Library that gives visitors a taste for more

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 July, 2014, 3:28am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 July, 2014, 3:28am

The smoky scent of duck and soy sauce wafts through the smart, cosy kitchen - a kitchen that also happens to be surrounded by book-filled rooms.

It is part of Hong Kong's first "taste library", where visitors can cook and read books about food culture - and, its creator hopes, communicate openly.

Opening in August, the library is nestled on the fifth floor of PMQ, the new creative complex fashioned from the former police married quarters in Central.

"I hope this [will be] a place of sharing, because food is all about sharing," said food writer Craig Au-Yeung Ying-chai, who came up with the library idea and is now its curator. "Food can engage people."

With hardwood floors and light-coloured walls, the library includes a kitchen, three reading rooms, five balconies and a reception area with magazines.

Measuring about 2,000 square feet, the space is a non-profit collaboration between the operators and PMQ.

Au-Yeung has a lifelong passion for food. After years of cooking and writing books and reviews, he decided last year to create a space that would combine these passions and enable people to communicate through a shared love of food.

"Hong Kong needs it now especially," Au-Yeung said. "We need a place to consolidate all our anger, all our frustration, all our doubts. [Using] food as a medium to get people together is the first step."

Plants, comfortable chairs, and other decorations create a warm and leisurely environment. One reading room has a gallery wall that will display temporary art exhibitions.

"A lot of artists and creators relay their work with food content - like the famous Warhol Campbell cans," Au-Yeung said, referring to the work by pop artist Andy Warhol featuring Campbell's Soup labels.

The library has about 3,000 books on food culture and design. Most belong to Au-Yeung, who began collecting food books 20 years ago.

The balconies will also be used to grow crops to be stored and used in the kitchen.

"I was so impressed," said Diora Fong Hui-Lan, a prolific cookbook author along with her husband, Chan Ke-lum. "There is no place with so many cookbooks and books about food and drink … it gives people a good environment to gain a deeper understanding of eating culture."

According to Au-Yeung, the kitchen features high-quality equipment, all of which was donated by the brands. Containing an oven, a steamer - and even a wine cellar - it will be available by appointment and serve as a venue for events.

To access the kitchen and reading rooms, visitors must pay an annual membership fee of no more than HK$200, or purchase a day pass.