The Aubrey has opened at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, offering revellers an eclectic and elegant izakaya experience in the heart of the city.
Time for a little lesson in Japanese culinary heritage. The Edo period (1603-1868) was a pretty transformative time for Japan. It was a time of urbanisation, as people moved to cities like Tokyo (formerly known as Edo) and, despite a turbulent trade relationship with the west and Asian neighbours, economy industrialisation. And while the country was still run by the traditionalist Tokugawa shogunate, change was afoot.
This impacted many aspects of life in Japan, including its foodscape. The sushi we know today – Edomae – was created during this period, as people found themselves with less time for the formalities of traditional Japanese dining. Another culinary creation of this era was the izakaya, simple restaurant-cum-bars where a new generation of urbanites could grab a quick bite and a drink and socialise together.
It’s said that the first izakaya was created by sake merchants who would host informal tastings at their stores (or sakaya) and, through the generations, these informal pubs became a fundamental component of the daily lives of Japan’s salarymen, who socialised and conducted business in their convivial confines.
Fast forward to today and Hong Kong has no shortage of great izakaya-styled dining concepts, the newest of which, The Aubrey, takes things to refined new levels. The creation of restaurant group Maximal Concepts, the new venue is located on 25th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and promises traditional cooking techniques using the freshest ingredients as well as an insightful beverage experience set across three distinct spaces and helmed by Otto e Mezzo Bombana alumnus Devender Sehgal.
Head to the Main Bar for signature highballs – a Japanese staple – and shochu-laced Chuhai cocktails, as well as a selection of drinks inspired by the game of chess, and a clutch of intriguing concoctions defined by Japanese seasonality.
Beyond, you’ll find the Omakase Cocktail Bar, a unique space that translates the omakase or ‘chef’s selection’ experience into innovative cocktails that whisk sippers on a journey of Japan’s endemic spirits and regional-specific ingredients.
Finally, The Champagne & Sake Bar marries the timeless pairing of champagne and oysters with an impressive selection of sparkling sakes from boutique producers from across the Land of the Rising Sun.
Of course, all this drinking will have you peckish. Fortunately, chef Yukihito Tomiyama, formerly of Macau’s Michelin-starred Shinji by Kaneseka, prepares elevated takes on Japanese bento boxes at lunchtime, each presented in hand-crafted wooden boxes, and a selection of sushi, sashimi, tempura and robata grill dishes as the sun sets over the Fragrant Harbour.
Designed by Maximal Concepts and Silverfox Studios, The Aubrey’s interiors were inspired by Japanism, a 19th-century European movement influenced by Japanese art. The result is a dark, brooding, club-like ambience that is luxurious and intimate but also contemporary; in keeping with Maximal Concepts’ passion for sustainability, the new restaurant has been created to have as little environmental impact as possible, with no single-use plastics, and materials sourced from eco-conscious suppliers.
It’s enough to excite the salaryman within all of us.
For more Wining & Dining inspiration click here.