AB Concept recently unveiled its first project in London – Mei Ume, one of the two flagship restaurants at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square. Hotel Designs caught up with designers Ed Ng and Terence Ngan about the project and their thoughts on hospitality design…
Q. How much freedom were you given in creating your own take on the restaurant’s design?
Mei Ume is located within Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, a heritage building built in 1922 that was previously home to London’s Port of Authority, acting as an access point for Eastern traders to trade commodities such as teas and silks. The story behind of the history of the building was our inspiration behind the design of the restaurant and also allowed us to tackle one of the most challenging factors in this project -designing an Asian restaurant within a classical Western architectural building.
The trading history between the British and the Orient allowed us the freedom to merge Eastern heritage and Oriental design themes into the traditional Western space, seamlessly bridging the gap between the two distinct cultures.
Q. You’ve worked on several projects in China and the far-east – how does working in London compare/differ?
As a Hong Kong based design studio, we can see similarities between both China and London in terms of how a project is managed, however the biggest difference is that the majority of projects in China are state owned and so with that comes varying limitations that differ from privately owned projects that are common in London. Whilst working on Mei Ume, it is apparent that there was a solid system to ensure that every detail was refined and perfected to suit the space.
Q. This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Four Seasons (Shang-Xi – Shanghai Pudong), what is it you like best about working with the brand?
We always emphasise that a project designer plays an important role in the success of a project, but at the same time we can only take partial credit. We enjoy working with luxury brands at the level of Four Seasons because we know we are working alongside other passionate creative individuals to create a top quality destination. In doing so, we can assure that food quality, service, table setting, music and the marketing of the project will be nothing short of perfection.
Q. What do you like most about working on hospitality projects?
Hospitality projects are really the only windows for us to showcase our work to the public because 9 out of 10 residential projects we work on remain private. Hospitality projects tend to give us more creative freedom; we are always trying to balance our creativity with the commercial viability of a space, and that’s what makes design intriguing.
Q. Do you have a particular ‘design philosophy’ at AB Concept?
We believe we play the roles of “storytellers of space”. We try to ensure that with each project, we are telling a different story from the previous. This is a much more challenging way of working as an interior designer because we do not want to cast ourselves into a mould of a particular look, feel or design aesthetic which means we are constantly developing new design vocabularies for each new project.
Q. If possible to sum up in a few sentences – what do you personally think makes ‘good design’?
A good design has to be able to function beautifully with a unique identity and have the ability to withstand the test of time.
Q. What design trends do you predict in the coming years?
We see a growing appreciation of classical designs. We feel it is a natural tendency that when we are living through the fast-paced, impersonal technological breakthroughs on a daily basis, our consciousness simultaneously reminds us to cherish the past and its artisanal beauty. Mei Ume is a perfect example of letting the original structure of the former Port of Authority building take centre stage whilst enhancing it with modern elements. With the task of transforming the purely British architectural structure and seamlessly infusing it with Asian elements to suit the restaurant’s cuisine, we wanted to captivate guests by taking them back in time, on a journey to when the Port of Authority was a thriving trading hub between the East and West.
Q. Any exciting projects in the pipeline for yourselves and the team coming up?
We are currently working on our first resort project for Rosewood, named Rosewood Sanya Resort at Haitang Bay of Hainan Island, where we are designing the entire outfit of the resort. Meanwhile, we are also working on the first W Resort in Europe at the waterfront location in the Algrave, Portugal. Like the Rosewood, this is another consolidated resort project.
We have also been given the great honour to redesign the signature Lord Jim’s Restaurant at the grand dame Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, one of the oldest hotels in the world, which is still in operation having just celebrated its 140th birthday.