By Hans Ebert


Unlike high tea at the Peninsula Hotel, it’s not about sitting around people watching and just to say you’ve been there.

It’s not about rubbing shoulder pads with the resident Dynasty tai tais, spotting the uptown funk ladies looking for very big fish, the rich and the kinda famous wanting to be seen, and those travelling through Hong Kong and needing to talk business in a 5-star setting to often just keep up pretences. Fabulous!

The Tiffin Lounge at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Wanchai was where some of us spent an entire day during what were The Years Of The Long Lunch.

Being in the music industry at the time and when music companies were actually making money and “creative accounting” provided many of us executives with a long running entertainment allowance and the passport to travel around the world first class for meetings that were pretty much a waste of time, the Tiffin Lounge was a second office, especially if one lived next door at the Convention Plaza furnished apartments. If staying in Suite 1616 even better.

The day would usually start at noon for lunch at the Tiffin Lounge, which turned into tea and then, at 5pm, the meetings moved to the hotel’s Champagne Bar, a favourite meeting place for many in the racing industry, other movers and shakers- some real, most pretending to be what they weren’t, but no one cared as most were playing the same game- and visiting celebs like Norah Jones, President Clinton, and actor Keanu Reeve before most moving up to JJ’s, the hotel’s Club with its ‘live’ music, regulars, irregulars and where no one left home alone and became Macaulay Culkin.

The Grand Hyatt made millions from us. But it was always the Tiffin Lounge that set the mood for the entire day.

The regulars- television producer Robert Chua, and businessman Albert Yeung- had their special tables and it was from these “offices” that deals were sealed. There was always a conga line of interesting characters, most living on their wits and trying to get their various businesses off the ground. It was like a scene that wouldn’t have been out of place in the movie “Catch Me If You Can.” They were loveable rogues.

There were people like the Nigerian businessman dressed like Superfly, new to Hong Kong, who signed up an American Chinese female artist who talked of her new investor making sure she had a Billboard number one hit, rented humongous office space and hired a staff comprising many who had been let go from music companies for being, well, less than smart.

Together they were going to become the new global player in music. And then the Nigerian gentleman with the sharp suits and big hat did a runner owing everyone plenty of money.

There was then that larger than life character Michel Adam who had just launched Fashion TV and was talking in billions and asking how much Robbie Williams would charge to attend the opening of one of his FTV clubs. Why, when he had, er, mini Jean Claude Van Damme, below with Michel and smiling, fawning Eastern European ladies in waiting?

We never bothered to get back to him about Robbie Williams as he was talking bollocks. He had no money. We might have been enjoying our free flowing jobs in the music industry, but having met some of the best scammers, our BS radars were always working overtime.

Michel Adam stayed in the hotel’s Presidential Suite and always booked the adjoining ones where there was always one long party with his harem of Eastern European beauties brought along for the free ride being a magnet for many as the nights turned into champagne supernova foggy memories. He was a wonderful host and a charming character in an Al Capone type of way. He was also surrounded by enablers and users and abusers. The fame game is not for kids.

Interestingly, after laying low for a few years and the FTV brand disappearing after one of those usual internal crisscrosses, like a huge Phoenix rising from the ashes, Mishel Adam made one of his now increasingly frequent cameo appearance earlier this week in Hong Kong promoting some new project. It wasn’t like the old days. Few bothered showing up.

Michel Adam is a brand that needs a new shine. It’s as irrelevant as LKFTV, where one of the two main men involved was once Michel Adam’s right hand man. It’s amazing how those who engage in bs manage to find jobs that give them the air of being in the thick of it all and where bs attracts bs.

Alas, we had to give this week’s FTV party at dragon-i a pass, but, of course, the small event was attended by the usual suspects who are there- wherever “there” is- even for the opening of an envelope.

There’s always a new group around, and today, thanks to social media, it’s far easier to spot those wanting to be seen as living la vida loca. Perception is everything. Anything for a five star rating even if a flim flam man.

As for the Tiffin Lounge, after disappearing for a few months which seems like years, like Michel Adam, it has returned albeit in a more trimmed down incarnation. There’s a real business model attached to its return. There’s been some thought put into it.

It’s about being more selective instead of throwing everything including the kitchen sink into a buffet of dining choices. It works and what works better is that it’s good to have the old office back. The service is good, the “explanatory notes” about what is served is helpful and it prepares you for what lies ahead.

Personally, what’s most important is being in the right surroundings to talk business and close the deal as opposed to keeping things open-ended like during those Wolf Of Wall Street Days. We trusted and looked after way too many strays.

It’s a far more realistic Hong Kong these days and with real work to be done and choosing business partners more carefully than ever before. Social media has released a torrent of bs and one just needs to be careful not to step on it nor entertain those who peddle it and disappear when the bill appears or try to pay, but, oh dear, the credit card doesn’t work. Again. Darn.

As for The Tiffin Lounge, it’s highly recommended. It’s being able to dine and interact in a setting that’s stylish but not gauche. The cold dishes are just enough. The meat pies are great. The selection of desserts could keep you there for days. And after over twenty years, Chef Singh is still there looking after the Indian corner while the two resident duelling pianos from also back in the day play on in the background.

It’s not as expansive as before, but we’re now all about eating less and not interested in pretending to enjoy confusing fusion cuisine and finding funky venues.

If going out for a meal, go where you know what to expect, be prepared to pay for quality, and if the meeting is successful, celebrate with a very good High Tea at the Tiffin Lounge which might turn into dinner without having to leave the table you booked for lunch.

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