May 11, 2018
Catalunya takes the rule book for modern bars and restaurants and throws it out the window. Or would do, if this ground floor Catalan tapas restaurant and bar in an unobtrusive residential neighbourhood on Hong Kong island had any. But instead of throwing itself open to the light, it has blotted almost all traces of the outside peeking in. Rich, deep red shades, heavy wood, dim lighting and a cavernous (at around 8,000 sq ft, by Hong Kong standards, anyway) space give this new-ish dining establishment a clubby, exclusive atmosphere, and walk-ins are still regularly admonished or sent to eat at the bar. Catalunya’s pedigree is impeccable. Its sister restaurant in Singapore opened a couple of years prior to the Hong Kong venture and has the weight of group executive chef Alain Devahive Tolosa behind it. Tolosa, a friend and erstwhile colleague of elBulli’s Ferran Adrià, is the inspiration behind Catalunya. A while back, soon after announcing its shuttering. the world’s most famous restaurant sold off a significant portion of its wine cellar. The auction took place in Hong Kong and Catalunya jumped right in and bought a sizeable share of the lots on offer, giving it instantly one of the city’s most enviable wine lists. Naturally it isn’t cheap, but it is the closest thing Hong Kong has to that legendary establishment. From its opening in 2013 it has retained an air of exclusivity – it counts Hong Kong’s version of Tatler magazine as a neighbour and even has a “secret” VIP entrance out back – but is actually a fairly welcoming, if pricey, place to eat, or to wind down your night with an el Bulli wine or a Sherry.