Young and daring Spanish interior designer Rocío Martínez Amoedo was involved in bringing the asador-inspired restaurant and Barcelona-chic bar to life with her flare for innovative design. Opening its doors at the beginning of October, The Optimist has taken the Hong Kong dining scene by storm and has established Wan Chai’s Hennessy Road as a top dining and drinking destination.
Each detail and design element throughout the three-floors is carefully chosen to make customers feel comfort in an inviting environment. Throughout the restaurant warm-toned colours, natural textures, patterned ceramic tiles and bare materials create a cosy, unpretentious atmosphere. A feel of early 20th century Southern Europe is created through vintage detailing, feature lighting and themed artwork. Harmonious colour combinations of deep blue, sea-green, burnt orange and warm grey set the scene for the centrepiece of the space: the food.
Born and bred in the Spanish capital, Madrid, Rocio has always loved to explore new creative directions. With 13 years of experience working internationally in Spain, London, and China, she was eager to start her first project in Hong Kong with a concept that was close to her heart. “When Manuel and Christian approached me with their proposal I didn’t hesitate for a second, their passion and drive was magnetic and I could visualise their concept almost immediately.” For Rocio, travel and creativity go hand in hand: “designing to me is more than just spaces and materials; it encapsulates the journey towards one’s inner self through the exploration of the outer.”
For The Optimist founders, Rocio’s design background and Spanish roots made her an obvious choice. “We wanted the restaurant design to communicate the integrity and heart of the Spanish food we know and love. Rocio understood our concept right away and we couldn’t wait to collaborate with her to bring our dream to life”, says Christian Talpo, Co-Founder of The Optimist.
The Optimist’s street-level Barcelona-chic Bar invites a welcoming glow to Hennessy Road’s bustling thoroughfare. The large windows and high ceilings bathes the bar area with natural light which combined with the trellis design above the bar, lush canopy of hanging plants and peacock green tiles create the illusion of an outdoor garden pavilion, a nod to 50´s Elsie de Wolfe interior garden remembrances. Detailing of brass lamps, gold railings and studded brown leather upholstery are reminiscent of the old-world grandeur and charm of an early European train station.
Climbing the stairs to each floor, visitors follow a trail of lithographs, vintage pictures and nick-knacks curated by Barcelonan graphic artist Aleix Gordo Hostau. Items have been carefully chosen to connect with the story of an elusive character behind ‘The Optimist’ name whose story is narrated in the bar’s leather-bound menu. Like a treasure trail, details throughout the three floors reveal clues and anecdotes of his identity and adventures; from binoculars to worn maps, each tells a story with its own history, taking guests on an explorative journey through his life.
The first floor Dining Room leads guests deeper into the hidden garden with teal coloured walls and gold framed illustrations of exotic birds and creatures, an ode to Tony Duquette´s interiors of whimsical fantasy. Darker shades, latticework, metallic light fixtures and wood dividers foster a more formal yet intimate atmosphere. A colour palate of dreamy blues offset with warm-toned orange of the leather upholstery and oak furniture create a comforting and relaxed ambience.
Patrons follow their noses to the The Grill floor where the real heart of The Optimist lies: the kitchen. Diners are treated to a traditional northern Spanish asador grill house experience with prime cuts and seafood cooked in the open on steel charcoal grills. The Spanish word “hogar” means kitchen, fire and home and the second floor reveals the playful and happy spirit of the kitchen in our childhood memories with antiquated kitchen tools hang from the walls and patterned tiles lining the market-like displays of fresh fish. The orange hue of hanging lamps and warm-toned upholstery evoke the nostalgia of a lit fireplace or homely kitchen. Hidden at the back of the second floor is La Salita, an intimate private space with a round table that sits up to 8 people.
The Optimist is a three-storied restaurant and bar located in 7,600 sq. ft. on 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai.