Some New Yorkers take perverse pride in the diminutive size of their apartments, having puzzled out a modus vivendi for space-challenged studios and efficiency kitchens. But they haven’t been to Hong Kong. In the most densely populated city in the world, every square inch is stretched to unimaginable lengths through logic games of stacking, packing, and wedging. Such is the case for Amo Eno, a wine bar and shop that opened in December in the retail podium of Hong Kong’s International Financial Centre (IFC).
The American proprietors, Andrew and Brook Bradbury, have just increased Hong Kong’s headcount by two. With their business partner, Charles Banks, the entrepreneurial team collaborated with Toronto-based Bruce Mau Design (BMD) to develop the concept for Amo Eno, whose name derives from ancient lingo for ”love” and “wine.” Andrew Bradbury, a master sommelier, was also behind the wine bars 55 Degrees in Vegas and Clo in the Time Warner Center in New York. After the short-lived Clo faltered—something Bradbury attributes in part to New York City’s complex and slow-going permitting process—the couple began to look beyond the U.S. to China, where over the last few years a new wine market has blossomed. “There’s no tariff on wine coming in, getting a liquor license isn’t difficult, and the cost of doing business in Hong Kong is less—I can negotiate anything,” said Bradbury.
Courtesy AMO ENO (left), Harry Choi (center), PARC OFFICE (RIGHT).
Wine connoisseurship is a status symbol in the booming Chinese economy, much like art collecting; and it’s common for collectors to display wine bottles in their homes like trophies rather than decanting and enjoying a prized vintage. Bradbury wanted to help change this by creating a casual environment where customers are encouraged to sample wine while also learning more about the product. Enter BMD, who worked with Amo Eno’s owners on establishing a brand identity that then became the driving force for the design of the 1,200-square-foot space. “We did the initial branding using a motion software program called Cinema 4D, so it was always about motion and light,” said BMD chief executive Hunter Tura of the evolution of the logo—two crossed wine bottles that form the shape of a heart—into what Tura calls a “logoscape.”
Tura points to the most dramatic manifestation of the logo in the space, a playful chandelier created by acrylic tubes and set aglow with hidden LEDs. But the most fascinating fixture is surely the generous bar table: It’s embedded with an interactive touch screen powered by just-released Microsoft Surface 2.0 technology. Linking up to an encyclopedic amount of information on any given wine, the tabletop also recognizes the ID cards that Amo Eno will give to frequent customers, instantly pulling up a virtual version of their private cellar.
While nothing can beat the space-saving capacity of the table’s computer chip, the rest of Amo Eno comes close, thanks to smart space planning by New York–based architecture firm PARC Office. In the front room, 700 wine bottles hang cantilevered from a series of freestanding 6-foot-tall acrylic shelves (another 3,500 bottles are tucked away elsewhere in the store), and the rarest wines are sequestered on a temperature-controlled wall. A floor-to-ceiling wine storage case separates the front room from a private tasting room, and shoehorned in the back is a closet-sized kitchen that manages to produce restaurant-sized plates. Floors of bright white marble, a material less expensive than wood in China, make the space feel larger than it actually is, as do brushed metal panels that clad the walls and softly reflect light. But when passersby in the IFC mall look into Amo Eno, they won’t see wine glasses clinking but rather acrylic shelving filled with an array of high-end wine tchotchkes. Maybe because it’s Hong Kong, the open expanse of plate-glass windows seem to have engendered a kind of playful horror vacui.