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  • John Chow

Bringing Sydney Sandstone & Blackened Steel to Hong Kong

Updated: Jul 11

Metagram's newest restaurant design; bringing the Aussie style grill to Hong Kong's suburbs.


Flames Whampoa is the latest addition to the Flames Restaurant Group and is now open for business in the residential district of Whampoa, in Hung Hom, Hong Kong.


We were proud to be the design partner for Flames, and were excited in helping the group develop an iconic visual identity for their brand.

As an Australian / Chinese / Malaysian, I have always directed Metagram toward an international style, blending architectural sensibilities from each culture and my personal experience together in order to enrich our designs.


It was a rare and exciting opportunity however, to design a restaurant in Hong Kong which would feel distinctly like an Australian dining experience. Also challenging in the sense that we needed the experience to feel Australian, without tackily adorning walls with boomerangs and tributes to the late Steve Irwin.


As someone who spent two-thirds of his life in Sydney and has now been in Hong Kong coming up to a decade, I often reminisce about my past there. As time has passed, the distinct and defined memories I had for this place l once called "home" has somewhat faded into a montage of feelings, abstract moments and color. As vague as it sounds, this 'cloud of memory' provided a very solid foundation for the design of Flames.


The project brief was not defined as an "Australian dining experience" - but after several initial conversations with the client (also a Chinese Australian from Sydney), I realised part of that 'cloud' was similar to what the founder envisioned and aspired toward each time he opened a restaurant.


Now when people talk about "Australian dining experiences" most well-travelled people would think of Melbourne. But when people think of Australia, the first or second thing that comes to mind is Sydney's harbour, the Opera House and Sydney's amazing beaches. Keeping this in mind, I reached into my memories and remembered fondly a somewhat cliched period of time where my office was located on a pier in Walsh Bay.

At a single mention of this area, any Sydneysider at this point would have distinct visuals come to mind. The buildings and giant walls built with great blocks of Sydney Sandstone; the black Harbour Bridge looming steadfastly above; the somehow unique merge between two hundred year old structures and modern steel additions; the view of the water; and the Sydney daylight.


Our design for Flames, was inspired directly from those memories.


Starting with a greyscale palette we designed a layout that would draw on as much natural light as possible. We used blackened steel to accentuate and articulate space. The "oculus" above the central banquette, acts as the key architectural feature. It's mass and weight are reminiscent of the large iron structures in Sydney. The bar and main tables are fringed with black metal structure, keeping this idea consistent through the entire space.


In relief spaces we chose to utilize Japanese finger tiles, a material which is currently trending and featured in many Australian designs.

Our key and featured material, Sandstone, is a direct and literal nod to the Sydney-aesthetic. Featured singularly on the store façade, showcasing its beauty as a natural material - our objective was to bring back this underused material in force, and stake claim to it boldly stamping it with the brand - "Flames".



By John Chow


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