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Food and Drinks

Mercato restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong closes after refusing rent rise

  • ‘We love Hong Kong … we hope to return,’ says Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who opened Italian restaurant in California Tower in 2016
  • Chef, who has a 35-year association with Hong Kong, says location was a factor in decision not to renew lease
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 11:37am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 10:29am

Italian restaurant Mercato by Jean-Georges has closed, the latest victim of rising commercial rents in Hong Kong.

Opened in 2016 by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has a 35-year association with the city, the restaurant opted not to renew its lease in California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong, the leading entertainment district on Hong Kong Island.

Vongerichten said by email that he and his team would look for another location in Hong Kong, though he did not indicate a timeline.

“We love Hong Kong, it’s always been an inspiration destination for us. We have a lot of friends as well and hope to return soon,” he wrote.

Even though the staff, led by chef de cuisine Anthony Burd, were given two months’ notice of the restaurant’s closure, Vongerichten said they had all stayed until the last day, which he said was “impressive”.

“We look forward to reconnecting with them once we find a new home,” he added.

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Vongerichten said Mercato’s location, on the eighth floor of the glass-walled tower on D’Aguilar Street, was a factor in the decision not to renew the lease at a higher rent. He would not disclose the rent Mercato has been paying, or the increase sought.

Mercato served contemporary Italian fare, and features signature dishes such as house-made ricotta with raspberry compote, olive oil and grilled bread, spaghetti with fresh mozzarella, Parmesan, tomato sauce and basil, and pizzas topped with black truffle, cheese and farm egg.

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Vongerichten, from Alsace, France, has an association with Hong Kong that dates back to 1983, having worked at Pierrot, a French fine-dining restaurant that used to be on the top floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong hotel in Central.

In 1997 he returned as a restaurateur, opening Vong, which served Thai-inspired French cuisine in the same space and closed in 2005. Then, a few years ago, Lan Kwai Fong’s biggest landlord, Allan Zeman, approached Vongerichten about opening a restaurant in California Tower.

The French chef has more than 30 restaurants worldwide, including Mercato in Shanghai and, since early this year, Guangzhou.

Mercato, 8/F, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, tel: 3706 8567