Bonnae Gokson On Her Journey To Style Sevva’s Revamp
Summer holidays are usually a time of carefree relaxation. But not for Bonnae Gokson, who was hard at work this summer. For four months from June, her restaurant-bar Sevva, which occupies the top floor of Central’s Landmark Prince’s Building and has been something of a Hong Kong institution for more than a decade, underwent extensive renovation – floors were torn up, walls were removed and Gokson bid farewell to the beloved vertical garden that lined one side of the bar area. It was emotional.
“We had a little get together with all the staff before we said goodbye. I had tears in my eyes because I love the vertical garden wall. We have nurtured it for so many years,” says Gokson.
But this was not goodbye forever. All 300 of the plants from the vertical garden were transported to Gokson’s sister’s home where they spent the summer in her dining room, nourished with 24/7 air conditioning in a manner to which they had become accustomed at Sevva. For the reopening in October, the plants, many of which had thrived in the restaurant for as long as eight years, were returned and seem to be as happy as ever.
The vertical garden therefore remains. And it’s not the only thing that appears the same at Sevva. While a lot may have been done, at first glance much appears unchanged. But take a closer look and you will find a number of ways in which the space has been enhanced and enlivened in a renovation that has been a labour of love.
The most significant changes have been in the Harbourside dining room. Here, Gokson’s iconic flower dome has been revitalised. Inspired by the immersive art installations of Nick Cave, she has incorporated 36 custom-made jewel-toned gypsy-styled chandeliers, featuring more than 76,000 pieces of hand-crafted crystal, into the floral installation that itself features one hundred thousand silk flowers.
“Gypsy chandeliers are so colourful, and no one really knows that colourful type of chandelier here in Asia, because it’s usually all white, and very glitzy and proper and grand,” says Goskon. “For me, in the lifestyle business, I always think that life is full of colours; there’s colour all around and I wanted to use colour.” She picked out 20 jewel tones that would fit with the existing artworks in the dining room, creating a fresh ceiling feature that is an explosion of colour and life. Elsewhere in the dining room, she mixed and matched a kaleidoscope of tones and textures adding more masculine elements such as cowhide for fear of it all being too girly. “It’s yin and yang. You can’t have everything too sweet-sweet,” she says. “When you enter the room a lot of the things seem quite clashy. But I always go back to fashion; it’s like Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent – they are gurus of mix and match yet it’s easy on the eye, so I’ve been trying to do that.”
“For me, in the lifestyle business, I always think that life is full of colours; there’s colour all around and I wanted to use colour.”
— Bonnae Gokson
Aside from new flooring throughout the restaurant and kitchen, and new decking on the expansive terrace, Gokson has added mirrors to the ceilings in the bar area to give the illusion of a larger, airier space. New upholstery and fabrics abound throughout – and a state-of-the-art sound system ensures guests are now getting a concert-quality soundtrack to their evening out.
Gokson has also made efforts to transform different areas as she has looked to new trends. “We’ve re-configured certain spaces, because we needed to facilitate smaller parties; we’ve got girls’ parties, ladies’ lunches, smaller corporate company drinks,” says Gokson. “The whole world wants cosier and warmer.”
There are new additions to the menu, too, with contributions from Sevva’s award-winning consultant chef, Chase Kojima, formerly of Nobu and founder of Sokyo in Sydney. He has brought new creations such as pan-fried coral garoupa with goma ponzu, aka miso and turnip kimpura; steamed John Dory with sake beurre blanc and spicy sugar snaps; and wok-fried Boston lobster with aka miso, nori butter, wakame and kombu to the table.
But the signatures dishes such as the Taiwanese beef noodle bowl that regulars return for week after week remain. In the vein of people seeking out cosier, more comforting experiences, and what Gokson has for years observed, people find this in familiarity. They might ask what’s new, and maybe they will try a new cocktail or a new dish, but the next time they will return to what they love. “No matter how I change the menu, people ask for the same things. This is how people are,” she says. “And we have so many good signature things already. Do you really think Coco Chanel could last without a tweed jacket? These are the classics and people may not like it if you do something too crazy.”
Given the regard in which many hold Sevva, there’s no doubt that regulars will be delighted to discover that much of what they have loved for the last eleven years remains – and of the new, it’s as fresh and glamorous as you would expect from so stylish and creative a visionary as Gokson.
Sevva, 25/F, Landmark Prince's, 10 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2537 1388