A Journey of the Senses

Newly opened John Anthony dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay is a photogenic explosion of colour and materiality rich in narrative and immersive experience


Designed by Linehouse, the fit-out’s concept takes its lead from the East to West voyage of John Anthony, the first Chinese man naturalised as a British citizen in 1805. An employee of the East India Company, he arrived in Limehouse, the east end docklands of London, and soon after founded the district’s Chinatown.

The design celebrates this idea of exploration and discovery through a combination of architectural styles, colours and materials, giving patrons plenty to look at. As Linehouse co-director Briar Hickling explains, ‘We wanted to play on the retro nostalgia of the Chinese canteen, fusing it with colonial detailing and material from a British tea hall.’ The resulting attention to detail is exquisite, perfectly capturing the designers’ intention via a timber bar and gin tubes infused with blends of botanicals found along the Spice Routes, wicker leaners and furniture, and opulent floral upholstery.    

In the main dining hall, an arch motif is repeated throughout the scheme in a modernised interpretation of the docklands’ historic vaulted storehouses. The arches highlight the verticality and lightness of the space and their dusty pink lacquer finish adds an unexpected element of whimsy. Hickling and the team used reclaimed materials where possible, such as terracotta tiles sourced from old rural houses in China, and their use of handmade elements, including the clay render on the walls of the dining hall and hand-dyed indigo fabric, is especially evocative of John Anthony’s journey.

Indeed, the hands of the designers and those of the craftspeople involved in realising this fit-out are evident at every turn. Local artists were commissioned to paint the illustrations printed onto the tiles of the private dining rooms and the wicker pieces are all handwoven. ‘Working with materials that are handmade allowed for a lot of surprises during installation,’ says Hickling. ‘But in the end, these elements further enrich the project, allowing for variation and contributing something unpredictable.’

It’s surprising to realise this restaurant occupies a basement, such is the vibrancy and brightness of the design. Linehouse has successfully delivered an outcome that invites at every turn. Not only is it a feast for the eyes, but every surface, from textural tiles to luxurious fabrics, begs to be touched. Patrons will be returning for the gin selection as much as they are for an interior that transports them to another world.

Text / Leanne Amodeo
Images / Jonathan Leijonhufvud