Located at the top of Landmark, a luxury retail destination in Central — the city’s frenetic central business district — the three-story, 20,000-square-foot Forty-Five opened its doors last April with a series of restaurants, a skyward bar and a members-only Gloucester Arts Club.
Forty-Five arrived at a time when Hong Kong has slowly emerged from the doldrums of the pandemic, with the metaphoric cloud of doom hanging over the harbor city gradually dissipating.
Some might recognize the address as Hong Kong Bankers Club, but since that relocated, the newly established Forty-Five has set the agenda to push for a different kind of prestige, one that welcomes moneyed tourists but also the city’s young art world devotees, real estate heirs, race car drivers and even Pharrell Williams, who was spotted at the location’s soft launch during Art Basel Hong Kong.
“We just wanted to curate a community of like-minded individuals,” says Kevin Poon, cofounder of Forty-Five and a multihyphenate who also cofounded Clot with Edison Chen.
“It’s less about exclusivity but a community for people to share and cross-pollinate ideas,” Poon continues.
With an entry fee of 100,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $13,000, more than 100 members have signed up for the Gloucester Arts Club so far.
Poon founded Forty-Five with Gerald Li, a seasoned entrepreneur. The duo is also known for creating hip local eateries such as Elephant Grounds, Morty’s Delicatessen and Wagyumafia, which have grown beyond Hong Kong to cities that include Chengdu, Guangzhou, Manila and Tokyo. The company has revenues of around 400 million Hong Kong dollars, or $51 million, and oversees more than 400 staff.
As Poon’s and Li’s first luxury project, Forty-Five’s warm walnut tones and sumptuous marble accents, designed by Sean Dix, alongside a steady rotation of blue chip artworks that decorate its interiors — all of which are from Poon’s private collection — add a personalized touch to the sky-high palace, helping it stand out from the city’s sea of social clubs.
In November, Forty-Five unveiled its crown jewel in its culinary lineup, The Cristal Room by Anne-Sophie Pic. Helmed by Pic, currently the most decorated female chef in the world, the 40-seat fine dining restaurant celebrates French cuisine fit for the local palate.
The culinary experience begins with a boldly adorned Baccarat chandelier, which revels in the magical substance created by the four elements — fire, air, earth and water, all of which also fuel a fine dining kitchen.
Using French produce and Japanese umami flavors mixed with local greens, Pic whipped up a culinary experience that interpreted key elements in the Asian palette “with French cuisine codes,” presenting it with her signature lightness. “It will bring you to tears,” Poon enthuses.
To mix up its culinary portfolio, Forty-Five also offers the Shanghainese restaurant The Merchant and Kaen Teppanyaki.
Serving classic Shanghainese, Jiangsu and Zhejiang dishes, The Merchant is helmed by the award-winning Chen Tian Long, with interiors that pay homage to Belle Epoque Shanghai.
As for the Japanese steakhouse, which serves farm-to-table meat, Poon added a quirky side to it by creating its own egg-shaped mascot, which was conceived by En Iwamura, a Japanese artist who made his solo debut at Poon’s WOAW Gallery.
As a pop psychologist would agree, when visitors go up vertically, the willingness to pay high prices also rises accordingly, which is why the dining crowd would usually ascend to The Cardinal after a full meal. The rooftop bar is outfitted with Ojas sound system, mood enhancing lighting, Byredo fragrances and, most impressively, a Matías Sánchez painting that features the self-taught artist’s sausage-nose characters goofing around.
“When we started the project, one of the first things that we did was to single out each restaurant’s own creativity in terms of the theme, the detail and the materials,” Li explains. “And it all relates back to the arts.”
“It’s about understanding the five senses,” Poon adds. “Meshing the culinary sense, the sensory experience, incorporating art and music. We are also digital natives, so we take a fashion approach to a lot of the ways we do food.”
Exciting all senses, the Forty-Five approach might be what the Asian capital needs to jolt back into action.
“I think Hong Kong has been struggling for the past four years and over the past six months, it is taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Poon says. “What we can do as operators is bring in the music and fun, generate the kind of word of mouth and media attention, but we really need to have the government push the nightlife economy.”