Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. Each week in 27 Questions, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims, aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same duration it takes to sit through a two-minute speed date. This week, we speak to Alexis Offe, one half of the sibling team behind Meraki Hospitality Group.
Meraki Hospitality Group is the brainchild of brother-sister duo Laura and Alexis Offe. It launched in 2017 with its debut concept Uma Nota, a colourful Brazilian-Japanese hangout on Peel Street that is known for its piquant flavours, boozy caipirinhas and its boisterous weekend brunches. In 2018, the group went on to open Uma Nota Paris — bringing the Nipo-Brasileiro cuisine to their native country; as well as Bedu, a Middle Eastern restaurant and bar on Gough Street that explores staple Bedouin (hence the name) dishes in a modern setting.
A fourth restaurant soon followed on 42 Peel Street — an ode to Malaysian street eats named Jalan, which has recently undergone a complete overhaul, rebirthing as Mamma Always Said. A convivial, pocket-friendly bar and restaurant serving up home-style comfort food, the restaurant is arguably better poised to tackle the challenges of the F&B scene after CoViD-19, dishing up moreish grilled meats, burgers and pastas, finger foods and indulgent home-baked sweets.
The common denominator across all of Meraki Hospitality Group’s ventures is none other than a love for street food: For co-founder Alexis, it was a passion that sparked during a visit to São Paolo’s Liberdade, also known as the country’s ‘Japan’ — home to the largest community of Japanese outside their home country.
The younger Offe sibling is an avid traveller and aficionado of interesting cuisines, dreaming up the idea of opening up a Brazilian-Japanese restaurant even during his studies at the prestigious Ecole Hotelière de Lausanne. Returning to Hong Kong, he worked his way up through the hospitality industry at a number of world-renowned hotels and Hong Kong’s top restaurants before joining his sister to launch their inaugural project under the Meraki name.
For this edition of 27 Questions, we recently caught up with Alexis Offe just as the group’s latest venture Mamma Always Said officially opens its doors — where we learn about his first job, his love for Hong Kong, and the philosophies that keep him going during darker times.
Name: Alexis Offe
Neighbourhood: Sheung Wan
1. What is your life motto?
“Aspire to inspire before you expire.”
2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?
A vegetarian menu at Bedu. I’m not a vegetarian but our chef’s creativity blew my mind.
3. What was your first job?
A waiter in a restaurant in Hong Kong.
4. What is your drink of choice?
It really depends on the context. A refreshing beer on a beach, or a good negroni with friends on a night out.
5. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
More of a night owl, but I do wake up early.
6. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?
The humidity in the summer. I’ve been here almost 20 years but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
7. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
It would be a full week on safari in Africa. I used to spend my afternoons in front of Nat Geo when I was a kid.
8. When was the last time you drove a car?
Jeez, I can’t remember when it was but I almost bumped into a person running on the road. Since then I haven’t taken the wheel again!
9. How often do you prepare your own meals?
A couple of times a week but I’m lucky to work with amazing chefs that let me try their dishes so I’m rarely hungry when I get home!
10. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would have to say our chef’s ceviche at Uma Nota. I just can’t get enough of it.
11. Are you a good cook? What is your best dish?
I’m not a ‘bad’ cook. I make a mean Mexican meal for Taco Tuesdays!
12. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Cookies or an ice cream.
13. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
14. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?
An Octopus card.
15. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?
I’ve always been terrible at karaoke…
16. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
I go to the gym. That’s my alone time in the morning before I start my day.
17. What is one thing you’ve never revealed to your parents?
Where do I start…
18. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?
Fresh air up in the mountains.
19. What is one movie everyone should see?
Shutter Island. The more you watch it the more things you discover.
20. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?
It would have to be my mom. She always says “Things happen or don’t happen for a reason so don’t dwell on them.”
21. Do you have any favourite tattoos?
I have two and they both represent a special period in my life.
22. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? Which do you wear the most often?
Surprisingly not too many at the moment but my brand of choice would be Axel Arigato.
23. What is your typical Sunday like?
Spending time with my family.
24. Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life? Why?
Never be alone for a single moment as I feed off my friends and family. They make me who I am so I’m grateful to have all of them even though some are far away.
25. What is your greatest fear?
To not enjoy life to its fullest. We only live once and I want to be able to look back when I’m old and have no regrets.
26. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?
Hard to choose, but it would have to be my last year of university. I travelled to amazing places with amazing people, although I technically should have been studying… but I still made it!
27. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?