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Inside Job: Estro’s modern Italian salotto by André Fu

A modern Italian salotto in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central, here’s a look inside Estro.

Of the many Italian establishments that have opened doors in Hong Kong, there is, perhaps, none quite like Estro. At the heart, it’s a stage for chef Antimo Maria Merone’s intimately nostalgic plates; ones that reach towards tradition, childhood and the history of Italian cuisine. But Estro is a venue that also enchants. It transports. To sun-drenched Italy. A luxurious salotto, or drawing room, nestled within a traditional hilltop villa nestled in old town Napoli. To the neighbourhood of Merone’s home.

Estro, translating to “inspiration”, is a space designed for the familiar reimagined anew. The menu, for one, skips past tradition. And the space, a visual starting point for any culinary journey, is also registered with the same stride for innovation, approached with a design-focused lens. You won’t see typical decor tropes that ostentatiously point towards an Italian-style interior –– each swatch, finish and trimming has been thoughtfully selected by designer André Fu, first filtered through his own impression of Italy and then chosen to match Merone’s concept and cooking. In fact, it’s a design style that’s unlike Fu at all.

“My vision is to create a visual journey that aligns with the chef’s culinary philosophy. Eschewing clichés, it offers a personal interpretation of Italian history whilst striking a balance between the artful and the avant-garde,” Fu explains.

Between the earthy rusts, deep terracotta reds and sage greens that weave in and out of the space, connected by endless sinuous strokes, are distinct details that nod quietly to Italian silhouettes; in design, craftsmanship and very considered moderation. A curlicued metal gate welcomes at the entry –– much like stately archways into luscious villa gardens –– sidled by ornate wall-coverings tonally matched to the wall-to-wall framed emerald Verde Chantillon marble feature. This invites a path into the main dining area: open, airy and beautifully drawn up in visually symmetrical lines –– a favourite detail embraced also in traditional salotto saloons.

Once inside, the warm atmosphere staunchly extends into every detailed corner. Abstract timber-framed mirrors are hung high upon hand-painted stucco walls. Two murals by Hong Kong artist Elsa Jean de Dieu of shadowed silhouettes carve out intimate dining nooks away from the main dining area, anchored by a pink Calacatta marble island and cleverly arranged in Italian craftsmanship furnishings, including custom-made settings by Italian ceramic artist Vincenzo del Monaco.

In the neighbouring Music Room, a tucked away alcove hidden behind velvet curtains, like a secret favourite reading spot, everything is plush and cosy with wavy banquettes set against glossy burr walnut-wood panelling. And then, a little further beyond, a 10-seater private dining space dipped in azure blue with mesmerising patterns that stretch across the geometric carpet tiles before fading into a floral Amalfi Amaryllis-patterned wallpaper mirrored by the dome pendants strung from the ceiling –– completing Estro’s charming touch of whimsy in an interior that paints a tangible interpretation of Merone’s contemporary Southern Italian cuisine.

Estro is open for dinner reservations on Tuesdays to Saturdays via reservations@estro.hk.

Estro, 2/F, 1 Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong

Lorria Sahmet
Editor
After two years of covering luxury retail, Lorria is thrilled to be writing in fashion, food and lifestyle here at Lifestyle Asia. When not roaming around garden centres hauling back new plants for her indoor jungle, find her hunting down the best fries in the city. She's happiest by the ocean with a fishbowl glass of ice-cold Aperol spritz.