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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

The secret to Mayfare Group's gastronomic success in HK

Mayfare’s mantra of running the restaurant is simple, the Guest is God.

There’s something about a warm meal paired with a view of the spectacular Hong Kong skyline. But the high-flying restaurants of the Mayfare Group isn’t just about fine dining; there’s a hint of home in every bite, a twist in the familiar.

“Mayfare’s mantra of running the restaurant is simple…the Guest is God,” says Rajeev Bhasin, managing director. “We provide the fine food and personalised service to every customer so that each customer leaves the restaurant with a warm heart and sweet memories,” he adds.

And over the past five years, Mayfare has done just that, turning its five specialty restaurants the go-to spots to tickle the tastebuds with a variety of cuisines: Avant Thai at Michelin-recommended Namo, Indian at the tried and tested Gaylord, Pan-Asian at Tamarind, Thai and Vietnamese at Siamama, and tapas and wine at La Sala.

Satisfying adventurous palates
Bhasin says they strive to preserve the tradition of each cuisine in every plate, whilst creating concoctions that appeal to the adventurous.“This allows us to cater to both client bases, the kids from the old-school and the new-block,” he says. Namo, for example, was launched in 2013 by a team led by Michelin star chef Alejandro Sanchez and Wijannarongk Kunchit. It was the first restaurant in Hong Kong to serve modern Thai cuisine, incorporating the most delicate of Asian dishes infused with the contemporary. Namo’s specialties, like the sous-vide and espuma from siphon bottles, propelled the restaurant to the 2016 Michelin Guide. Siamama is the favorite of the locals, whose palettes have been piqued by Master Chef Amoo’s creations. This new concept restaurant in PopCorn Tseung Kwan O serves Thai and Vietnamese “traditions with a twist.”

As for La Sala, it’s the only Mayfare restaurant that brings the West into Hong Kong. Bhasin says La Sala aims to transport the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona into the Asian country, a taste of the foreign land in every bite. Then there’s Tamarind, which combines authentic Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian dishes under one roof. Its client base are mostly the executive crowd, who come looking for Tamarind’s outdoor lounge and two main dining rooms for cocktail functions, corporate events, themed parties, and even wedding celebrations.

“Be sure to stay tuned for our theme launch for this year’s New Year’s Eve ball!” says Bhasin. Gaylord, meanwhile, has become a household name, being the oldest Indian restaurant in Hong Kong. Its success in the past decades comes from a customer base composed mostly of Indians, expats, and tourists, who come back to Gaylord for some good old Indian food.

The twice-Michelin Guide recommended restaurant celebrates its 45th anniversary in Hong Kong this year, a tribute to its master chefs and service staff who have kept Gaylord going since 1972.“We are very grateful that we have come so far. In addition to the support of our loyal patrons over the years, Gaylord’s long-term success can be partly attributed to its innovative approach,” says Bhasin. Gaylord has come a long way, from being the first to serve an Indian buffet lunch in the 1980’s to pioneering an open kitchen and hosting live Indian music featuring Indian performers.

“Gaylord’s pioneering qualities are still evident. The celebratory 45 Years Anniversary Menu provides traditional Indian dishes such as the Tandoori Prawn and Lamb Saffron Korma, as well as inventive offerings like the Chicken Truffle Samosa that is sure to surprise your taste buds,” says Bhasin.

Gastronomic success
This year, several typhoons and unpredictably bad weather slammed Hong Kong, leading to fluctuations in the number of customers going out of their homes for some grub. Mayfare would always open its restaurant doors in the evening, when the torrential rains and winds have stopped.

Thankfully, the customer base it has built over the years has unwavering loyalty. “With the support of our loyal patrons who come to dine-in on these days in addition to our special promotions on these days, we have been able to counter the negative affects of bad weather to some extent,” says Bhasin.

The high cost of food ingredients is a setback for the local food and beverage industry, too. “The supply of food has also become a competitive market with a number of firms and it is our job to source the best suppliers in terms of price and without compromising quality,” he says.

The ever-changing market presents another challenge for Mayfare, which has learned to keep up with the times. “Small restaurants that are owned and managed by celebrity chefs are growing. Medium chains with franchised global restaurants have also been coming into Hong Kong over the last few years. In addition to this, other Asian cuisines are coming up in an evolving manner,” explains Bhasin.

This was why Mayfare decided to open La Sala, as few of the new restaurants specialise in tapas, the Spanish term for small-taster portion dishes. “Namo and Gaylord have their very own tapas menus with smaller portions that allow previous customers to enjoy their favourite dishes. It also ensures that new comers of our venues can enjoy a variety of flavors,” says Bhasin.

“We are looking for potential sites to increase the number of restaurants in Hong Kong with different new concepts and open another branch of our modern Thai restaurant Namo and Hong Kong’s oldest Indian venue Gaylord,” says Bhasin. “Any business will come across difficulties. Competition, inflation and a dynamic environment are some of the factors contributing to the challenges,” says Bhasin.“But by learning the ropes, getting exposure, and gaining a broader understanding of your ever-evolving market, one can turn these difficulties into opportunities,” he adds.

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