Luxuriously deep chairs among lush tropical foliage, a striking fan-like metal sculpture spanning one wall, casual brass birdcage stools, a cozy European-style fireplace, and lustrous parquet flooring give Xiao Ting an inviting ambience that is tranquil, a touch nostalgic, and utterly Macau.
And it’s also hard to resist a menu of dishes like steamed cod medallion with spicy Hunan pickled chili and Chef Ben’s Grandma’s pineapple tart, a delightfully sweet sandwich of pineapple shortbread and ice cream.
It came as a revelation when Xiao Ting opened its doors in the spring of 2021. The airy, sumptuous, full-service restaurant was in stark contrast to the lounge that had once occupied the space.
The dark wood, deep mahogany-colored leather armchairs, and cigar-smoking area of this earlier incarnation had been designed with a decidedly masculine crowd in mind. Over the past few years, however, the lounge had been increasingly patronized by a different set: women, coteries of friends, young couples, families. Although they made enthusiastic use of the space, could they really feel at home? Then, out of the lockdowns and dwindling room bookings that accompanied COVID-19 came an opportunity – the downtime needed for a marvelous makeover.
Xiao Ting’s new interior was crafted by JJ Acuna and his team at Bespoke Studios, well-known for its fashionable restaurant refits that cater to the needs of new-generation diners. In Hong Kong, Miss Lee and Elephant Grounds are beloved as much for their trendsetting interiors as they are for their culinary offerings. “Millennials don’t really care about bling-bling,” notes Acuna. “They just care about having an experience, about quality materials, and about a feeling of authenticity.” Skipping the glitz might seem counterintuitive in a necessarily luxe five-star hotel like Four Seasons. But looking at the finished result, it seems Acuna and his team got the balance between glamour and of-the-moment relaxation just right.
One challenge lay in the fact that in order for the venue to keep its current licensing, the Bespoke Studio team could not touch the architecture. The porticos, windows, and doors all had to stay in the same place, electricals and plumbing had to remain intact. Wall sconces and chandeliers were switched one for one with fixtures that would complement the new design. Where once somber wood tones abounded, there are now ash and oak, woven leather, glass, mirrors, and English and Continental textiles. In place of enormous armchairs are cushy sofas, a bar, banquet tables for eight or ten, standard tables, and quiet little corners for two. The seating height is European, allowing simultaneously for comfortable lounging and formal dining. Even the popular patio has been transformed through clever design, with stylish floor lamps interspersed among resort-style wood-and-canvas furniture.
Against the odds, Acuna and his team have managed to keep the appealing drawing-room feel of the original iteration, creating a restaurant that is welcoming for Four Seasons guests of the ’20s, from that pair of friends getting together for Saturday afternoon tea to a family hosting a dim sum birthday party lunch.
Every custom touch combines to leave guests at Xiao Ting with the impression that they’ve arrived at a one-of-a-kind place. “I don't want to use the word destination, because destination means an end point,” says Acuna. “I just want to say that they've landed somewhere special where they can continue having special moments.”