The Best Restaurants To See And Be Seen During Art Basel Hong Kong 2021
If exquisite food and a spot of people watching is what you fancy after a day of gallery-hopping, these are the restaurants to book a table at this Arts Month in Hong Kong
Months of uncertainty have preceded Art Basel Hong Kong's 2021 edition, but now that it's here and happening, the art fair's return, along with that of Art Central and Le French May, marks the city's first tentative steps into hosting world-class events again. While the continuing restrictions on international travel have put a major dampener on the high-stakes wheeling and dealing that takes place in galleries and over white tablecloths alike, there's still ample opportunity to rub shoulders with the art world's elite at these rarefied dining spaces around town. Read on for our pick of where to host your next post-acquisition celebration, or simple to soak up the energy of this long-awaited Arts Month.
Helmed by Eric Raty, two-Michelin-starred Nordic-Japanese restaurant Arbor has remained a firm favourite on the fine dining circuit since it opened in 2018. During Art Basel fairs past, Arbor's location in "vertical arts precinct" H Queen's and its wealth of star-studded galleries like David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth—combined with the colonnaded Yabu Pushelberg-designed interiors—has made it a no-brainer for gallerists working just an elevator ride away.
This month, select dishes in the dinner menu pull inspiration from Lalan, a formidable abstract painter and first wife of celebrated Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki. Her decades-spanning "Untitled" series, which exhibit gentle and elegant compositions inspired by music and dance, have been interpreted by Raty in the selection of ingredients, plating of dishes and the chinaware itself. Priced at HK$1,988 per person, the Menu of Art dinner can be booked online here.
Taking over the old haunt of Cafe Gray Deluxe, which itself was a favourite of visiting art professionals, Salisterra's brand-new geometrically-inspired interior by Andre Fu is a natural fit for the discerning eye of its art fair-going clientele. So much so, in fact, that Tatler chose to celebrate the launch of its special edition May cover featuring the work of Canadian artist Marcel Dzama with an intimate dinner at The Upper House's main restaurant.
Outside of private events, Salisterra's artfully-plated dishes dreamt up by London-based chef Jun Tanaka, combined with imaginative cocktails and a painterly spatial palette of rustic Mediterranean pastels, has already made it a darling of the art crowd for post-show drinks. The restaurant's sky-high views, open kitchen and spacious main dining room so conducive of people-watching ensure that there's always something for one's gaze to settle on, while the discreet, theatre-like high table seating to the side is perfect for making a deal or two.
The Grand Hyatt's celebrated Italian restaurant earns points for its close proximity to Art Basel and Art Central's main venue at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, while its old-world decor and sumptuous Italian cooking are a constant draw for the traditionalists of the art world. With its grand proportions, wrought iron chandeliers, Romanesque arches and soaring windows, there's certainly a sense of arrival at this harbourside dining institution. That's not to mention the hearty appeal of the food itself, from the vibrant Amalfi lemons that greet you at the table, and the famed oversized grissini breadsticks, to the generous tiramisu bowl at the end of every meal that allows you, for a second, to imagine that you are at the concurrent Venice Biennale, too.
The austerity of Ando's Brutalist-inspired dining room evokes the material sculptures of minimalist art pioneer Carl Andre, yet very much belies chef Agustin Balbi's warm hospitality and nostalgia-driven cuisine. Art is the first touchpoint of the meal—in the place of a conventional menu, guests are given a stack of postcard illustrations by amateur illustrator Vanessa Leung that are arranged in no particular order, which must be matched to each dish over the course of a meal in what becomes a fun visual challenge. Safe to say, the presentation of Balbi's degustations is second to none, from the interlocking hexagonal dishes of his sashimi course, to the delightful box of petit fours. Meanwhile, sight lines in the interior leave little to be desired for those inclined to a spot of people-watching.
For those looking to plumb the depths of art history over dinner, Piedmontese restaurant Castellana has debuted an Art Menu that takes inspiration from the artistic greats of the past four centuries. Beginning with Henry Fuseli's 1781 piece The Nightmare, a depiction of the horrors witnessed during a bout of sleep paralysis that has been interpreted by chef Fabiano Palombini as "nightmare" tartare of Sicilian red prawns and Fassona beef, the menu follows with a Jackson Pollock-inspired risotto, a dish of Atlantic turbot and Brittany blue lobster that appear to hug like the figures in Klimt's The Kiss, a painterly plating of Bresse pigeon, galette and foie gras inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night, and finally, a Chantilly puff pastry dessert that appears to have been shattered by the ear-splitting canvas, The Scream by Edvard Munch. Priced at HK$980 per person, the menu also offers a wine pairing for an additional HK$600.