Food for Thought: 15 Minutes with Jason Atherton
April 17, 2015 | BY Rebecca Dolan
We catch up with the celebrity chef and restaurateur, who shares details about upcoming changes at his restaurants
Chef Jason Atherton is well known for his talents as a restaurateur, with over a dozen establishments worldwide, including the award-winning Pollen Street Social in Mayfair, London. Three of Hong Kong’s buzziest hotspots – 22 Ships, Ham & Sherry, and Aberdeen Street Social – can also be credited to the British chef.
Maintaining three successful restaurants in Hong Kong is an impressive feat, but Atherton is far from resting on his laurels. We sit down with Atherton to discuss some details about upcoming changes at his restaurants and his opinion about the future of Hong Kong’s dining scene.
Hong Kong Tatler Dining: Tell us a bit about the upcoming changes to Ham & Sherry’s hidden bar, Back Bar.
Jason Atherton: When we first launched Back Bar, we had the visions of it being a secret watering hole that people would discover for themselves. That’s all good, but it was a case of people coming in and not knowing it was there. When people asked, “Oh, is there a bar there?” We’d have to say, “Oh, no, I don’t think so.” But, of course, there’s a bar there! So we just changed it. We didn’t want to be strict about letting people eat here and drink there. We decided to do what we do with all our places, and just let people be social.
HKTD: How have the new changes been received?
JA: We started it on Friday, April 10, 2015 and people love it. The following Saturday was just packed. Food was going in the back, cocktails coming in here; it just felt much more knitted together, to the point where people were still queueing to get in at 11:00pm.
HKTD: What about Aberdeen Street Social? What updates are happening there?
JA: We have an amazing pastry chef. He wanted to do a little pastry shop, which we did, but it just wasn’t working. It’s a shame, because the pastries are just stunning. So, we still continue to make those, but we’ve decided to turn the lower floor into a bistro. Now the concept is very clear: downstairs is the bistro, and upstairs is the restaurant. If you’re out shopping on Hollywood Road and don’t want to sit down for that whole starter, main course, and dessert thing, you can just go downstairs, have some steak and chips, and a really good cocktail.
HKTD: As a restaurant owner at PMQ, what has your experience been like?
JA: I love it; it’s great. PMQ is a really cool thing. I think it’s cool that the government had the vision to do that, and in such a prime location in Hong Kong. The space could have turned into high-end apartments, making an absolute fortune, but the government wanted to do something really creative with a really communal feel. PMQ is giving something back to the people who make this city great in the first place.
HKTD: How have you seen the dining scene in Hong Kong change over the past few years, and how do you see it changing in the future?
JA: Hong Kong moves so fast. You can go away for four months and come back to ten new restaurants that are all getting critical acclaim. But what I think has happened in the last three or four years is that a lot of homegrown talent has been very successful, which is important, rather than just importing chefs in from abroad. In the next 10-15 years, all the chefs trained in these kitchens will want to open their own restaurants, and I think a young Chinese chef trained in Western cuisine will come up with the next big thing – a way of mixing proper Chinese food with a bit of Western twist, without it just being thrown together fusion-style.
HKTD: What is your favorite cocktail on Ham & Sherry’s menu?
JA: Probably the “Colonial Cousins” because I like gin. I’m from London – you have to like gin. It’s just my poison of choice. My body’s got used to it over the years.
Photography: Kim Watson
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