power lunches on our third floor restaurant, and more leisurely types lounging on our fourth floor Salon. As expected of a Chinese restaurant, Saturdays see more families and groups of friends brunching.