In the mood for love

Cafe de Goldfinch, Causeway BayCafe de Goldfinch, Causeway BayThe other night I headed over to Causeway Bay to combine dinner with a movie pilgrimage at Cafe de Goldfinch on Lan Fong Road. It’s where a key scene from Wong Kai-Wai’s masterpiece In The Mood For Love was filmed.

The movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, for those that do like it, you’ve only got to read the comments on IMDB to see why. I find it hauntingly evocative of Sixties Hong Kong (not that I’m old enough to remember) and the standout for me is the cinematography and the colour palette of the whole film.

The cinematographer was Christopher Doyle, who I once sat across the aisle from on a flight from London to Hong Kong just after he’d picked up a special award at Cannes with Gus Van Sant for Paranoid Park. It was a bit nerdy recognising him and I admit that it’s the only time that I’ve ever approached someone well known and asked ‘Are you “so and so”, I love your work.’ He was actually surprised that anyone recognised him, but was gracious enough to chat his movie and photography work.

I won’t turn this into a film review, but check out fans’ favourite clips on YouTube. As well as the gorgeous cinematography, the use of music and sound is incredible as well. Do yourself a favour and watch it, now…

Just for the record I had borscht, followed by pepper steak (medium rare), finished off with mango sundae and washed down with iced lemon tea. The crowd was a mixture of old school and young hipster couples. It all seemed strangely at odds with the pimped people carriers and Bentleys parked outside waiting for their owners who were probably buying out Lee Gardens’s stock of the Chinese ‘Fantastic Four’ – LV, Chanel, Dior, Gucci.

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Art in the city

Annie Leibowitz at Sundaram Tagore Hong Kong'99 Cents', Andreas Gursky at Gagosian Gallery Hong KongThurs 17 May marks the start of ARTHK 12, so there’s plenty of artsy stuff going on in town at the moment. If your interest is photographic there there are a couple of great ‘small-but-perfectly-formed’ shows on at the moment, both solo debuts in Hong Kong.

Last week I dropped into the Annie Leibowitz exhibition showing at Sundaram Tagore on Hollywood Road. There are some great classics there from her back catalogue including Andy Warhol, Brad Pitt and the iconic pregnant nude of Demi Moore. That gallery has a great track record. When I was last in Hong Kong they had a wonderful Edward Burtynsky show on.

At lunchtime today, in between shooting at Amber restaurant, I managed to drop into the new Gagosian in the Pedder Building which is showing Andreas Gursky. Judging by the glammed up queues on Pedder Street last night, the opening party must have been a hot ticket this week. On first sight, I was a bit underwhelmed by his recent Bangkok works but I was really cheered up at seeing his iconic 99 Cents II dyptich. Up close and personal, I just find it amazingly immersive and mesmerising. And to think that it was shot way back in the age of proper film. Now if only I had the money, maybe it’s cheaper than Rhine II

Guilty pleasure

Pens, Hong KongA random guilty pleasure is sniffing around stationery shops when I’m abroad on a trip.

Even though I hardly ever write a letter or card, save for a scribble on the back of an envelope or a quick shopping list, there’s nothing nicer than the thrill of the chase of finding a great new pen. And I’m not talking about something all snobby and elitist like some monster-sized Mont Blanc – just a great everyday ballpoint/rollerball.

Pretty much every stationery store in Hong Kong has a massive selection of everyday pens. The photo above was taken in a shop in Wan Chai and part of what must have been a three or four metre display. Heaven…

Even in this age of touchscreen smartphones and laptops there’s just something nice about a good pen. It reminds me of a press ad that Wieden + Kennedy produced for Honda that was just a cut out still life of a banana.

The genius of the copy was how engaging and arresting the whole concept was. I won’t bore you, but the first few lines run, ‘Have you ever written on a banana in biro? Its crazy but it works like a dream. You wish all writing could be this way. It flows. It’s smooth. It’s sensual.’

Just google the ad for the photo and rest of the copy. It ran years ago and I still remember it. Maybe it was great advertising, maybe I’m just a pen nerd…

Bike to the future

Chinese black bikeShanghai Tang Fixie bikeWandering around the hip neighbourhood of Sheung Wan I came across a wonderfully aged example of the classic Chinese black bike.

Fast forward a century or so and the new Shanghai Tang flaship store on Duddell Street is selling its Fixie fixed-gear single-speed for a cool HK$10,800.

How times have changed…

In tents dispute

HSBC headquarters, Hong KongHSBC headquarters, Hong KongWhen I’m in Hong Kong I always make a point of getting some cash out from the ATMs at HSBC’s headquaters in Central. The Norman Foster-designed building is an iconic landmark and, when completed in 1985, was reputed to have been the world’s most expensive building.

So the other day I was gobsmacked to see what looked like tent city in residence underneath the building. Was this ‘Occupy Hong Kong’ just like Wall Street and The City? Surely not in Hong Kong of all places?

In fact it was a protest at against a court judgement in the favour of HSBC in a complicated legal case involving the mother of the late Cantopop diva, Anita Mui, who was once likened to Asia’s version of Madonna. I guess that it’s because she is still so revered, the bank have allowed the protest to remain.

Still, it’s an interestingly incongruous sight in Central. In fact, when I passed by later that evening someone was using it as a set for a fashion shoot.

What a difference a day makes

View from Room 1008 #1View from Room 1008 #2View from Room 1008.

I arrived in Hong Kong late on Wed 9 May. I awoke the next morning to an amazingly clear and sunny start to the day. Not at all what I was expecting – rain and cloud were forecast and an unpleasantly hot and humid 30-odd C.

However, as the day unfolded so the cloud rolled in and by evening I was treated to a light show of cloud-borne lightning illuminating the skyline. And when I awoke this morning (Fri 11th) low cloud was blanketing the tops of the skyscrapers.

More as the trip unfolds…

A game of two halves

Frank Coghlan, Executive Chef, Wembley StadiumWembley Stadium cateringFA Cup Legends LunchThe last post was a warm-up for the main event – covering the full-on catering work that goes on behind the scenes at Wembley Stadium.

The FA Cup Legends Lunch on 4 May featured a three course sit-down followed by an afternoon of entertainment provided by special guests Peter Reid, Gerard Houllier and Gus Poyet, and presided over by Jim Rosenthal.

Turning out top restaurant quality food for over 500 guests all at the same time is no mean feat, but executive head chef, Frank Coghlan took it all in his stride, organising operations with military precision. Even though this lunch was a big do, it was just a warm-up for Frank, who was also going to be catering for a packed stadium for the FA Cup Final the next day ranging from gourmet burgers and pizzas for the punters to full sit down lunches for the Club Wembley members.