aqua restaurant group - Hullett House - 33
aqua restaurant group - aqua restaurant 46
aqua restaurant group - Yun Fu 25
aqua restaurant group - aqua restaurant 42
aqua restaurant group - Hullett House - The Parlour 28
aqua restaurant group - Hutong 9
aqua restaurant group - ayuthaiya 7
aqua restaurant group - aqua restaurant 35
aqua restaurant group - shiro 13
aqua restaurant group - vivo 19
aqua restaurant group - WasabiSabi 21
aqua restaurant group - La Marmite 11
aqua restaurant group - aqualuna 5
aqua restaurant group - tivo 18
aqua restaurant group - Hutong 10
An undeniably modern phenomenon, Hong Kong is at once a teeming, chaotically elegant cameo of the kaleidoscopic collage of modern identity.

History, geography, politics and economics conspired to transform this tiny territory into the third most important financial centre in the world, the gateway to neighbouring China, itself fast becoming one of the world’s most powerful economies. Already an important regional trading centre in the vast commercial landscape of imperial China, the island was ceded to Great Britain in the mid-eighteenth century, and since gone from strength to strength, gaining and maintaining an ever stronger position in the heady world of international trade.

Although still heavily influenced by its former colonial status, the territory was returned to China in 1997, and is a truly international confluence point between East and West. Tourists and high powered city executives alike revel in the exhilarating mix of traditional Chinese culture and the frenetic pace of a modern metropolis, while the predominantly Chinese population enjoy all the luxuries and freedoms of cosmopolitan living.

Like much of what makes Hong Kong so distinctive, David Yeo is not native, having been carried there on the gulfstream of international commerce. However, his natural flair for setting the chic like a gemstone in the spectacular and his innate understanding that modernity is left empty without the ancient traditions that nourish the soul is pure Hong Kong by force of sheer instinct. Courteous hospitality and flavours rooted deeply in a sense of place by their earthy local freshness are wedded to simply beautiful design in each of Yeo’s phenomenally successful ventures.

Born in Britain to Chinese parents, the impossibly bright Cambridge University graduate entered into the unrelenting glamour of corporate law and was soon brokering the multi-million dollar deals that govern the flux of international finance. On arriving to Hong Kong, he was at the peak of his profession, occupying a series of high profile positions, but all the while, an entirely different calling was beckoning him.

Famed in social circles for the enviable style and exquisite cuisine on offer whenever he threw a party, Yeo was persuaded to open his own restaurant by impressed and persuasive friends. What followed was the stuff of hospitality industry legend, where an ingénue restaurateur’s first venture changed the face of dining in an entire world city.

The concept of aqua was borne out of Yeo’s frustration that Hong Kong, one of the international cities of the world, could not in the New Millennium boast the modern luxury dining scene that were ultra-cool fixtures in its metropolitan counterparts, such as New York, London and Tokyo. Opening in 2000, to almost immediate critical and popular acclaim, aqua set about redressing the balance with breathtaking confidence, named in Condé Nast’s list of the World’s 100 hottest tables only months later. At the same as his restaurant opened, Yeo formed the
aqua restaurant group to realise his cultural ambitions for his adopted city.

One of the most startling and refreshing aspects of Yeo’s second glittering career with the aqua group is how has he skipped effortlessly across cultures to create a series of culinary boutiques - often in the same locale. The cuisine, which he oversees personally, is dazzlingly prepared by world-class specialist chefs and served to the glamorous cream of Hong Kong society in high concept environments, designed personally by Yeo himself to chime, pitch perfect, with the food.

aqua, to take an example, is actually three venues set in the penthouse of the One Peking Road building in Kowloon, and affords simply phenomenal views of the harbour and the majestic skyline arrayed behind. Its restaurant, aqua roma, provides sumptuous Italian cuisine, while at aqua tokyo guests are treated to masterful and exciting interpretations of the art of the Japanese kitchen. Diners are invited to imbibe innovative cocktail fantasies at aqua spirit whilst soaking up and drinking in the geometric fantasy of Hong Kong’s architecture.

From aqua, Yeo has expanded in incredible fashion, transposing the same brilliantly simple philosophy to stunning new locations and the fresh challenge of different culinary traditions. Each time, Yeo’s demonstrates his natural genius as a designer - the spectacular interiors that complement the spiritual essence of each new style of food, the wildly inventive menus which betray a food fanatic’s eye for detail.

His greatest achievement perhaps is the perfect balance between realising this wild and lavish diversity and retaining the essence of aqua - beautiful design, expert cooking talent, the finest freshest ingredients, and a warm unobtrusively classy welcome. In fact, not content with his flagship project’s justified status as one of Hong Kong’s premier eateries, Yeo is due to embark on a comprehensive refit of aqua beginning on the 9th July, and which is creating a considerable buzz in Hong Kong’s elite circles.

This is the recipe, no secret but fiendishly difficult to pull off, behind the stellar success of each new project. From the cutting edge cool of ayuthaiya, serving Siamese cuisine and cocktails to the latest Bangkok beats, to the gutsy artisanal fare offered at Hong Kong’s Parisian street corner bistrot La Marmite, vivo´s relaxed and intimate take on modern European culinary chic, and tivo’s delicate touch of contemporary Italian style, Yeo transports diners to another world through their bedazzled senses.

Innovative interpretations of traditional Japanese and Chinese styles are found at Shiro, WasabiSabi and Yun Fu respectively. An extraordinary experience awaits aboard traditional red-sail junk aqualuna, on which guests cruise the harbour in languid history-defying luxury. The Yeo formula has continued to wow the critics, with the intimate familial courtyard at Hutong and its contemporary northern Chinese cuisine included in the World’s 100 hottest tables in 2005, and then awarded a Michelin star in 2008.

The aqua tradition, which had by then come to sum up for many the verve and lavish grace of contemporary Hong Kong, proved a set of principles too compelling to keep in one territory, with agua in Beijing and aqua london both opening to rave reviews in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Notable for its stunning reimagining of one of London’s prestige locations, the former Dickens & Jones department store, aqua london furthered Yeo’s intimate relationship with some of the world’s great skylines from the splendour of its roof terraces at 240 Regent Street.

2009 saw Yeo move in a new direction, in which the colonial splendour of the former Hong Kong Marine Police Headquarters was transformed into an exclusively intimate boutique hotel, Hullett House, featuring luxurious esoteric suites and five top restaurants from the aqua restaurant group, St. George, Loong Toh Yuen, The Parlour, Stables Grill and Mariners´ Rest. This stunning reclamation of Hong Kong’s past, the transformation of the elegant remnants of British rule into a vibrant cultural centre that truly reflects the diverse sophistication of modern Hong Kong can be seen as Yeo’s love letter to the city that has taken him to its heart and he has taken out to dinner.

Among the vast columns and unfettered multi-national thrust of the vertical city’s soaring skyscrapers, a dragon winds and twists, knitting a singular culture from this multiplicity with its ancient power. In Hong Kong tradition coils itself around ambition - David Yeo and aqua restaurant group are an extraordinary example of just how high and how far that truly modern union can reach.

     - Benjamin Stewart

aqua restaurant group

aqua roma, aqua tokyo, aqua spirit
Address:  One Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 3427 2288

Address:  35 Hollywood Road
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 3105 5055

Departure:  Pier 1
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Pier 9
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 2116 8821

Address:  One Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 3428 8342

La Marmite
Address:  46 Staunton Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 2803 7808

Address:  88 Queensway
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 2155 8066

Address:  43-55 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 2116 8055

Address:  41-43 Elgin Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 3106 2526

Address:  1 Matheson Street
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 2506 0009

Yun Fu
Address:  43-55 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 2116 8855

aqua london (aqua kyoto, aqua nueva, aqua spirit)
Address:  240 Regent Street
London, W1B 3BR
Tel:  0 20 7478 0540

Address:  81 Sanlitun North Street
Beijing, 100027
Tel:  10 5208 6188

Hullett House
Address:  2A Canton Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel:  852 3988 0000

Photo Credit:  Hullett House

Hutong London
Address:  The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street
London, SE1 9RY
Tel:  0 20 7478 0540

aqua shard
Address:  The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street
London, SE1 9RY
Tel:  0 20 3102 1655
aqua restaurant group