Restaurant—a word that derives from the French word “restaurer”, meaning “to restore”. If a restaurant is a place where people visit to feel restored, then the design of it surely shouldn’t be overlooked. At least, that’s how Andre Fu, the award-winning designer behind some of Hong Kong's MICHELIN-starred restaurants and founder of André Fu Studio (AFSO), sees it.
“I see beyond food whenever I go to a restaurant; I see it more as an experience,” he says. This may explain why every restaurant he has designed reflects not just what goes on the table, but also the chef’s personality and the history of the venue.
Sometimes this means stepping out of the calm, minimalist interiors people know him for, understandably from his career-defining design of The Upper House. But with experience at the core of his design approach, there’s no such thing as a signature style in his book, evident in his projects thereafter.
In fact, every project breathes new life into the world of Andre Fu design. His recent work on JIA Group’s Louise, which he fondly refers to as “a memorable project”, is a case in point.
“We created this persona of Louise, this eclectic French lady that found this secret house in the heart of Central and made it into almost like a boudoir where she entertains,” he states of the one-MICHELIN-starred restaurant housed in a two-story, colonial-style heritage building. “The use of colours and textures was nothing like anything I’ve done previously. So it was a bold step for me in terms of design language.”
This storytelling approach to designing restaurants allows Fu to transcend the boundaries of a defined aesthetic and focus on creating experiences, be it the interplay of contrasts at 2-Star L’Envol or the Mediterranean-inspired interior of the newly opened Saliterra by Jun Tanaka.
As a diner (“not a foodie,” he proclaims), the Hong Kong-born, Cambridge-educated designer finds pleasure in simple, comfort food as much as he does in fine dining experiences.
“My favourite neighbourhood spot is this cha chaan teng called Cheung Hing in Happy Valley. It has a mixture of mosaics and I love that kind of old Hong Kong vintage,” says Fu. “ But what I find intriguing and mesmerising about a fine dining experience is the level of dedication and culinary expression that is hugely rare in the world we’re living in,” says Fu.
Between designing (Fu reveals that he’s currently working on Mauro Colagreco’s outpost in Asia and Daniel Calvert’s new venture at The Four Seasons Tokyo) and zoom call meetings with his international clients, Fu sat down with us at The St. Regis Hong Kong to talk about his go-to place for wonton noodles, his favourite dish at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, and the restaurant he thinks more people should know about.
When I have friends visiting Hong Kong, I will definitely take them to one-MICHELIN-starred Rùn. I like that the dishes are authentic, especially the dim sum offerings which show the chef’s dedication. The deep-fried wagyu beef puff and pear-shaped, Nyonya-style glutinous dumplings are my favourites.
For special occasions, I often celebrate at three-MICHELIN-starred Sushi Saito. It's simple and straightforward but also very authentic and intimate.
For a romantic date night, I like two-MICHELIN-starred L’Envol. There’s every effort to the L’Envol experience. Design aside, all these elements—like the dessert and cheese trolley —that chef Elzer and his team have brought into the experience of L’Envol show that they are looking into every aspect of the experience. As an insider, I know that there are even more considerations that go into elevating it. It's that level of dedication that I appreciate.
I also like that while the space of L'Envol is dramatic and aspirational in its own ways, at the same time, it's hugely welcoming and comfortable. I think you don't necessarily feel that you have to dress a certain way to feel that you're part of the space.
Whenever I feel like having a simple meal, I will go to Mak’s Noodles. It’s my little go-to place. I've been going there since I was a child. I like that kind of compact feeling. Perhaps I like it better before the renovation, but I think what remains truthful to its legacy is the food. I usually order the wanton noodles there.
I had one of my most memorable meals at three-MICHELIN-starred Hélène Darroze at the Connaught. The Connaught is part of Maybourne hotels, a hotel group I've had quite a long standing relationship with. Hélène Darroze has just acquired its third star with Michelin Guide. The space is designed by French designer Pierre Yovanovitch, in pastels, and it looks really amazing.
I remember this huge scallop that she makes and the lobster—when I first tasted it, I felt that I’ve never tasted lobster being prepared in this manner. The only way to describe it is that it’s truthful to its own taste.
A restaurant that I keep returning to is one-MICHELIN-starred Louise. I like the intimacy of the space. The food is very consistent; it’s colourful, approachable, and very unusual for this part of town. The building was built in the 60s, and we've retained and obviously restored all the windows. The terrace upstairs brought out the persona of the house, which probably is the most unique element of the experience.
A restaurant that more people should know about is Mono, a MICHELIN Plate restaurant.
I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Mono for quite a few times. I find the upbringing of Chef Ricardo as a Latin American, as well as his training at Mirazur by Mauro Colagreco prior to coming out to Asia quite interesting. You can feel his personal culinary journey through his work and the dishes that he creates. His food is a nice balancing act; not overpowering but quite unique in its taste.
When we can travel again, the first restaurant(s) that I would like to visit is Mirazur. It's a restaurant masterminded by Mauro Colagreco. I'm having the pleasure to collaborate with him on a project for Asia recently. So naturally I would love to visit Mirazur.
I’m also working with Daniel Calvert for his upcoming project in Tokyo at The Four Seasons. It’s another collaborative process with him. For him, this is possibly the ultimate showcase of his craft. I feel honoured and that whatever I do needs to complement his vision, his goal and what is appropriate for his personality, and also for the food that he delivers.
For me now it's not about designing yet another restaurant but having the opportunity to work with some amazing artists, especially in the world that we're living in today. Having that personal relationship with people that are doing that level of work makes my life a lot more meaningful.
I often order food from Samsen, a Bib Gourmand restaurant, when I cannot dine out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I love comfort food so a bowl of wagyu beef noodles is my go-to at Samsen.
Sang Kee, a Bib Gourmand restaurant, is my family’s go-to place for Cantonese food. Their salt baked chicken and fish congee are my favourite. I tend to gravitate towards that kind of no-frills venue, while people think I’d go for fancy places. Sang Kee is great for big group dinners and my family have been going there for quite a few years now.