In the bustling central district of Hong Kong, Snøhetta-designed Whey restaurant manifests itself as a calm escape from the concrete jungle surrounding it. The 336 sqm restaurant intersects European and Asian cuisine in an eclectic space inspired by Scandinavian folk art, Peranakan architecture, and art, paying homage to the Singaporean cultural scene. With Singaporean chef Barry Quek at the helm, Whey seeks to introduce diners to modern European cuisine, reimagined with Singaporean influences, with a focus on local and seasonable ingredients.
A visit to Whey is designed as a procession through the different courses of a meal. The entrance’s vestibule guides guests through a long corridor, building anticipation, before arriving at the Chef’s table. The linear arrival portal is separated from the main space with a folded mirror installation by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng – a piece exploring notions of time, space and self. The art piece acts as a wind-down from the busy streets outside. The open plan is clearly divided by columns into four bays. The first is an open kitchen dining area, where guests can directly interact with the chef. It overlooks the two main dining bays, and a final dining bay in the back of the space can be partitioned off as a Chambre Séparée.
The space is characterized by an interplay of hues ranging from warm, earthy tones to deep, tropical greens, with brass details. The color palette is reminiscent of the rustic Scandinavian cabins and the abundant green of tropical Singapore, with a touch of polished refinement.
The harmoniously contrasted space is reinforced by the material selection. Rattan, commonly used in both Singaporean and Scandinavian design elements, brings a softness to the space with its woven texture, while also functioning as a visual veil and acoustic damper. Natural stained oak on floors, tables and screens, brings tactility to the dining experience while emphasizing the contrast to concrete exteriors of the city. Lastly, to bring temporal and visual depth to the more intimate spaces, a deep green marble is used in the reception area and bathrooms, contrasting the otherwise bright open plan interior.
Whey is committed to supporting local farms and businesses, with a menu built around the freshest local ingredients. The restaurant works towards harnessing the entirety of ingredients to reduce food waste, an ambition also reflected in the restaurant’s name: as a byproduct of the cheese-making process, whey is transformed into an essential seasoning that would otherwise be destined for the bin.
Collaborations with local businesses has also been key in the design. Custom wooden dining tables by Sprue Bespoke Furniture and a ceramic tableware collection by FlowPlusLiving brings a piece of Hong Kong to the space. Building on local footprint, the space is filled with carefully curated art pieces by international artists including Bosco Sodi from Mexico, Wu Chu-Tsung from Taiwan and Jiana Kim from Korea.