Posted by: Sam Olsen | September 1, 2011

Ab not so Fab

The Ab here is not those delightful tarts from the tele, but that retail Delilah, Abercrombie and Fitch. For they are forcing the closure of one of the most iconic restaurants in town.

The China Tee Club has been in business right in the centre of Central for only a few decades, but it has garnered in this time an enviable reputation as a swell place to dine. It has a lascivious air reminiscent of 1920s Shanghai – well, according to the movies I’ve seen at any rate. Wooden furniture, an unorthodox mixture of that found in Lyons tea houses and what one perches on at the Wolseley, is carefully placed in the cosy interior. Triffid like ferns compartmentalized the room, making it as private or extrovert an experience as the diner would want. Soulful, mournful jazz layers the air from high-placed speakers, and there is a quiet fizz from the half Chinese, half expat clientele. If smoking was still allowed, the view along the restaurant would no doubt reflect the morning fog across the Channel.

More Tee please

The cherry to the ambience cake is provided by the staff and food. The Maitre D’ is, I think, English, and as well as presenting a smiling entrance, is always on hand to direct the numerous waiters and waitresses so that one never wants for long. They bring out long drinks and round portions, of both China Tee Club specials and the standard memsaab fayre, all very last century and all very tasty.

Yet this fanfare of Old Hong Kong is about to close. In one month exactly, to be precise. The landlords have been tempted by the young buck, or is that just the bucks, of A&F who want to turn the China Tee Club into, well,  probably the changing room area of a rather large store. So the restaurant must say its goodbyes, along with all the other small niche shops in this old and crusty building – itself an anathema in this richest of areas in town.

But why can’t they move somewhere rather than shut down? “We just can’t find anywhere to match the feel of this building. And without the feel, we are competing against all the other wooden-chaired restaurants, which we don’t want to do. So unless we can recreate what we have here, we shan’t go on”. Perhaps a little trite, one might argue, but I can see his point. If you are so unique, how can that be recreated? Alas, it probably can’t, so sadly our new best culinary friend says goodbye before we can really get to know it.

Postscript. When googling “China Tee Club” the predictive text comes up with “China teenager sells kidney for iPad”. Another regretful reminder that national development is not always easy.

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