Sonia Cheng’s dining boltholes

The CEO of Rosewood Hotel Group believes that informality is key to making deals, from meeting over pineapple buns in Hong Kong to tacos at Annabel’s

Sonia Cheng in Michelin-starred Duddell’s, Hong Kong
Sonia Cheng in Michelin-starred Duddell’s, Hong Kong | Image: Amanda Kho

“I find that the formality of the boardroom makes it a less conducive place for establishing trust than outside the office in a relaxed, social atmosphere, where people can see how we really work and learn a bit about our values. Rosewood is continually evolving its hospitality concept, and being out in restaurants and hotels is vital to what we do. 

If I am at home in Hong Kong, I focus on breakfast and lunch meetings, as I have four young children and I like to be at home in the evenings to put them to bed. When I travel, however, I pack my schedule with meetings over every meal to make maximum use of my time away. With the opening of our flagship hotel in Hong Kong this spring, and launches in Bangkok, Yangon and Guangzhou this year, much of my time of late has been spent on the road in Asia. Europe is another important area of focus for us, and the London project at Grosvenor Square often brings me to that city to meet partners and investors.

In general, I prefer a casual setting, particularly when it comes to breakfast. In Central Hong Kong that means milk tea and pineapple buns with butter from Kam Wah Café, or a healthy breakfast – maybe avocado toast with great coffee – at Classified, for its laidback atmosphere. In London, in addition to the Mirror Room restaurant at our property in Holborn, my breakfast go-tos are The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and Daylesford in Marylebone because they have an authentic feel and serve excellent green juices and B Renewed Smoothies, respectively. 

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When I am hosting real-estate developers for dinners in Hong Kong, my favourite place is Duddell’s, where the Michelin-starred Cantonese cuisine – especially the dim sum – served in a festive atmosphere sets everyone at ease. In London, I like the members’ club ecosystem and will often entertain over dinners of lamb barbacoa and tacos at Annabel’s in Mayfair. There is a missed opportunity in Hong Kong for the community-driven members’ club concept.

In the lead-up to the launch of our latest Asian properties, I have been doing food R&D whenever – and wherever – possible. Meals in Los Angeles have been particularly important as the food scene is flourishing there right now. I had a recent dinner at Bestia in downtown LA with developer Rick Caruso to discuss our just‑opened Miramar Beach Montecito property – the charred Brussels sprouts and cavatelli alla norcina set the stage for a productive discussion. Some of our greatest inspirations have come from closer to home, however. The roasted pigeon – a classic dish at Stellar House – was one; the scene at The Sports Club another. Hopefully these inspirations will come together in one vibrant place overlooking the harbour – one that pays homage to the Shunde cuisine of my grandfather’s youth.

I do go out for drinks, especially in New York or London. The Ned in London is a good place for the various bar offerings, and if I’m in New York, it is always Bemelman’s Bar at The Carlyle. The old-school atmosphere – often with live music – and classic cocktails are ideal for a drink with colleagues or an investor. In Hong Kong the drinking is never excessive – maybe one or two after dinner. Ping Pong is a lively spot for a great gin and tonic, and one that makes for the perfect end to a productive day.”

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