"The idea of Duddell's is to almost recreate the home of a seasoned eclectic collector."
Perched above the hubbub of Hong Kong, on top of the Shanghai Tang flagship is Duddell’s. It’s décor is interpreted as an ode to 1950s Hong Kong with wood and marble, beautiful Chinese artwork and airy grandeur. Drawn in by the Michelin star food and year-round exhibitions, Duddell’s is attracting the coolest culturally-intrigued epicureans in town.
One half of Duddell’s concept is its kitchen, headed up by Siu Hin Chi of Michelin-starred T’ang Court, fuses traditional Cantonese cuisine with modern presentation and is complemented by an unscrupulously selected drinks list. Paulo Pong – one of the founders – has hand-picked every wine to focus on classic old world wines with mature and premium vintages.
The other half of Duddell’s is its art gallery, which hosts world class exhibitions throughout the year. Illustrious artists and art personalities curate these exhibitions, adding to the discussions, performances, and film screenings.
How did you [Alan Lo], Paulo Pong and Yenn Wong come to work together?
Paulo and I have been partners for quite a number of restaurants since 2006. This is however our first time working with Yenn who has had an amazing career creating wonderful hotel and restaurant concepts.
Why did you choose the name ‘Duddell’s’?
Duddell’s is named after the Duddell Street where it is located. The street in turn was named after Mr George Duddell from the late 19thcentury who was an opium trader and auctioneer in Hong Kong. We felt that evoking the invisible Mr Duddell from the colonial times would complement the sort of mystique that is in a way part of the concept: the fact that the space is somewhat tucked away in what is a nondescript office building.
What is the concept behind Duddell’s?
Duddell’s is a space to eat, drink, and socialise for those who have an interest in art and are professionally involved with the arts. We want to encourage our audience to take part in dialogues through our exhibition and art programmes and to not be limited to conversations, performances, and art film screenings.
What inspired the design of Duddell’s?
The interiors are designed by celebrated, London-based Ilse Crawford. Her past work includes Soho House New York, Aesop on Mount St (London), Grand Hotel Stockholm, and award- winning Ett Hem brands. In particular it is her thorough understanding of art and culture that prompted us to invite her to design this project for us
What kind of dining experience do you aim to give guests?
The idea of Duddell's is to almost recreate the home of a seasoned eclectic collector. Everything - food, design, accessories, books, bottles of whiskeys, and of course the art - is very tasteful with backgrounds peppered with colourful stories.
What is the concept behind the menu?
Traditional Cantonese cuisine, using the best ingredients. Chef [Siu Hin Chi] sometimes includes modern twists on traditional recipes but overall the idea is for people to enjoy home cooking, done by a very good resident chef. And we’re very pleased to have achieved one Michelin star within our first year of opening.
How do you decide on the featured art?
We have a curator driven exhibition programme so both the theme and selection of works are entirely up to the curators.
Ai Weiwei was one of the curators at Duddell’s – did you have a lot of input in the exhibition or was it his to carry?
There is a 4 person arts committee to oversee art and exhibition programme but we try to have as little input as possible so as to allow curators to express themselves freely. In the case of Ai Weiwei, since he couldn’t come to Hong Kong, we assisted him by providing materials about the Hong Kong artists, but the selection was entirely up to him.
You seem to be pioneering a new concept in the world of fine-dining in Hong Kong by combining it with art and vice versa. Do you feel as though this is the case?
In an emerging art hub that still doesn't have a world class museum, I think we created an alternative platform for art related dialogues, as well as exhibitions that otherwise wouldn't be possible in the commercial gallery or NGO context. We try to contribute or influence the development of the art scene here, whether in a big or small way.
If you could bring Duddell’s anywhere in the world, where would it be?
We would love to bring Duddell's to all major international art hubs where collectors, curators artists, gallerists, advisors and museum directors engage in active dialogues.
What do the next five years hold for you?
Whilst Hong Kong remains our homebase, we are keen to explore ways to do something in China as well as abroad.
3-4/F, Shanghai Tang Mansion
1 Duddell Street
Images © Duddell's