When you hear the story of how an erstwhile police headquarters building was converted to house three restaurants and bars, you definitely want to pay a visit!
When Aqua Restaurant Group reached out to international design studio AB Concept, to design three dining outlets in the former Central Police Station in Hong Kong, they knew it was going to be a challenge they couldn’t refuse.
The three dining and bar destinations occupy the 7,500 square foot venue within the 100-year old former police headquarters building. The renowned heritage site and former police station, which has been revitalised as the Tai Kwun Cultural Centre for Heritage and Arts, is the last cluster of iconic colonial buildings of this large scale in Hong Kong.
Co-Founders of AB Concept, Ed Ng and Terence Ngan, have reimagined the spaces with three distinct designs that marry the past life of the building together with the rich historical narrative of Hong Kong itself.
Upon arrival, guests enter the space by walking up the grand iron-balustrade staircase, an original feature, passing double-storey circular windows that offer a lookout to the city streets that lay beneath. Situated on the top floor of the neo-classical old police headquarter building, which dates back to the mid-19th century, the venue is divided into three areas.
To the east is The Chinese Library, a restaurant conceived to reflect the historic influx of migrants from regions all over China. To the west is Statement, a modern British restaurant paying homage to the colonial past. The Dispensary, an ornate lounge and bar, connects the two restaurants in the middle.
“By preserving and integrating some of the earliest architecture of the British colonial era into the new restaurant designs, we aimed to faithfully reflect the story of Hong Kong’s eclectic mix of Eastern and Western cultural influences,” commented Ed Ng and Terence Ngan. “We envisioned the three spaces as elements of the whole experience in order for the distinct designs to flow cohesively. The unifying trait is, of course, the inherent colonial charm of the original structure, and it was an honour to delve into the past life of the building as Hong Kong’s Central Police Station.”
The Chinese Library
Conceived to reflect the historic influx of migrants from regions all over China, The Chinese Library’s menu pays tribute to the contribution each region has made to the colourful Hong Kong cuisine. Most of the classic fittings, including doors and windows, and the original century-old wooden flooring in the grand dining room, are a tasteful blend of colonial and Oriental influences. Bespoke-crafted banquette booths with dimly-lit mood lighting offer intimate seating with a library-like atmosphere, whilst draping chandeliers inspired by strings of Chinese lanterns hang from the original roof structure.
Bronze, copper and celadon tones hint towards the illustriousness of Chinese jade in the colonial era. Jade-coloured walls featuring ornate gold mirrors, backlit green onyx screens, and black and white antique Chinese marble table tops bring back the glory of a bygone era.
Large colonial doors that open onto the expansive verandah reveal more of the building’s history, with balcony louvres echoing the traditional style of colonial window screens.
As the name suggests, modern British restaurant Statement hints light-heartedly at the venue’s history. Yes, that in itself is a statement. For the design, Ed Ng and Terence Ngan were inspired by avant-garde London culinary destinations, and thoughtfully blended this contemporary vibe with the original architectural features.
The original colonial pitched ceilings and full-length period windows - these traditional features are complemented with touches of contemporary glamour, including shimmering blue-green fabrics, bespoke milky-glass chandelier lighting inspired by British lanterns, and badge-shaped mirrors celebrating the historical significance of the space. Alongside the original century-old wooden flooring and colonial shutters, the simple turquoise, cracked plaster walls designed by AB Concept maintain the sense of antiquity within the space.
Infused with classic elements and modern nuances, The Dispensary is situated in what would have been the police headquarters’ mess hall. The walls are painted in the same dark blue used for the Hong Kong police uniforms, and are adorned with two specially designed mirrored shields, inscribed with historic tales of the building’s past. The signature black and white checkered flooring is reminiscent of how the floor would likely have been in its former days as an off-duty bar for officers.
Copper-tray table tops pay tribute to the official police plaque, situated around low- level lounge seating, whilst the bar itself is encased in a metallic fence resonant of the old police armoury.
The thing about dining at places like this is that you not only come away with a great experience, you also end up raising the bar on your expectation. A tough one to match up!