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Whatever you do, do not call PMQ a mall.
Sure, there are dozens of stores filled with one-of-a-kind finds at Central Hong Kong’s PMQ. And it’s not uncommon to walk past seductive windows lined with cupcakes or caffeinated beverages — a welcome affirmation that, yes, you can power through a day of sale racks and dressing rooms. But Hong Kong’s new hub for design and creative industries offers so much more than retail.
PMQ’s name plays tribute to its former life as the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, an apartment complex occupied by police officers and their families after the Chinese Civil War. Visitors can tour a re-creation of a typical dwelling, complete with original furnishings, as part of a permanent exhibition dedicated to the heritage of PMQ. The building actually dates back to 1862, when it was known as Central School, the first government school in Hong Kong that provided a Western education to the public. Most notably, its alumni included Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China.
In the past year, some 4 million visitors have flocked to PMQ for its pop-up shops, DIY workshops, events, art installations and dining. While I enjoyed browsing various stores, which sell everything from panda-bear print pillowcases to 3-D printed jewelry, the highlight of my visit was a leisurely lunch at Aberdeen Street Social.
Serving contemporary British cuisine in a bright, welcoming environment, Aberdeen is the latest collaboration between Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton and restaurateur Yenn Wong. The wine list is extensive and impressive; for example, a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil champagne retails for nearly $1,800. But there’s no need to part with all that shopping money when there are two excellent house wines by the glass — both come straight from the restaurants’ vineyard in France’s Loire Valley.
While Aberdeen’s menu isn’t entirely British (Peking duck with house-made hoisin sauce, summer minestrone soup, lobster rolls), Anglophiles will want to save room for dessert. Designed for sharing, desserts are beautifully presented English classics ranging from sticky toffee pudding and a strawberries-and-cream Eton Mess to an English Stilton cheese plate with port-caramelized figs.
Among the many goals of PMQ is to encourage creativity and collaboration — an ideal that is reflected in a myriad of ways throughout the multiuse property. In fact, in June, PMQ launched a coworking space to help support the business development needs of “create-preneurs,” designers and creative startups. There is also a Designers-in-Residence program, which brings international design talent to PMQ for collaborations with local designers and the general public.
And until December, visitors can do their own collaborating as part of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” art installation. The brainchild of artist Luke Jerram, “Play Me, I’m Yours” consists of 16 pianos, artistically reinterpreted by local designers, artists and community groups. Anyone who visits is encouraged to jump on a piano bench, strike up a tune and become part of PMQ’s creative community.