“The paintings are so huge that they didn’t fit into the elevator,” recalls Bonnae Gokson, gesturing to the life-size works by German artist Candida Höfer that adorn the lilac walls of her renowned rooftop restaurant and bar, Sevva. “Some 10 people walked a total of 50-something floors of stairs and brought them up – we hung these at four in the morning.”

Bonnae pictured inside Sevva’s Bankside Dining Room, the only area that will retain its original design after the renovation
Bonnae pictured inside Sevva’s Bankside Dining Room, the only area that will retain its original design after the renovation

From a playlist of jazz standards curated by Bonnae, Ella Fitzgerald’s sultry vocals seep through the speakers as the beautifully lithe, ever-elegant visionary entrepreneur (despite having just wrapped our hours-long cover shoot) tells me about the early days of Sevva, which she opened some 11 years ago and which, in less than a week, is to lower the curtains on its current incarnation for a three-month renovation.

Bonnae pictured underneath the “flower dome” in one of her favourite rooms in Sevva; the iconic restaurant and bar will unveil a brand new look this September
Bonnae pictured underneath the “flower dome” in one of her favourite rooms in Sevva; the iconic restaurant and bar will unveil a brand new look this September

The move surprised many. After all, there is little that isn’t picture-perfect about the Tsao & McKown-designed spot perched on Prince’s Building’s 25th-floor penthouse, hovering above Statue Square in Central. Synonymous with the glitz and glamour that permeate the city it overlooks, it has delighted the likes of Christian Louboutin and Donnie Yen with its kaleidoscopic interiors, dynamic menu (“a lot of our recipes are from mothers, friends, grandmothers”) and patisserie creations, from the featherweight Crunch Cake to the head-turning Marie Antoinette’s Crave.

“I’m a very visual person; I’ve been trained that way,” says Bonnae, pictured with a range of Sevva’s one-of-a-kind, meticulously crafted couture cakes
“I’m a very visual person; I’ve been trained that way,” says Bonnae, pictured with a range of Sevva’s one-of-a-kind, meticulously crafted couture cakes

Yet Bonnae – who also owns Ms B’s Cakery and the C’est La B café, and previously headed up communications for Chanel Asia Pacific – has never been one to rest on her laurels. “I was told early on that we’d have one foot in the grave if we do F&B, but we’ve survived for 11 years,” says Bonnae with palpable pride as we settle underneath the “flower dome”, a rich tapestry of blooms she handpicks and painstakingly maintains, which will soon unveil a new look in September. “That’s something I’m proud of. But Hong Kong is a very competitive town. I don’t want to be a grandma here. I want it to come alive.”

Each of Sevva’s bespoke cakes are scrumptiously moist and artfully decadent
Each of Sevva’s bespoke cakes are scrumptiously moist and artfully decadent
Arguably Sevva’s most feted patisserie creation, the Marie Antoinette’s Crave
Arguably Sevva’s most feted patisserie creation, the Marie Antoinette’s Crave

Hailing from a family of entrepreneurial pioneers – her grandfather founded the Wing On department store, while sister Joyce Ma is behind the eponymous fashion empire – Bonnae’s resilient spirit shines naturally through in her impeccable taste and genuine passion for what she does.

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz hangs within the Harbourside Dining Room
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz hangs within the Harbourside Dining Room
The characterfully iconic interiors are conceptualised by Tsao & McKown
The characterfully iconic interiors are conceptualised by Tsao & McKown

Her lofty plans for this labour of love include a gut renovation in all but one room of Sevva, as well as turning the spotlight back on what Bonnae considers the very core of great hospitality. “It’s about service – I feel as an industry we have moved away from that, so I need to spruce it up.”

Bonnae signs a copy of her coffee table book Weddings, Butterflies & The Sweetest Dreams
Bonnae signs a copy of her coffee table book Weddings, Butterflies & The Sweetest Dreams

Work, evidently, is something the celebrated tastemaker absolutely savours. “For me, I would be the most bored if I was a lady of leisure,” she says. “I can tell you I have the means to not work – just travel and have a grand life. But I think it’s so dead boring. I need to be creative.” She then breaks into a mischievous smile. “When I work, I work very hard. But when I play, I also play very hard! This is life – and I love it.”

For more insights on entertaining, beautiful homes and inspiring designs, pick up a copy of our July issue, on newsstands now.

Read also: Bonnae Gokson’s Secrets to Setting a Spectacular Table

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