Few buildings in Hong Kong are lucky to dodge the downside of progress, evading demolition for a new lease on life.
The former Central Police Station is one of the handful, now given the name Tai Kwun along with rejuvenated purpose as a heritage centre.
There, in the Police Headquarters building, a sprawling dining destination harks back to the city’s colonial past, while dividing its space across three unique concepts: Statement, a British restaurant, occupies the West Wing on the top floor; to the east is The Chinese Library; and joining both at the centre is lounge bar The Dispensary.
Much of history has been preserved in the reimagining of the 15,000sqft space, designed by award-winning firm AB Concept, whose deft hand at detail comes through in their highly similar yet completely distinctive spaces.
At The Chinese Library, circular booths, marble tabletops, and antique-inspired consoles outfit the room, while brass touches and lamp-lit mirrors imbue the space with quiet glamour, complementing the dishes of chef Junno Li.
My culinary philosophy is to unite different Chinese flavours and pair traditional ingredients with unique skills, says Junno. Luckily this aligned with the philosophy of the restaurant. Most of the dishes I have crafted are influenced by a variety of flavours: Cantonese, Chiu Chow, Sichuan, and Shanghainese, to name a few.
Chef Li further builds upon the interiors with his carving skills, which feature in striking dishes such as the chilled ‘Jade Flower’ in green Sichuan pepper essence, and the chrysanthemum ‘Thousand Cut’ silken tofu in chicken broth.
On the other side, Statement brings diners a taste of modern British cuisine. The pan-fried scallop, smoked cabbage heart with Welsh laverbread butter is beautifully tender and textured, while the slow-cooked Gressingham duck with plum sauce and salt-baked carrot offers some of the most tender and voluminous slices of the meat, juicy with flavour.
For us, it’s all about stories. This is the Central Police Station, and all these motifs take inspiration from the architecture
Where chopsticks grace the table at The Chinese Library, Statement features silver cutlery. Angular private booths take the place of Chinese Library’s circular ones, while a brighter teal and turquoise palette distinguishes Statement’s quarters from the other side’s atmospheric jade-toned space.
Occupying the former Officers’ Mess Hall, The Dispensary serves as a lounge to both restaurants, and the stage for mixologist Isabella Vannoni’s British and Chinese cocktails, each shaken and stirred with a spin on the classics.
For us, it’s all about stories, says AB Concept founding principal Ed Ng. This is the Central Police Station, and all these motifs take inspiration from the architecture. The trilogy of restaurants is AB Concept’s second heritage building project, commissioned around the same time as their work for Mei Ume, the Chinese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel London that was twice-awarded at the 2018 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards.
Ed is grateful for the opportunity to redesign another heritage space for the present. In Hong Kong, we don’t have many heritage buildings, so for us it’s very special. This kind of experience is non-replicable – where else would you find a building like this in Hong Kong?
Scroll through the gallery below for a glimpse of Statement’s and The Chinese Library’s sumptuous offerings.
This originally appeared in our January 2019 issue as ‘A Tale of Two Cuisines’. Pick up a copy of our latest release today and head to our Living section for more dining features and restaurant interiors inspiration!
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