A new culinary addition at W Guangzhou, I by Inagiku, is a journey through a dreamscape crafted by Hong Kong’s Andre Fu
Andre Fu is one of Hong Kong’s most acclaimed architects and internationally known as the name behind some of the world’s high-style havens, such as The Upper House in Hong Kong and Singapore’s Fullerton Bay Hotel. But long before he made his mark in hotel design, Fu had already proven his talent in dreaming up fine dining venues that would become red-hot culinary choices around the world, including the Nadaman Japanese restaurant at the Shangri-la Tokyo, Café Gray Deluxe at The Upper House Hong Kong and Cassia at the Capella Resort Singapore, to name a few.
More recently, Fu returned to his dining roots to design I by Inagiku, located at the W Guangzhou – the latest property in the W group’s portfolio. I by Inagiku was conceived as the destination restaurant of the hotel: a contemporary dining experience infused with Fu’s signature modern Asian sensuality.
A 900 sq-m venue with a stunning 6m-high ceiling height prompted the designer to evoke ‘a dreamscape of the mythical kabuki memoire’, along with a lot of playful elements. Kabuki is, of course, that most classical of Japanese art forms, combining dance, song and theatre in a powerful aesthetic that has sworn adherents all over the world.
In order to deliver a meticulous dreamscape journey, Fu stripped the space back and created transitional areas, adding rustic textures and motifs to different spatial pockets with a strong reference of the historical Edo period, while introducing contrasting installations as an solution to imbuing a lightness and sense of playfulness to the ambience.
At the stark, rectilinear entrance, the point of focus lies on a mystical, dimly-lit tunnel, where a bold reception area at one end is carved entirely out of a single, monolithic granite block. This is set against a contrasting, colourful backdrop of kaleidoscopic kabuki imagery, each hand-gilded in bright shades of red and aubergine, and overlaid with golden metallic pigments. This elaborate artwork symbolises the beginning of the dream, on which kabuki imagery is fragmented into an illusionistic, highly visual tour.
Before moving into the main dining room, the Venato Portoro marble Kabuki Bar is surrounded by full-height lacquered fins with floating sake bottle displays. The eye-catcher of this area is the stunning art installation Kabuki Character, hung from the ceiling and composed in deep orange wire, mimicking the silhouettes of the kabuki dancer’s headpieces.
Next to the Kabuki Bar is the vast, curved sushi counter, which features an installation named Odogu, created by the casting of more than 108 floating timber frames which are individually handcrafted to showcase the spirit of theatre.
A Zen garden at the main dining area emphasises the whimsical nature of the restaurant; the point of difference, however, is that Fu has flipped the garden upside-down onto the ceiling. Walls of rustic granite stone blocks surround the garden, contrasting with bespoke lush furnishings upholstered in hues of burnt orange and burgundy. Outside, a vast outdoor lawn is set for al fresco dining.
The image of the kabuki dancer extends to the Sake Tower, where the profile of a kabuki dancer’s face is rotated 360 degrees into a sculptural hanging pendant that appears to float above the tower. Additionally, six private salons are the stage for private chefs-table dining experiences, where a series of murals titled Kabuki Memories
The end result is a glittering, mystical, whimsical space that once again demonstrates the power of design to influence our perceptions.