Having commanded postcard-perfect views of Victoria Harbour for the past 18 years, Aqua and Hutong, two of Hong Kong's most iconic food destinations, are finally closing the chapter on their time at the top of One Peking Road in Tsim Sha Tsui.
In a span of time that has seen the nature of the city change drastically, and many hundreds of restaurants blink in and out of existence, the next transformation in store for the pair of restaurants is all the more remarkable—from mid-November onwards, their new home will be on the 17th and 18th floors of the newly-built H Zentre, just a few hundred metres away on the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront.
Responsible for the design of the new Aqua and Hutong are Aqua Restaurant Group founder and CEO David Yeo and award-winning London-based designer Robert Angell. At the former, a centrepiece design element will be a mirrored catwalk that guests will pass through before entering the main dining room. "I've been told it's a Squid Game bridge!" says Yeo. "The interesting thing is when you see the corridor, we had each of those glass fixtures designed differently—they've got bubbles to represent water because we're Aqua. So we play funny little in-house jokes. It's very much about detail."
Meanwhile, the vacated spaces at One Peking will not stay empty for long—Yeo is planning to bring The Chinese Library across to the "dark side" with its second branch in Hong Kong, while a yet-to-be-named Italian restaurant, initially slated to debut in London, will instead open its first worldwide location in Aqua's old home.
Although China's ongoing energy crisis has shut the factories responsible for producing Aqua and Hutong's furniture, thus delaying their opening, Yeo is optimistic that the venues will open within the month of November. Ahead of the major move, the restaurateur met with Tatler Dining to speak about the rationale behind the move, reminisce on the past 18 years, and fill in readers on what we can anticipate at H Zentre.
On moving house
Since 2019, we've opened in New York, Miami and Dubai, and somehow the original flagship is looking a little bit tarnished compared to the newer jewels. So this seemed like a good opportunity to move the brands over to a new place to create a little bit of excitement. But also more importantly, I think our guests have always wanted an outside space. We were always thinking about where to get a rooftop, and with Covid, it's a little more important, so [H Zentre] was ideal for us. It's got three rooftop bars taking up about four to five thousand square feet—Aqua will have two terraces and Hutong's got one. So that's a real blessing to have.
In Tsim Sha Tsui, you really just want to be left or right of the Avenue of Stars, so there's really not that many places around for a start. And secondly, it's always better to look at the Hong Kong skyline from Kowloon side. So we were very happy that the Henderson Group wanted to have an operator who would do the place justice. We can use the front and back—I think that the north-facing side looking up Nathan Road is really underrated. It's much more like Tokyo—if you've been into one of the high rises in Ginza, that's exactly what it's like. You see all these little dots of lights and everything.