As the city gears up for Art Basel and the Asia Contemporary Art Show, local restaurants and bars are getting creative with their menus. After all, coming up with dishes and drinks that are both original and appetising is an art form in itself.
Mandarin Grill + Bar
Being the official sponsor for Art Basel, the Mandarin Oriental has several promotions, including an art-inspired menu at the Mandarin Grill and Bar, which is available until May 18. The three-course lunch and five-course dinner come with a complimentary pass to Art Basel.
The minimalistic menu only hints at what's to come. The Monet-inspired Lily Pond is an appetiser of scallop, crab legs and seafood dashi consommé served in a deep transparent bowl. So far so ordinary. But right before diners tuck in, a scoop of smoking nitrogen grapefruit is added.
Channel your inner Jackson Pollock with the main course as you brush, spray, drip or splash red pepper and spinach purées, mashed potato and truffle jus onto your "canvas", before a piece of steak is placed on top.
"The menu needs to be engaging as I think art is about participating," explains chef Uwe Opocensky.
Belgian painter René Magritte's The Son of Man is reimagined as a dessert featuring a vanilla cream-filled green apple sugar ball.
Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central, tel: 2825 4004
I can see the pain in restaurant manager Arturo Sims' eyes when I ask him to single out a favourite piece of art from Bibo. Anyone who has been to the new French restaurant will know how hard a task it can be when the installations, hangings and works are created by artists such as Banksy, Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kaws and Takashi Murakami.
Sims says a moped adorned by calligraphy from our own King of Kowloon brings a touch of local culture, while many artists were commissioned to fashion site-specific works for the project. There is a drill-and-chisel mural from Vhils, a playful tile installation from Invader and a multilayered graffiti piece studded with celebrity faces from Mr Brainwash. "We're taking fine dining to the street by [putting street art] in a restaurant environment," says Sims.
"We're trying to break the rules and show people that fine dining doesn't have to be with white tablecloths and chandeliers," he adds. "The artists basically pick a wall and express themselves - that's how they achieve perfection. It's the same with the food and the drinks."
Executive chef Mutaro Balde and mixologist Alexandre Chatté have a handcrafted, artisanal approach to their food and cocktails. Oeufs mayonnaise, a French classic, is modernised by replacing the hard-boiled eggs with slow-cooked ones with creamy yolks. Cocktails, including the absinthe-infused Midnight Diamond, are refreshing and reminiscent of old Paris. "Bibo was about sharing a bit of that bohemian lifestyle [from] the '30s," says Sims. "It's the sharing of not only art but also good food, good drinks and good moments with friends. The project is a combination of different passions."
163 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2956 3188
Duddell's first year has been busy. Since its opening during Art Basel 2013, the Chinese restaurant-cum-art space founded by Alan Lo, Yenn Wong and Paulo Pong has seen a rich programme featuring four shows including Ai Weiwei's "Framed" in November. The current show is "Foreign Presence", curated by Inti Guerrero.
The space, designed by London-based Ilse Crawford, is "a place to eat, drink and socialise for people who are professionally involved in arts and those with an interest in art", says Lo.
"The whole idea is to create the feeling of entering an art collector's house that has an old cook who's been cooking for the family for decades."
Their fifth show, which will coincide with Art Basel, is a Chinese contemporary show titled "Aftermath: Post-Sense Sensibility, Fifteen Years On". Curated by Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing, it features more than 15 artists who emerged from the influential movement between 1999 and 2001.
There's a mixture of works, including a graphic piece from Jiang Zhi's "Elegy" series, of a man with hooks pulling the skin of his neck, which Lo jokingly says will be strategically placed so as to not affect guests' appetites.
Levels 3 & 4, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 9191
Absolut Art Bar
After its collaboration with Adrian Wong at the Fringe Club last year, the Swedish vodka brand has joined forces with Nadim Abbas for another site-specific art bar installation titled Apocalypse Postponed which can be seen nightly between May 13 and 17.
Drawing inspiration from cult science fiction movies including A Clockwork Orange, and second world war bunker ruins around Hong Kong, the post-apocalyptic setting is the artist's continuous exploration of the omnipresent but hidden violence in urban living.
Other than the concept and design, Abbas has also worked with Absolut's mixologist to come up with four cocktails, which includes 2666: A Space Cocktail, a beetroot and ginger flower tea syrup cocktail contained in a blood bag. There will be a changing programme of live music, DJ sets, screenings and choreographed performances.
Soundwill Plaza II — Midtown, Midtown POP, 17/F, 1 & 29 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MONET
The Brickhouse is calling on local artists to produce artworks based on their new tacos, including Fat Man Dancing (pork belly), Spicy Nemo (fish) and Steve Jobs (vegetarian). The winner will receive HK$10,000 worth of credit and, as artist of the month for June, plenty of exposure and marketing support. The deadline is May 13. Email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winner will be announced on May 15. Brickhouse, 20A D'Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, tel: 2810 0560
For those who love art as much as they enjoy a tipple, etc Wine Shops is granting both wishes. Several collections featuring bottles with labels fashioned by popular designers and artists are available at selected outlets. Support local artist Frog King by buying the Pol Roger Champagne. For more details go to etcwineshops.com.
Felix at The Peninsula is offering a culinary take on famous paintings through April and May. Chef Yoshiharu Kaji has taken inspiration from the likes of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci for a five-course champagne menu.
Felix, 28/F The Peninsula Hong Kong, 19-21 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2696 6778
Le Boudoir has concocted three special cocktails named after Parisian museums. The Louvre has tequila, cointreau, lime juice, cucumber and coriander. The Orsay is a colourful blend of vodka, lime juice, lemon grass and cranberry juice, while the exotic Guimet mixes vodka, passion fruit, orange juice, orange bitters, egg white and sour mix. All cocktails are available throughout May. Le Boudoir, 65 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2530 3870