Designs down to a tea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 March, 1993, 12:00am

RIDE the escalator to the top floor of Loft Central on Wellington Street. Follow the sounds of clinking silverware and slip into a cosy corner. Welcome to Mr Chan's Tea Room.

There are reasons, other than culinary ones, to visit the newly-opened restaurant of graphics design whizz Alan Chan.

While sipping a well-made cappuccino ($25 and dusted with genuine cocoa), study the lighting. Chan uses a flood to showcase a vase of flowers. And yellow gladioli never looked better. Another transforms a single branch into a bewitching tangle. One floor-light ignites a corner done in gold metallic paper.

Bury yourself in the style and design magazines or learn about Chan's interest in flavoured waters. The bottling of some, including Nattura and Kirin's Post Water, redefines packaging.

The size of the kitchen forces the chef to keep things fresh and manageable. There are salads, sandwiches and a set lunch ($80). Available from 2.30pm is a Chinese tea menu. How about sharing a peanut shortcake, pressed beancurd roll or gooey dai pai dong toast.

Those who admire Chan's eye will not be disappointed with the shopping bags, the menu design or the waiters' black tee-shirts. ars AS if Karen Wang doesn't have enough to do. Besides overseeing a tiny kitchen, the chef juggles in the roles of manager, official greeter and cultural historian at Cafe Afrikan, a haven of high ceilings, robust coffees and teas, regional salads and African artefacts at 7 Glenealy, Central.

Spoil yourself with a cup of Kona Macadamia nut coffee, iced almond latte or an African blend akin to liquid dessert. Called Mocha Montezuma, it sells for $52. Ouch.

Wang quickly defends the price with ''bittersweet chocolate, vanilla sugar, real whipped cream, a touch of gold''.

The owners of Cafe Afrikan (their identities are secret) also have an eye for graphics. Check out their mustard-yellow mural on the facade of the building, facing Lower Albert and the antiques (the matrimonial blanket from Nigeria hangs from the ceiling in the corridor by glass doors).

During a tour of the premises, Wang points to the carvings of twin figures, that grace the handle tops of the front door. ''They're symbols of good fortune, from Southwest Africa's Yoruba people.'' She also contributes to the newsletter. The first issue includes a recipe for futari, a pumpkin soup from Zanzibar, redolent of sweet spices, lemon and unsweetened coconut milk. LOVERS of creamy rich rice-pudding are advised not to miss the one on the new dessert menu of the Grand Cafe in the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

It's a stellar version, flavoured with rum. An ample portion comes in the kind of glass container perfect for showing off a gardenia. IF your tastebuds go on strike at the thought of the hot dog-crisps-popcorn diet available at the Rugby Sevens' stadium,consider some alternatives.

Hire a personal caterer or invite yourself to someone's corporate box, cajole friends to cook for you or pick up the phone and a picnic from the Gourmet Corner of the Hilton Hotel (the official caterer).

Lunch boxes are also available from other hotel cake shops. The Mandarin offers two menus daily ($150 or $200) - everything from tuna and avocado sandwiches, nicoise or lentil salads, cold roast chicken on pesto-flavoured pasta, fresh fruit and brownies to smoked salmon sandwiches and roast beef.

Why not let the food come to you. Koh-i-Noor restaurants make life very easy for rugby fans. They will deliver free to the stadium entrance.

They're offering three menus for 10 persons at $550, $750, $950. Each menu includes vegetarian options, such as mixed vegetable curry, vegetable kebabs and spicy cauliflower. Staples include Indian breads and samosas, lamb rogan josh, Kashmiri rice and chicken madras.

Phone orders are taken at 722-0673. Advance payment is required and can be made at any of the three outlets - Central, Sha Tin and Tsim Sha Tsui.