Alex Wong:
Paring Onions Design

Paring Onions_Alex

Alex Wong, Director of Paring Onions Design, based in Hong Kong, talked to us about winning an award at the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards for The Century, Sydney, and the inspiration for the design.

What has been the effect of you winning the Australia and Pacific Restaurant category at the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards this year, and how has it influenced your design plans for future projects?

We are surprised and honored to have received the award, and certainly has given the team an injection of adrenalin from this international recognition. The award has attracted overwhelming interest from many others who want to learn more about Paring Onions, a design practice with a strange name yet devoted to good design. Our plan remains simple – continue to enjoy the design process, as our lifestyle. Make every project and every space count. Ultimately we are not just designing a restaurant or a bar, but designing an intriguing space that tells a story while serving its core purpose.

Tell us about the winning project, The Century, and how you were inspired to create it.

Golden Century Group (Operator of The Century) has been an award winning ‘institution’ of Chinese dining in Sydney for over 20 years, it was therefore critical to keep its unique history and culture in mind, but we saw the opportunity to introduce a refreshing side of the group. Thus the interior concept playfully incorporates symbolisms of Chinese culinary culture with a modern twist, inspired by a creative take on traditional Chinese dining customs. We have done this by juxtaposing Chinese culinary icons such as chopsticks and teacups into interior elements, and the design has transformed these highly recognizable icons into the space, a visual connection of what is on the table and the surroundings – subtle, but effective.

Give us an example of a really great food and drink venue that is design-led, and works well for customers, and why this is?

The Green T. House in Beijing – the creator of this establishment has taken a holistic design approach to Chinese cuisine. The simplicity of the restaurant has retained the patron’s focus on the core concept – a teahouse to relax in and which embraces the spiritual side of one self. The combination of a purist’s space, furniture, and down to the food presentation have somehow married in a very harmonious way.

Which hospitality operator would you love to work for and why?

We love to work with an operator who is open minded. The key ingredient of a successful project comes from mutual trust between the operator and the designer, all sharing a common vision and goal – and not a result of ‘compromising’. The Golden Century Group has proven to be one of them.

What trends do you foresee for the next few years in designing for this sector?

Well known fact – design has played a very dominant role in the restaurant and bar scenes for the past several years. However we have also seen many examples where some have merely adopted a “designer approach”, but lost focus on how the space ultimately connects to the restaurant’s intent, and ultimately, the end users.

I envisage that restaurant design will extend through more aspects of this connection – between the space and personal experience, and in order to create this holistic experience, every detail counts.

Can you tell us any of your plans for 2014?

We are working on a number of exciting projects this year – from a small retail flagship in Sydney, a collection of restaurants and clubhouses in Wuhan, to a 400,000sqm mixed use complex in Zhuhai comprised of a number of lounges and bars. 2014 will be a busy year where ample sleep will not be expected – but as I have mentioned before, “design is a lifestyle”, so… we are not complaining.

To catch up with more interviews on Restaurant & Bar Design click here.

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