In-house restaurants in upmarket clothes shops allow hungry fashionistas to take the weight off their Blahniks and refuel for the next round of retail rampage, writes Vanessa Yung
A SHOPPING SPREE can be an overwhelming experience, especially during the sales. When the adrenalin rush that comes with getting a sought-after piece of fashion fades away, a shopper can feel exhausted. A good way to recharge the batteries is by eating something as soon as possible. Some shops have made it easy - you don't even need to leave the store.
The IFC Mall in Central features some excellent restaurants, but agnès b's flagship store La Loggia on Level 3 offers a one-shop experience. The French brand displays its collections for men and women, alongside a florist, chocolatier and fine-dining restaurant, Le Pain Grillé.
"Agnès is a fashion designer who loves a lot of different things such as food, flowers and chocolate. We're really trying to share that kind of spirit, and the French lifestyle, with our customers in Hong Kong," says Peter Leong, assistant general manager of agnès b. in Hong Kong.
"If you look at the interior of the restaurant, it's very traditional French, but with a chic aspect to it. We try to make it as welcoming as possible. We hired Andre Fu, who designed the Upper House [hotel in Admiralty], to help design the shop. He has added some Moroccan elements to his design because Morocco is one of the places that Agnès loves to visit."
Le Pain Grillé serves modern French food, with popular treats that include bouillabaisse and French bouchot mussels in white wine. Outside the restaurant is a cosy area resembling a French courtyard, complete with benches and small tables. This is great for a quick drink to go with a cake or a tart.
The Le Pain Grillé in Kowloon Tong's Festival Walk has lower prices, and a menu that features more pasta and shared dishes. The ambience suits the style of the Sport b. store it sits inside.
"For lunch, we normally have lots of business people. When people go for lunch, they go for lunch; they don't shop around. In the evening, there are more couples because it's a very romantic atmosphere," says Leong.
"Afternoon tea has more tai-tais and shoppers, and they have more time. Sometimes, when they finish shopping, they like to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Or if they've finished drinking their tea, they like to browse around the shop."
Harvey Nichols' Fourth Floor Restaurant & Bar is another place to enjoy a meal or tea without having to leave the shop. The spacious restaurant in the luxury department store is a better choice for privacy than the nearby Café Landmark.
Not far away, in the Prince's Building, is Alfie's, which opened in 2010 in the three-floor Home of Alfred Dunhill. The British brand's retail concept started in London, before opening in other cities such as Shanghai and Tokyo.
Alfie's was designed by Gavin Tu, who gave it a masculine, elegant, leather-clad interior and chose the shiny stone flooring.
Head chef Neil Tomes serves British staples such as fish and chips and toad in the hole.
The restaurant has expanded to include The Reserve, a whisky and wine bar which offers British artisanal cheese and spirits.
In Tsim Sha Tsui is The Library Café inside Lane Crawford. The trip from the entrance to the cafe may take a while if you get distracted by the Christian Louboutin pumps and flats from Repetto.
The 26-seat space, also designed by Andre Fu, is a stylish, relaxing area. Several small tables and a long communal stone table are paired with Windsor chairs. The dangling vintage light bulbs and Enzo Mari's Piuma cutlery set with stand on each table add a chic element.
A Pedder Group spokesman says that when the floor area was renovated, the goal was to make it a place for family and friends to spend time together. Appealing to a love of food and fashion, the cafe mirrors what's happening on the fashion floors each season, the spokesman says.
The Library Café launches a new menu every season. Like a retailer sourcing designer brands, it features goodies from local chefs and international purveyors, such as tea from London's Fortnum & Mason and coffee from America's La Colombe. Food includes everything from pasta to pizza, all-day breakfast and risotto, but the real attractions are the sweets. Bonnae Gokson's Ms B's Cakery offers speciality cakes and pastries, while cute fashion-themed biscuits and cakes which reflect the latest shoe collections are created by Deseree Smith of Cake Smith.
For those who prefer something more health conscious and down to earth, Café & Meal Muji is the place to go. The Japanese brand has been in Hong Kong for more than 10 years, but it wasn't until it redesigned its Lee Theatre Plaza store that the first overseas Café & Meal Muji was opened. There are 17 branches in Japan.
Very much in line with the style of the lifestyle store, which is also known for minimalistic but comfortable garments, the cafe promotes the "so-no-shoku" concept - a simple, balanced diet with uncomplicated cooking methods.
"Our Lee Theatre store gives customers a convenient way to shop and relax in the same location. There's no doubt that our customers prefer this kind of shopping style," says Dora Hung, general manager of Muji Hong Kong.
"Dining is part of living. As people are becoming more health-conscious, Café & Meal Muji provides a healthy alternative, a balanced, light meal for busy customers to freshen up," she says.
The self-service cafe has light wood and soft lighting, and resembles the interior of a Muji shop.
Hung says its menu features seasonal vegetables, and adds that the set meals are portion-controlled so that the customers won't overeat. But she says the most important goal is the brand's aim of enhancing "a comfortable daily living".
Snack in style
agnès b. Le Pain Grillé
- Shop 3096-3097, IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2805 0798
- Shop 33, Festival Walk, 80 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong, tel: 2265 7680
M/F Prince's Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2530 4422
Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Restaurant & Bar
4/F Harvey Nichols, Landmark, 16 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 3695 3389
The Library Café
Lane Crawford, 3 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2118 4530
Café & Meal Muji
3/F Lee Theatre Plaza, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 3971 3120