Cover Find out how the Black Sheep Restaurants and Tatler team brought this holiday pop-up to life (Photo: Affa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong)

In the spirit of the holidays, Black Sheep Restaurants and Tatler team up for a pop-up reminiscent of The Alps and the snowy streets of Europe

This holiday season, Tatler and Black Sheep Restaurants are teaming up to bring European winter to Hongkongers with a new pop-up in Tai Kwun. Cure your wanderlust blues and feel the tinge of snow on your nose as you travel to The Alps in Tai Kwun’s Magistracy. From November 29 to December 30, Chalet des Alpes brings a very Alpine winter to the heart of Central.

Called Chalet des Alpes, the pop-up reimagines the interior of Tai Kwun and models the space after iconic skiing destinations such as St. Moritz and Gstaad.

We speak with the very people that brought this unique pop-up to life—from the Black Sheep Restaurants team, Marc Hofmann, the director of guest experience; Malique Goldin, head of partnerships; Billy Otis, head of culinary; Robin Whitehead, operations director and Tatler’s Manuela Buerki, head of strategic projects for Asia.

They tell us their inspiration behind the pop-up, how they made sure to bring the nostalgia Christmas feeling and their experience working with each other on this collaboration.

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Can you tell us more about how this collaboration between Black Sheep Restaurant and Tatler came about?

Marc Hofmann: We have been working closely with Tatler over the last few years and this is our second collaboration with their team. The first, Primavera ad Amalfi, earlier this year created a little piece of Italy at the Central Magistracy in Tai Kwun. We had such an amazing response from guests that we knew we would have to do something else. Both teams have a strong connection to Switzerland, we have been visiting hospitality schools there for years to recruit talent and have always had the most amazing experiences, and Tatler Asia’s CEO, Michel Lamunière, is from Switzerland and is passionate about all things Swiss.

What were some of the things that inspired you to bring this concept to life?

Marc Hofmann: One of our passions is telling stories through food, so this is at the heart of everything we do. Our love of travel and creating immersive experiences are what inspire us when we develop new projects, and since most of us are not travelling right now, this was the perfect experience to bring to life. Who doesn’t dream of heading to the mountains, skiing all day and rounding it off with a visit to a warm bustling chalet restaurant for hot drinks and hot melty cheese?

Manuela Buerki: Our CEO, Michel Lamunière, and Black Sheep Restaurants’ CEO Syed Asim Hussain had both visited a chalet-restaurant in Switzerland, Chalet de Gourzes, that is loved by locals and travellers alike for its incredible food, spectacular views, and fairy-tale location perched on a mountain slope.

What was the inspiration behind the music for the popup?

Marc Hofmann: Traditional Swiss folk music with origins from the foot of the Swiss Alps, Appenzell. The music has its roots in mountain farming communities, Swiss farmers were the pioneers of yodelling, and to this day it remains the centrepiece of Swiss traditional music. We turn the heat up in the late hours of the evening embracing the style of 90s ski clubs, taking inspiration from the biggest tunes of 80s Eurovision.

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Swiss food is quite traditional, talk us through how you created the menu and some of the dishes, were there any challenges?

Billy Otis: The food at Chalet des Alpes is our interpretation of a traditional Swiss fondue, which is nostalgic for so many people. We started with the highest quality ingredients we could source from around the world, thus ensuring each dish is an elevated version of itself. These high-quality ingredients are matched by our refined techniques, resulting in a product that is a little less rustic than what you would expect at an Alpine ski lodge.

Our fondue is a variation on the classic recipe, with the addition of French Beaufort to add depth and a healthy splash of schnapps to finish it off. Shaved black truffle adds elegance to the Beef Stroganoff, but it is the combination of seven types of mushrooms contributing to the depth and texture of the dish that gets us most excited.

Tell us more about the process of bringing the pop-up to life.

Malique Goldin: We tend to bring things together very quickly. There are some different challenges, but a pop-up is not dissimilar to opening a new restaurant and we have had a lot of practice for that. Once the chalet theme was confirmed, we broke down the work and each team hustled to get their piece ready. We had weekly meetings to ensure everyone was on track and that nothing had slipped through the gaps, but it is that last week that is the most exciting when everything finally comes together, and you really know if the pieces all fit.

What makes this pop-up different from the other ones happening in Hong Kong around this time?

Manuela Buerki: It’s so much more immersive than strolling through, say, open-air market stalls. The incredible location of the pop-up means that we have created an immersive journey that will make you forget you’re in the historical heart of Hong Kong! The whole experience is set up to evoke an evening spent with friends and loved ones after an exhilarating day spent on the slopes in the snow. The apres-ski bar, the Monkey 47 bar, is cosy and comfortable, and visitors are encouraged to arrive early to spend the day soaking up the apres-ski vibes. They are then led into the dining room to continue the experience with a hearty menu full of the flavours you crave after a day spent in the chilly mountain air.

How did you make sure you were able to bring the nostalgia for bygone Christmas jaunts to the snowy streets of Europe and the vibe of European Christmas to Hong Kong?

Malique Goldin: Having a strong idea of what we wanted off the bat (the Swiss chalet theme) made it easy. The team were able to let their imaginations run wild, coming up with the most elegant yet quintessential Christmas theme. The venue itself, a 150-year-old building also lends itself to a bygone era and plays an important role in setting the scene for such an event.

Manuela Buerki: Authentic details such as a pair of old skies and framed pictures all help tell the story, and warm textures, wooden panels, and traditional colours help bring the nostalgia of childhood Christmases to life.

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How does it feel to be working with each other for this pop-up?

Malique Goldin: It has been a lot of fun to have another team whose work we admire to get creative with. We do not collaborate often so it is great to get a fresh set of eyes on things and a different viewpoint.

Manuela Buerki: Working with Black Sheep Restaurants is incredibly rewarding, you’re working with a vibrant team of dynamic individuals who are creative, passionate, and committed to being the best in what they do.

How have you made the space feel so immersive?

Robin Whitehead: Starting with the feeling that you want to evoke and working backwards helps bring the vision to life. From lighting to fur coats, to imagery and lots of decoration, to create that sense of chalet clutter, it all plays part in the narrative. Music is the binding agent, weaving its way through the space and carrying one away into the mountains. The biggest challenge is making sure there are no gaps, no lapses in the experience that could cause the guest to snap back into reality.

What are the most important things you focus on to create the best guest experience?

Robin Whitehead: There are so many moving pieces that it is really hard to narrow it down, but we always try and remember that long after the memory of the taste of the wine, or the temperature of the cheese has faded, what people remember is how you made them feel. If they felt genuine warmth and hospitality, that feeling will stay with them and we will have done our jobs well.

What do you hope visitors will get out of this pop-up experience?

Robin Whitehead: We hope guests will feel transported to another time and place, where they can break bread with friends and loved ones, and create lasting memories. We think these are the moments you will treasure. It is not about where you are but who you are with and how they made you feel that matters. We also hope they get a small taste of the travel that we are all missing so much right now.

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The Tatler x Black Sheep Restaurants Chalet des Alpes will take place from November 29, 2021 to December 30, 2021 at Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Culture. Find out more information and register here.

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