From the minds behind Épure and Arbor comes a refined destination that seeks to inject more conviviality into dining and imbibing

In a city where the biggest and loudest often take the most column inches, the Gourmet Dining Group, led by Fancl co-founder and executive director Michelle Ma-Chan, has made a name for itself by going against the grain. With its sylvan theme and delicate gastronomy, the group's first restaurant, Épure, was described by this publication as "the epitome of French finesse in a quiet corner of Harbour City"; while Arbor, helmed by Eric Räty, single-handedly introduced restrained Nordic-Japanese fare to Hong Kong, netting two Michelin stars in the process.

Their newest opening, Ami and Wood Ear, is a double billing of a French restaurant and a whisky-centric bar nestled in Alexandra House. Immediately, the restaurant's hushed, all-black wooden surrounds mark it as being cut from the same cloth as its sister restaurants. It's the work of Yabu Pushelberg, the famed interior design duo who were also responsible for the look and feel of Épure and Arbor, and best known for designing numerous flagship luxury properties for the likes of Four Seasons, St. Regis, and the Edition Hotels.

At Ami, the duo have succeeded in creating a dark and dramatic environment that is both intimate and expansive. The absence of light cocoons guests while spotlighting the whimsical pieces of commissioned art throughout the space. During the day, abundant natural light interacts with shadow in an ever-changing manner, drawing the eye towards the expansive garden terrace where a wizened tree holds court over the outdoor bar.

The restaurant is divided into the Anteroom, which houses the owner's sizeable wine collection; the Salon, a semi-private dining room with six sets of custom-made tables and sofas that can be interlocked into a single setting for 16 guests; and the Lounge, the main dining space that also contains Wood Ear, where drink and food can seamlessly intermingle. Towards the far end of the Lounge, the Gallery can be accessed through a set of spinning doors, and can seat two private rooms of four or six guests, or alternatively be combined to accommodate 12.

Helming the kitchen is Épure's veteran executive chef, Nicolas Boutin, along with chef de cuisine Eric Taluy, who have embarked on a culinary style they call "fine bistronomie". A light hybrid of haute cuisine and Parisian bistro dining, Boutin 'combined the idea of doing good food but with more conviviality', resulting in a style of cooking that brings the sophistication of fine dining to the moreish, approachable flavours of a neighbourhood bistro.

These flavours can be found in an all-day, a-la-carte menu of traditional dishes and sharing plates, as well as a chef's inspiration tasting menu that changes monthly to reflect the best produce of the season, and can only be booked in the Salon or the Gallery. A snapshot of Ami's signature dishes include sumptuous French guinea fowl paired with octopus in a caramel jus; fresh lobster and duck foie gras bound together with seaweed; a spectacular dish of hand-cut heritage beef tartare;  Challans duck breast served on the bone; and finally, a decadently heady, whisky-infused, 64% chocolate 'Concorde' cake.

A dinner at Ami is not complete without a dram from Wood Ear's impeccable whisky library of over 400 labels, many of which were sourced from auctions and private collectors. Among the prized collection are sought-after expressions like Hanyu Ichiro's Malt The Colored Joker and Glen Grant 1955 for La Maison Du Whisky. Extra old vintage blended scotch labels include Martin's 1960’s, 12-Year-Old Circa, and Langs 1940’s, Extra Special Old Liqueur.

Placed at the coming-together of fine bistronomie and whisky connoisseurship, Ami and Wood Ear are pushing forward Hong Kong's dining culture in subtle yet significant ways. "There is a kind of unpretentious specialness to the bar and the restaurant," says Glenn Pushelberg. "You feel like you're in a special place."

Ami and Wood Ear, Shop 302, Alexandra House, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong; +852 3185 8396, ami-woodear.hk

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.