Many bars and restaurants in kinetic Hong Kong offer limitless potential as backdrop for business events. But space has always posed as a problem. With the trend moving towards small- and medium-size events, companies and event organisers are giving these stand-alone venues a second glance.
“A lot of clients have said that after using hotels for so many years, they want something different for their guests – a memorable event that makes a statement,” says Vivian Law of The Pawn, a classy bar and restaurant spread over three stories in a recently restored historic building in the Wanchai district.
She adds: “These venues provide an immediate contemporary feel to the event, allowing guests to feel more relaxed and at ease in an ambience that does not have a corporate vibe – a more intimate setting and an element of fun.”
What’s more, with their built-in décor, companies hosting an evening event save from production and set-up cost for theme dinners or cocktails.
Antony Spanbrook, managing director of experiential marketing firm Luminous Asia, says: “Restaurants, bars and lounges are usually themed and have in-house technical set-up like furniture, audio and lighting.”
Law agrees: “Hotel spaces are very ‘boxy’. There are only so many ways you can set up the space, which is usually already standardised, and all the different options are presented to you at the beginning, so you always know what to expect. Restaurant/ bar/ lounge space is more diverse and can be different every time.”
Iris Wong, group marketing and communications director of Cuisine Cuisine, echoes the same sentiment: “More companies like to create special theme events in stand-alone bars and restaurants because the set-up and décor are more flexible to cope with.”
Cuisine Cuisine is an upscale dining establishment designed by renowned interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates and which has been included in the latest 2009 Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau.
Small venues get the nod
With scaled-down events being the norm, even smaller bars and restaurants – which offer some of the unique spaces in the city – are getting business from corporates.
“Smaller venues are able to work with smaller budgets. Ideas to suit the clients’ needs could be more flexible as people like to experience different things in their preferred venues,” says Roger Chan, director and co-founder of Vero Chocolate Lounge, whose dining haven on Fenwick Pier Arcade in Wanchai has been the site for one-of-a-kind chocolate-themed events.
Adds Evania Meyers, events and marketing manager of M1NT club: “Companies have been forced to find more creative ways to reach the consumer. Therefore, many are hosting events in restaurants, bars and lounges to reach the public directly.”
While using bars, lounges and restaurant makes for fun, creative and unique events, it does pose a number of challenges for event planners.
“Space for entertainment is challenging – ceiling heights, chandeliers, special ceiling decorations and changing rooms for entertainers,” says Alex Yau, creative producer of Eventclicks-MCI Hong Kong, adding that “if the venue is located inside a shopping mall, organisers have to watch out for setup and dismantle time. Some malls do require extra cost to operate the service elevator during non-operating time”.
Christian Talpo, general manager of Zuma restaurant, bar and lounge, also notes: “Designer features of a restaurant are difficult to integrate into someone’s plan which involves a ballroom style set-up with banners, television screens and stiff plated service. Hence, we have to work extremely well with companies who trust what we do and integrate our design to suit their needs rather than the other way around.”
This is exactly what organisers at The DMC do when choosing a bar or restaurant as an event venue.
Adrianne Lynch, conference and incentive travel manager at The DMC says: “Different bars cater to different types of people, so we are careful to choose an appropriate venue to suit the demographics of the group – age, nationality, interests – such as sport or wine.”
In compact Hong Kong, parking is also a perennial challenge for companies holding events in stand-alone venues.
“For stand-alone restaurants, bars and lounges, parking may prove to be a problem because car parks are not available. Guests may have to park somewhere nearby and walk over to the venue,” says Winnie Au-Yeung, sales manager of One Bar, which is part of the Café Deco Group.
No matter the challenges, the upside of choosing a bar or a restaurant for your next event is the depth and variety of menu selection – which is very important in gastronomically savvy Hong Kong.
“Flexibility is the word. We are able to be more innovative and unique not only in terms of venue décor, but also in terms of food and drinks,” notes Linda Kwan, marketing director at the Igor’s Group, which runs in-demand places such as The Cavern and Watermark.
Some of Hong Kong’s high-profile events have been held at night in the city’s top bars and restaurants, and their operators share with Mix their favourite recollections:
“The launch of the Just Cavalli store was originally booked for 500 guests. Within two hours, 850 were at the venue queuing to get into Aqua Spirit. There were models, celebrities and the paparazzi at this event,” says Vishal Anand, general manager of Aqua Spirit bar.
For Roger Chan, the most memorable event hosted at the Chocolate Vero Lounge was its collaboration with leading furniture designer Sawada.
“We have done many events, but this one particularly stands out. The event embodied many of the services that we can provide like tailored Japanese-style chocolate with exotic flavours – wasabi, soy sauce, sakura and yuzu.”
As for Evania Meyers of M1NT Hong Kong: “Our most memorable event so far this year was hosting Sean Kingston (Jamaican-American reggae singer and rapper). Hong Kong very rarely sees such big names in town, so it was an exciting privilege for us to bring Sean Kingston out to Hong Kong and Shanghai.”
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
Hong Kong’s new breed of hotel bars and restaurants brim with class and avant-garde vibe – perfect for after-hours events, writes Gigi Onag
Renowned for its open-air terrace on the 30th floor that offers a sweeping 270-degree view of the Hong Kong skyline, Azure sits on the highest peak of the swanky Lan Kwai Fong district – the heart of the city’s upscale clubbing scene. The main dining room on the 29th floor is designed with understated elegance and serves international dishes with innovative and sensual twists.
Azure is available for exclusive corporate events. The 29th floor can cater to 70 guests for cocktails and 100 for sit-down dinner, while the 30th floor can hold 150 for cocktails and 40 for sit-down dinner.
Dada Bar + Lounge
The Luxe Manor
Looking for a venue with a distinctly artistic and cultural bend? Then, this homage to the Dadaism art movement of the early 20th century fits the bill perfectly. The three private dining rooms depict artistic visions of Heaven, Hell and Eden. Dada is also home to Mondo Arte – Club Miniaci, an art gallery of contemporary Italian artists.
The entire venue is open for corporate events. Maximum capacity is 275 guests. Package is customised to individual requirements.
W Hong Kong
Although the Living Room is actually the hotel’s lobby, this ultra chic space known for its 9-metre ceiling, built-in DJ booth and bronze light artwork has served as venue for some of Hong Kong’s classiest events for luxury goods, fashion, arts and entertainment since it opened last year.
W Hong Kong does not actively sell the Living Room as a venue. The space is only presented to clients who require special needs. It can hold up to 300 guests. For a small intimate group, there is a private area for up to 30 people.
JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
The first and only Riedel Room in the world is perfect for an intimate gathering of 50 over cocktails.
Here, guests learn the fine art of wines and the importance to using the right Riedel crystal glassware to bring out a vintage’s texture and flavour. You can choose own wines for the event from the built-in wine cellar.
The LED lighting in the wall panel display can be set to different colours to go with certain themes and mood. For a group of 10, there is a cosy private room with a ceiling dripping with 33,540 pieces of sparkling crystals.
For a truly memorable and exclusive event, wine-tasting lunch or dinner can be arranged for a group of 16 people.
Salon De Ning
The Peninsula Hong Kong
At the basement of The Peninsula Hong Kong, an upper-class residence of 1930s Shanghai is recreated in all its resplendent glory. The first Salon de Ning in Asia, it features a unique combination of clubby lounge venue, collection of travel mementos and objets d’art reflecting the glamour and style of the “Paris of the East”.
The whole area seats 51 people with the main lounge as the centrepiece, but for small groups from seven to 11 people, theme rooms like the Boudoir Room and L’Afrique Room make for a cosy and stylish setting. Groups can enjoy a live band from 9pm to midnight every night. Salon de Ning is closed on Sundays.
THE DESTINATION MANAGEMENT COMPANY
LUMINOUS EMC LTD
The 24-hour Hong Kong International Airport is your gateway to the city and is a key aviation hub of Asia, serving more than 80 airlines and providing connections to major cities throughout the world. Groups from China have more varied transportation options – train, ferry or car, depending on their point
Hong Kong has four distinct seasons. Spring is from March to mid-May with temperature between 18?C and 27?C. Summer arrives in late May and lasts until mid-September with the mercury hovering between 26?C and 30?C.
Autumn is from late September to early December with temperatures ranging from 18?C to 28?C. Winter is from mid-December to February with temperatures between 14?C and 20?C.
Citizens of most countries do not require visas and can stay for periods varying from seven to 180 days, depending on nationality.
For details about visa requirements, visit the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s website at www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hkvisas_4.htm
Cantonese is widely spoken but English is the language of business. Mandarin Chinese or Putonghua is also growing in use.
Hong Kong does not lack trendy bars and restaurants that provide a stylish backdrop for evening events. Here are some notables:
Located in Wanchai, Antique Bar is furnished with antique Chinese furniture and art pieces. Aside from its décor, the most unique feature of this bar is its menu of vintage cocktails dating from the 1700s to 1930s. Groups can also try a range of in-house concoctions. Signature cocktails such as sour plum cocktail come highly recommended.
Located along One Peking in Kowloon, Aqua Spirit features stylish interior design complemented by dazzling harbour and city views. Your party can enjoy the music mix by the city’s top deejays while drinking some all-time favourites. One floor below are restaurants Aqua Roma and Aqua Tokyo, making it a perfect venue for organisers looking to host both a cocktail and dinner event all in one place.
Located on level three of the International Finance Centre (IFC) in Central, Cuisine Cuisine features contemporary elegant décor and a breathtaking harbour view. Serving authentic Sichuan and Cantonese dishes, the upscale restaurant has a vast wine selection to pair with the fare. Its built-in visual and lighting systems are handy for corporate luncheons and meetings.
Located on level three Rotunda of One Exchange Square in Central, One Bar has private rooms that can cater to different types of events, be it casual or luxurious, ranging from 20 to 220 guests.
With an east-meets-west menu, companies can choose between different Western delicacies or Asian classics.
A bar, lounge and restaurant rolled into one, One Bar has complimentary wireless internet, an important factor when holding an event that involves some kind of web-based presentation.
Located in Central, Club M1NT is a unique and upscale place for corporate events. Decorated with jelly fish alcoves, black tip reef sharks and piranha fishes circling the perimeter, M1NT boasts a private dining room, four VIP rooms, a 14-metre long cocktail bar and dance floor that has a capacity for 350 guests. The club has played host to fashion shows and product launches. Some of M1NT clients are Versace, Calvin Klein, Lancôme, and celebrities like Vivienne Westwood.
Occupying a space that used to be a row of four Guangzhou-style balcony pawn shop houses, The Pawn encompasses a bar and lounge, a restaurant and a roof garden located in a newly restored 19th-century Chinese pawnshop building that dates back to the 1900s. The Pawn features modern British fare with specially selected wines, whiskies and cocktail among many others. It is a great all-in-one venue that creates an adult playground where guests eat, drink and network.
Vero Chocolate Lounge
Vero Chocolate Lounge is a one-of-a-kind venue on Wanchai’s Fenwick Pier. The lounge features a well-stocked chocolate gallery and guests can watch artisans handcraft freshly made chocolates and pastries. Vero Chocolate Lounge is able to tailor chocolates and pastries especially designed for a themed event. Sleek and unique, Vero Lounge is also used as a showroom for high-end designers.
Unique for its 270-degree harbour view, its skylight ceiling gives the restaurant luminous and natural daylight. The three-sided water view of the open-plan space can be used to full capacity or partitioned to create an intimate dining experience. This is perfect for groups who are not from Hong Kong. Located on Central’s Star Ferry Pier, it is an ideal destination after a ferry experience (aboard the Aqua Luna, for example), if guests are coming from the other side of the harbour.
Zuma, located at The Landmark in Central, offers authentic Japanese food with a contemporary twist in a modern and relaxed setting. The split-level restaurant is reminiscent of a Japanese garden with an open-plan natural stone kitchen. Boasting a main dining area, sushi counter, robata counter, private rooms, terrace, lounge and bar, sake bar, semi private room and a wine cellar, Zuma has all the essentials for hosting great events.