Tribute hotel isn’t due to open until mid-October but has already gotten a lot of buzz in the last few months for its unique mission of showcasing local talent in all aspects of the property. From the interiors to the food and beverage, every element of Tribute has a story to tell about Hong Kong.
Alex Bent and Dinesh Nihalchand dreamt up the hotel as an ode to the city, hence the name Tribute. Both of them are natives of Hong Kong — Bent was born to Australian and British parents and Nihalchand is of Indian descent — and they wanted to give guests an immersive experience of the city and share what they themselves love so much about the place.
“There’s no other place in the world like Hong Kong. It is one of the easiest places to do business yet is still very close to nature. It’s a perfect blend of busy and peaceful,” says Nihalchand.
After meeting in 2005 and discovering their shared passion for Hong Kong and for hospitality, Bent and Nihalchand established property development company District 15, focusing on creating design-led residential and hospitality projects that inject new life into forgotten neighborhoods.
Tribute is their latest brainchild and they are determined to give guests an incredible sense of place by consistently referencing Hong Kong culture in its design motifs — without resorting to any reds, greens, or dragon heads.
“You get an honest expression of old and new. There are subtle references to the locale that are intended to inspire our guests to venture out and experience all that Hong Kong has to offer,” said the hotel’s founders.
The concept begins with their off-beat choice of location in the working-class Yau Ma Tei neighbourhood where the best of local culture is represented at the nearby theatres, restaurants and shops. The Tribute website provides an excellent neighborhood guide and their blog and Facebook page is a hub for the latest news on art and design related events.
Inside the hotel, we can spot inspiration taken from the humble and mundane details of Hong Kong’s streets, such as headboards made from metal shutters typical of old shop gates, as well as from the high-brow, such as works by the much-talked-about contemporary artist Trevor Yeung. Even the soap in the bathrooms were selected to reflect a side of Hong Kong little known to visitors — social enterprise So…Soap! employs underprivileged women to make the all-natural suds.
We asked Bent and Nihalchand to share a bit more about what inspired them to establish this one-of-a-kind hospitality project.
How did the neighborhood of Yau Ma Tei inspire the hotel?
Yau Ma Tei is one of those lesser-known neighbourhoods that travellers may not identify as a must-go on their itineraries, but is really one of the most dynamic districts filled with historical and cultural gems of Hong Kong.
Yau Ma Tei’s history as a fishing village, its theatre, local cha chaan tengs (Hong Kong-style diners), craft and industrial workshops, and the wholesale fruit market that line the streets of Yau Ma Tei all inspired the design and concept of Tribute.
How will you emphasise the locality of the hotel through it’s design and architecture?
All our design and architecture inspired by Yau Ma Tei is done so through subtle detailing throughout the hotel.
Our design team, Alex Jones and Hans Maes of Spawton Architecture, and Candace Campos of ID-entity Design incorporated local references by taking material cues from the area and used them in a more contemporary subtle way. Part of our original design brief was that any reference to the local has to be done in a way that is more story telling than literal.
For example, the use of brass and black painted metal on the furniture and fittings were inspired by the original 1920s projector in the historic Yau Ma Tei Theatre just around the corner from the hotel.
Yau Ma Tei used to be a fishing village and the wire basket drawers in our rooms are akin to the lobster pots used by local fishermen. Laser-cut metal headboards are inspired from the old shop gates. We used authentic terrazzo flooring in areas of the lobby and the bathrooms, typically found in Hong Kong’s cha chaan tengs or diners.
What was the criteria for picking the partner brands?
All our collaborators are local entrepreneurs who represent and share our admiration for Hong Kong’s community and most of them are “up and coming.”
We wanted the hotel to give these collaborators a platform with which they could show their work and grow from the exposure they receive from the hotel.
For example, South Ho is a young photographer who captures the emotions and social perspectives of his home city, and captured the real life of Yau Ma Tei.
Also we have featured the work of Julie Progin and Jesse McLin from Latitude 22N. They are extremely talented local ceramic artist and designers who share our love of the neighbourhood and translated it into a beautiful ceramics collection for Tribute. It is interesting to see their work next to the work of designers Jacqueline Chak and Genevieve Chew. They created a contemporary urban chic fashion house called EDIT and they created a uniform that the Tribute team loves to wear.
How about the food and beverage brands that you work with?
There is Joshua and Caleb Ng, the brothers behind Common Ground, a community food an beverage project. They are providing free-trade and organic coffee to Tribute. It is delicious and guilt-free, as well as being complimentary to guests all day long.
Also, Nana Chan the founder of teakha, a lifestyle concept tea café, is supplying Asian-sourced, organic, handmade teas using traditional and artisanal methods. We’re hoping to spread the appreciation and art form of tea amongst our guests.
Rohit Dugar from Young Master Ales brews distinctive, world-class extremely fresh beers for Hong Kong. The revival of craft brew is extremely exciting and guests are able to savor a unique and bespoke brew at Tribute.
For all the latest updates on Tribute Hotel and it’s official opening, watch this space. Tribute Hotel, 4 Tung Fong Street, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong. Phone: (+852) 2858 0788, http://www.tributehotels.com/about-us/our-hotel.htm.