No space like home

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 12:00am


On the 25th floor of Prince's Building, the lifts open to a sophisticated yet laid-back atmosphere of SEVVA. The restaurant is the vision of Bonnie Gokson, who sees the place as an extension of her home.

When she decided to jump back into the restaurant business, Gokson looked around for space.

'I give 150 per cent of my energy to the space I have, be it big or small and I thought it might as well be a decent space,' she says.

The penthouse at Prince's Building had been vacant for two years and she says she sent an e-mail inquiring about it. The response was: 'Can you open by Christmas?'

'When I saw the space I had goose pimples,' she recalls. 'The 26th floor used to have a meditation centre where I used to go. So I was coming back to this place. It was such a blessing to be guided back here.'

Originally, the space was an office, and renovating and setting up the restaurant was a steep learning curve for Gokson, who took the rolls and punches in her stride and stayed true to her philosophy.

'I believe in the energy of everything,' she says. 'Life has to have energy, and energy has colour.'

She chose Calvin Tsao, of Tsao & McKown Architects in New York, and Team HC in Hong Kong to help her create SEVVA. Tsao and Gokson have known each other for years and the architect is renowned for transforming complex buildings into memorable spaces. He is perhaps best known for his work on Suntec City, a six million sqft mixed-use complex in Singapore which won him the Prix d'Excellence Award in 1997 for construction excellence. His other projects include Cipriani Club, Virgin Atlantic Airways Clubhouse Lounge at JFK International Airport, public libraries in New York, Jianfu Palace Garden Museum and Visitors Center in Beijing, and Nai Lert Park hotel in Bangkok.

While Tsao has undertaken large-scale projects, Gokson wanted to create intimate spaces.

'I wanted the place to be like a home,' she says. 'I didn't want posh, but I wanted elegant and to have different spaces.'

The result is spaces that are distinct from each other, yet blend into one other seamlessly.

There are two main dining areas. Bankside is more formal, catering to the business set, with its view of the HSBC headquarters and other financial institutions.

Gokson points out the high ceilings make it possible to put large pieces of art on the walls, including works by renowned photographer Candida H?ffer.

On the other side of SEVVA is Harbourside, which has a palette of ebony, ivory and buttercup yellow. The highlight is the domed ceiling designed by Australian lighting artist Ruth McDermott, creating an art deco feel, while the seating is more laid-back yet elegant. Visitors to the restaurant first like to soak up the atmosphere on the terrace which overlooks Hong Kong's skyline. It is the ideal place to relax on the lounge seats and sip one of the many cocktail concoctions, such as pink sangria, chocolate martinis and honeydew royale, before dinner.

The weather is not a serious deterrent, as SEVVA has awnings ready to be rolled out in the event of rain.

For those preferring to settle inside for drinks, Taste Bar is a good choice with its cutting edge, industrial and modern look.

Guests can also sample the small-plate menu of more than 25 varieties.

For each dining room, Gokson chose different sets of tableware to reflect their distinct personalities. For special events, such as weddings, she will create an entirely new look, rearranging furniture and using flower arrangements to make the restaurant unrecognisable from its usual self.

It is this close attention to detail which makes SEVVA what it is.

'One thing that sets SEVVA apart is that I have creativity,' Gokson says. 'I stick to my originality.'

And indeed, the restaurant is one of a kind. Much like Gokson herself.