Let’s start with a bit of history on what PMQ is all about: this historic building is situated between Hollywood Road and Aberdeen Street on the cusp of both Central and Sheung Wan. It was formerly the Police Married Quarters and is part of a government initiative to retain Central heritage sites. This public/private partnership aims to foster young designers and aid them in growing their business and ultimately contributing to Hong Kong’s creative growth. PMQ is the first dot of this triangle that will also see the transformation of the Central Police Station (perhaps soon to be known as CPS) on Old Bailey Street and The Central Market (located on the walkway between the Mid-levels escalator and IFC). The CPS is due to become another creative destination but one that will focus on the performing arts with theatres, exhibitions and events as the focus. The Central Market’s destiny is yet to be decided but we’ve been told the underlying theme is that of an oasis, perhaps signifying a garden motif of some kind.
Executive Director of PMQ, Victor Tsang, says PMQ is the very first time a heritage site has adopted this type of model in Hong Kong and the government has invested not only the land but also $400 million on conserving the building. An anonymous donor has contributed an additional $10 million to the project and the Musketeers Foundation is the charitable organisation responsible for the site’s future. Tsang says “The Musketeers Education and Culture Charitable Foundation is composed of three wealthy businessmen who appreciate the opportunities Hong Kong gave to them growing up. They worry about the younger generation and want to give back with a sustainable model. They don’t want to donate to feed people, they want to teach them how to fish to earn their future. This is the core value. They think that the creative industry has a real future in Hong Kong, so the foundation wanted to support this project.”
This future begins with 130 studio spots within the complex that are subsidized with very low rent, management fees and utility charges to give the young enterprises that occupy the spaces the best possible chance to flourish. The rates for these design studios and shops are staggeringly low for a Central location ranging between $10–20K total cost. Tsang says there is a humble goal at the heart of PMQ, “The culture behind us is that we don’t want to shine ourselves, we want the tenants to shine. We want them to come in and become stars. We want to be very subtle and whenever people want to find great design and good food, we want them to come here and elevate the awareness of creativity to the general public with all of these great designers around them.”
There are also eight commercial units (mostly restaurants) that are charged market value for their space with money that will go back into the project as a whole. Acclaimed British chef Jason Atherton’s Aberdeen Street Social is among these and has opened with a downstairs bar and pastry counter with a chic terrace as well as the open kitchen restaurant upstairs.
Open to the public since mid-April Tsang says they’ve already had nearly 400,000 visitors to PMQ as well as over 250 enquiries from beginner businesses looking to secure a spot. Although they are 90 per cent full at the moment, they have combated this demand by adding 10 pop up units to allow more enterprises to participate in the scheme with leases available for between one to six months. Tsang shares that the feedback they’ve had from some of The Night Market stall owners was a huge increase in sales and they have now requested a pop up space in PMQ. He calls this a tiered approach for businesses to start as a stall, move into a pop up and build up to a stand alone. A new addition to the building hangs between the two buildings called The Cube, offering an exhibition and event space available both for commercial and subsidized rental. This add on is called “constructive conservation” and was deemed necessary for lateral transportation between the buildings but also to act as a creative center to what Tsang calls “a natural flow so we can have a synergy between the creative minds.”
Although f&b will not be the main aspect of PMQ, (and all dining spaces must include a design element to their spaces) there are a vast range of interesting places to try with this very unique development in Hong Kong and we’re looking forward to hitting them all.
The hope is that all the shops will be out of the soft opening stage and fully serving up their goods by July. Here’s a list of what to look forward to in PMQ:
Arabica Coffee Roaster & Farm
Shop S106, 2885 1312
The owner of this café and coffee roaster, owns a coffee farm in Hawaii and roasts the beans fresh at the shop. They also run coffee workshops for those that like to know a lot about their beans.
1/F, Shop H105, 2559 0889
This little bakery specialises in beautiful breads in creative shapes made with high quality ingredients. Levain refers to the leavening agent that is, thought by many, to be superior to yeast in rising bread dough. Levain Bakery uses traditional methods to make artisan breads and pastries and also offers fresh sandwiches and coffees to eat on site.
Natural Chiffon & CreamArt Limited
1/F, Shop H104, 5404 1461
This little shop creates cutesy cupcakes with funny faces, exotic animals and lots of naturally flavoured butter cream (no artificial colouring or flavourants in sight). Owner Joey also designs humorous kitchen and household products with Scandinavian simplicity and colourful flare.
1/F, Shop S103, 9865 9193
You’ll want to devour everything in this grand little sweet shop with your eyes. Pristine wedding cakes, indulgent macarons, hi-end cupcakes and expertly decorated custom-branded cookies are the specialty here. Open from 12–8pm, Phoenix also offers Happy Cow vegan ice creams inside their opulent shop.
Tai Lung Fung
1/F, Shop H107, 2572 2886
The second branch of this “Handmade in Hong Kong” restaurant aims to bring back the old and forgotten of this city and educate the masses on local food culture. Their home brewed cocktails include Pu-er whiskey, and osmanthus, lychee and jasmine liqueurs. The Wanchai branch is a favourite with drinkers who love the ripped and yellowed newspaper wallpaper and pink neon lights, and if the PMQ location follows suit, it’ll fast become the new neighbourhood watering hole.
ABC Cooking Studio
1/F, Shop H110–H11
One of the largest cooking schools in Japan is responsible for improving the homemade foods of those all over Japan. Now they’re set to improve Hong Kong’s skills with courses in Japanese cooking, breads and cakes.
JPC Building, 2866 0300
With a trendy bar on the bottom floor full of beautifully designed seating and lighting, plus a modish restaurant upstairs serving Jason Atherton’s famed British cuisine, this all-day dining space looks set to be the go-to choice for Hollywood Road eats. Sweet Social adds another reason to visit with its homemade pastries, chocolates and bevvies to enjoy in their chilled garden space or to take back to the office.
Fatina & Chefo, EAT & PLAY at Chocolate Rain
1/F, Shop S112, 2975 8318, 9415 0039
This precious little café is housed within Prudence Mak’s shop of animated-designer duds and décor. A huge toadstool encompasses the small kitchen serving lunches, dinners and afternoon teas, but here is an even bigger reason to visit: Chef Bonelli, the former chef at Kee Club, and his intimate private kitchen, Tuen, featuring a molecular gastronomy menu that looks set to impress.
Isono Eatery & Bar
6/F, Shop H601–H608
From the culinary minds at Drawing Room Concepts that brought us AMMO, Hainan and Made in HK, comes this Spanish/French/Italian hybrid serving rustic shared plates of hearty stews, pastas and roast meats by Chef Paolo Casagrandeand.
SHOWcase by bread n butter
G/F, Shop HG01–HG05, 2156 0900
A pretty fashion shop with an even prettier café inside to devour savoury and sweet crepes on a break from shopping up a storm. Bolognaise, Florentine, Suzette and apple rum raisin are a few of the flavours on offer to enjoy indoors or outside on the terrace with a coffee or even a glass of vino.
Vasco Spanish Fine Dining (*OPENING SOON)
Hollywood/ 7F/ H701–H708
Another offering from Drawing Room Concepts is this Spanish fine dining experience from a team trained by Spanish chef Martin Berasetegui. Designed by the renowned Joyce Wang, Vasco will serve up two tasting menus: a degustation menu of the restaurant’s signature dishes and a seasonal tasting menu that makes use of local organic ingredients.
THE NEXT NIGHT MARKET
The next Night Market in the ground floor Aberdeen Courtyard & Marketplace is set for 25–27 July with the following hours.
For more events at PMQ, check out http://www.pmq.org.hk/