VEA: Vicky Cheng and Antonio Lai’s food and cocktail experience

Updated on December 1 2015

Almost like an anti-California Tower, new Central high-rise The Wellington has very quietly but steadily built its credentials as a dining destination in its own right. The newest to open is VEA, which bills itself as Hong Kong’s first premium “integrated” dining experience — that is, the focus is just as much on the cocktails as it is on the food.

Taking up the top two floors of the corner site, we’re predicting big things for this newcomer given the names behind it. We’ve got the details right here:

The buzz: VEA certainly isn’t lacking in star power, and indeed Hong Kong diners should be more than familiar with the work of the two gents behind this project: executive chef Vicky Cheng ran the kitchen at the former Liberty Private Works, while 2015 Diageo World Class Hong Kong and Macau Bar champion Antonio Lai is the mastermind behind some of the best bars in town (Quinary, Angel’s Share and Ori-gin, to name a few).

Joining them to oversee the beverages menu is Leszek Stachura, a former chef at NOMA who was also a one-time brand Scandinavian ambassador for Lucas Bols.

VEA - Vicky and Antonio
Chef Vicky Cheng (left) and mixology master Antonio Lai team up for VEA — the name stands for Vicky et Antonio.

The buzz: VEA is as polished as you’d expect a collaboration like this to be — think marble tabletops and bronze accents all around. The elegant 29th floor lounge also includes a small terrace, while the more intimate top floor dining room (which seats 37) is anchored by three open cooking stations. There’s also a 10-person private dining room, which has an open view of dinner service in motion.

VEA - interior
VEA’s stunning interiors were envisioned and executed by Artichaut Limited.

The food: Cheng made a name for himself with his progressive menu creation at Liberty Private Works, and we’re glad to report he’s taken the same approach at VEA. A singular eight-course tasting menu (starting from HK$1,180) will rotate weekly, with dishes like langoustine with apple, salsify and fennel, and aged pigeon, smoked eel, blood and cabbage featuring as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible.

Bar bites will also be more than an after-thought, with the signature Iberico katsu in a home-made pineapple bun no doubt set to become a cult favourite.

VEA - food
Cheng’s progressive plates are French-inspired with local accents.

The drinks: You know when Antonio Lai is on board there are going to be some serious cocktails — at VEA, the focus is very firmly on both. Unusual ingredients like Chinese mustard, bone marrow and dashi will be used in various forms, with cocktails divided into four categories: sweet, sour, savoury and strong.

We’re looking forward to the How Many Carrots (HK$120), in which Beefeater gin is mixed with the juice of carrots, yuzu and orange, simply syrup and garnished with an Heirloom carrot, and the Bone Marrow Old Fashioned (HK$160), which features bone marrow fat-washed bourbon, rich simple syrup and dashes of Angostura bitters. The cocktails will also be available upstairs, with a seven-course cocktail and wine pairing menu available to accompany the meal.

VEA is currently in soft opening.

VEA, 29-30/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2711 8639, www.vea.hk

Greek-Cypriot by way of Melbourne, Nik is a lover of sneakers, country and western music, Jeff Probst, oversized scarves and three-quarter lattes. He occasionally tweets, badly, @nik_iforos, and lives in a state of constant FOMO on Instagram @nik.iforos.