Chef Mauro Colagreco talks eco-responsible dining

Set to deliver an unparalleled culinary experience, acclaimed Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco gives Stephenie Gee the lowdown on his new eco-responsible, ocean-inspired restaurant

Seventeen years ago at the age of 29, Mauro Colagreco opened Mirazur in Menton, a sunny, under-the-radar village where the French savoir- vivre and Italian bella vita come together. It was a world away from the white-gloved formality of your typical Parisian fine- dining establishment. People came out of curiosity but stayed, and continued to come back, for his respect for our Earth. Reflecting his every effort, from the food – an elegant patchwork of vibrant dishes determined by what was growing in the restaurant’s permaculture and biodynamic gardens – to the operations, Mirazur garnered three Michelin stars followed by a place on the elite “Best of the Best” as one of just nine iconic restaurants to have held the top spot of the World’s 50 Best, and the world’s first “Plastic Free” certification. Then, in November 2022, he made history by becoming the first-ever chef to be appointed UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. If Colagreco has taught us anything, it’s that eating sustainably is at no expense to taste.

The Argentinian-born chef, who trained under such legends as les deux Alains (Passard and Ducasse), has now brought his unique vision to Hong Kong’s 1 Duddell Street. “Choosing Hong Kong as a new territory was a natural decision for us due to its longstanding reputation as a vibrant dining hub. The city offers a diverse culinary landscape, encompassing a wide array of food options ranging from delectable street food to exquisite fine-dining experiences,” Colagreco tells me. “One of the remarkable aspects of Hong Kong is the people’s inherent curiosity and passion for food, making it a cultural norm to frequently venture out for lunch or dinner. This fervour for exploring new flavours and dining experiences resonated deeply with me, and I was immediately drawn to the idea of opening a restaurant in such a dynamic and gastronomically rich city.”

Derived from the French term for “leisure”, Plaisance by Mauro Colagreco is a joint venture with hospitality group Lai Sun Dining and a variation on a theme he holds close to his heart: the marine world. “The sea and oceans cover more than 70% of the planet, yet we still have much to discover and understand about them. They face numerous challenges in terms of environmental impact and the need for responsible resource management,” he says. “By centring our new restaurant on this universe, it gives us the opportunity to continue to study it and raise awareness about the fragility and significance of our oceans, while offering our guests a unique and immersive dining experience that celebrates the wonders of the sea. And considering Hong Kong’s proximity to the ocean, incorporating the sea into the concept development felt like the logical choice.”

As with all Colagreco projects (which include the one-starred ocean-focused Ceto located in the cliffside hotel Maybourne Riviera, Capella Singapore’s Fiamma, a trio of restaurants at Raffles London at The OWO, and more), the chef’s commitment to delivering excellence in every aspect of his cuisine remains unwavering, as does his mission to champion the principles of circular gastronomy – in his own words, “a cuisine that respects the cycle of the nature, honours the soil and highlights the biodiversity of our different cultures and terroirs” – and enthusiasm for showcasing the unique terroir of each venue. As such, the menu – executed by his protégé and the former chef de cuisine of the now- shuttered two-Michelin-starred Écriture, executive chef Héloïse Fischbach – presents the finest treasures of the sea alongside the best of local ingredients.

There are pesticide-free flowers, fruits, green veggies and roots supplied by Zen Organic Farm in Fan Ling. The chicken is Ping Yuen, a yellow-meat chicken born and raised in Hong Kong with no added hormones or antibiotics or steroids. Spanish Iberico pork is substituted for a locally-cultivated, additive- and hormone-free Taiwanese Iberico pork equally rich in flavour and succulent in texture thanks to a diet of soybeans, flowers and corn. And honey comes courtesy of a 75-year-old bee enthusiast. Expect the list to grow as the restaurant’s sourcing presence expands into neighbouring regions. The intention is to showcase the very best of Asia and maintain a consistent supply of the finest-quality raw materials.

“We recognise that Hongkongers have discerning tastes and high expectations when it comes to dining experiences, so when developing the menu, catering to the palate of Hongkongers was a top priority for us. By leveraging the expertise of our partners and utilising the culinary insights of our executive chef who has been immersed in Hong Kong’s culinary landscape for a significant period, we have crafted a menu that we believe will resonate with the locals and delight their souls and stomachs,” Colagreco says.

Constant evolution and maintaining an open mind is, Colagreco insists, the driving factor behind his long-term success. So these familiar touches aside, Plaisance by Colagreco is uniquely its own. Spanning nearly 10,000 sqft, the restaurant offers three distinct atmospheres across its three floors with interiors by Remedios Studio that draw inspiration from the UNESCO Global Geopark in Sai Kung. Done in navy and dark blues to reflect the deep ocean, the basement functions as an exclusive members club where an unparalleled whisky and private-dining experience awaits. One floor up, Plaisance by Colagreco is decorated in turquoise hues to evoke the surface of the ocean. And finally, at street level, the casual dining venue P Lounge by Plaisance offers all-day indulgence from laidback lunches to afternoon teas to after-dark festivities, while capturing the movement of rays prevalent in mid-ocean.

Even the decorative details reflect Colagreco’s mastery of sustainable living. Shells and bones collected locally were ground into powder, mixed with water or bio-glue, and transformed into a bio-clay that serves as an alternative to concrete or cement casts. Tableware is made using recycled sea glass, sea shells and fishing nets while an assortment of broken shells makes up the terrazzo surfaces. “Through these initiatives,” he explains, “our goal is to create art and functional pieces using ocean waste, contributing to a more sustainable approach in our restaurant.”

The idea is that there’s something for everyone at any time – and everyone is welcome. Whether it’s a romantic dinner for two, a casual get-together with friends or a post-work celebratory libation, Plaisance by Colagreco assures every visit is an affair to remember. As Colagreco envisioned: “A place that is not only a restaurant, but a place of living.”

Also see: Vegetarian-friendly dining spots

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