Mott 32 Restaurant by Joyce Wang in Hong Kong
The recently opened restaurant in the basement of the Standard Chartered Bank landmark in Central, Hong Kong, has been earning rave reviews, as much for its modern Cantonese food as its dramatic interiors.
Designer Joyce Wang who created the space — fresh off the success of her much-lauded work at AMMO at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre — takes diners through a fantastical tale of an immigrant’s journey, complete with family heirlooms and a history uncovered in the secret lair of a bank vault.
Joyce Wang explains that the restaurant tells the story of the basement of an important bank building in Hong Kong and how it has evolved through time. He imagined its former life as a storage facility for family heirlooms forgotten by wealthy Chinese immigrants, and later as staff quarters for bank employees and guards. The process of design was to unearth these clues layer by layer to expose an authentic narrative, so the final tableau tells a compelling story that’s not overly styled. The objects are clues to the larger political and social history of Hong Kong.
The furniture designed and accessories are as eclectic as the narrative the designer wanted to convey. Chinese antique propaganda accessories, Danish caning furniture, British turnof-the-century tableware to American mid-Century chandeliers are seen throughout. The intention was to make it reminiscent of the previous occupants’ taste, lifestyles and personalities.
The site itself is devoid of any sunlight, openings, or views to the exterior. It could feel claustrophobic so Wang spun this by re-directing attention inward and holding it captive through the various design elements, first and foremost with a lighting strategy with different mood settings for lunchtime and evening diners.
The accessibility of the site was also an issue, having to snake through the bank building to access the restaurant. This was turned into an asset, though, by creating a more hidden and exclusive arrival experience, so the descent into the basement is an experience in itself. A grand and industrious heavy-metal chain chandelier suspended from the top of the staircase, draping all the way to the basement, the faceted mirror panels lining the stairwell created a surreal descent, while a mirrortopped wait station at the base of the staircase paid tribute to reflection ponds commonly found in traditional Chinese restaurants.
The space is divided into one general dining area and 5 separate private rooms. If you sit in the main dining area, your attention is drawn to a number of narratives, both raw and rich. An open display shows hanging ducks in the custom oven. This is juxtaposed with the grandeur and elegance of custom-designed wait stations with inset silk embroidered paneling and custom hardware trims. The form is reminiscent of Qing Dynasty paired with modern materials and industrial detailing.
The main feature is the custom-built architectural skylight to give diners an impression of daylight. The shape of this skylight and layout of banquettes in the main dining area were inspired by the existing Standard Chartered Bank’s octagonal columns.
But there are other details worth noting:
• Graffiti and propaganda script on the columns hint at the passage of time
• Traditional flooring material used in Hong Kong during 1950s – terrazzo with gold coins inset — in one of the private dining rooms
• Tables and seating: mixture of custom-designed pieces and vintage 1950s pieces
• Large feature wall: metallic thread embroidery on hand-painted silk backdrop (floral and butterfly scene)
• Old teller window frame and light incorporated into the cashier room door
Via the retail design blog
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