Aug 21, 2012

My Starbucks is Not This Retro: Duddell St. Starbucks in Hong Kong

Starbucks has this neat concept store out in Hong Kong on Duddell St. where half the store is the typical Starbucks design and the other half is crafted to look like a bing sutt (literally "ice house" or "ice chamber").

A bing sutt is a type of Hong Kong cafe/diner popularized around 1950 to 1970, highlighting the convergence of East and West. They exist to this day, though in lesser numbers, and have traditionally served Hong Kong versions of Western comfort food as well as iced drinks, coffee, and tea.

The look of the bing sutt is very reminiscent of a '60s greasy spoon diner in decor, but with the odd Chinese touch here and there, and of course, Chinese lettering instead of English.

This Starbucks was especially developed as a nod to Hong Kong's past and culture. It was created as part of a collaborative effort between Starbucks and Hong Kong brand Goods of Desire (think Ralph Lauren, but for Hong Kong instead of the U.S.).

You can see here how the standard Starbucks design (left) segues into the bing sutt side (right). I think it would have been funny if they did a half table, like it suddenly got cut off in the juxtaposition.

Here's a closer look at the split between vanilla Starbucks and Hong Kong retro. Notice how the window faces a brick wall and a neon sign; Hong Kong is quite crowed with many high rises.

 Ah, the more familiar, modern Starbucks design and the other half of the store. The details are more in line with the Starbucks you know: plush seating, warm lighting. It's quite big, isn't it?

Just down these unassuming stairs and through those doors lies a time machine...

There's a menu unique to the Duddell St. Starbucks with popular and traditional Hong Kong food items such as sweet soups and Hong Kong pastries. Basically, these items wouldn't be out of place in 1950s Hong Kong, except some of them come with a Starbucks twist. Take a look:

A Starbucks' take on the pineapple bun (named because the cookie-like top is thought to resemble a pineapple and not because it actually contains any pineapple), the underlying bread is made with brown sugar and a rustic style. Like normal pineapple buns served in cafes in Hong Kong, it is served with a huge slab of butter inside.

Here's a Coffee Egg Tart - the traditional egg tart, but with a crispy coffee pastry shell instead of the more typical flaky stuff.
The Coffee Cocktail Bun - the twist here is that coffee is added to the filling. Otherwise it's a soft sweet bread bun. The more traditional standard is for the filling to be made with ground up old bread mixed with coconut and sugar.

Finally there are sweet soups available in five flavors: Red Bean, Green Bean & Kelp, Pumpkin & Sago, Bamboo Fungus with Egg & Water Chestnut and Black Glutinous Rice with Coconut in Coconut Milk. The bottom snacks are Clay Pot Pudding available with either Red Bean or Coffee inside. They're like firm gelatin.

Photos by Starbucks Hong Kong