The Diplomat, H Code Central
Tucked away at the Lower Ground of H Code, the location is surrounded by art space and galleries. This quiet corner can be easily accessed by Tun Wo Lane / Scavenging Lane from Cochrane Street or by going down a staircase from Ezra’s lane connecting to Pottinger Street which is also known as the Stone Slabs Street. The neighbourhood is full of popular venues for drinks such as Tell Camellia and J. Boroski.
The brief is to create a speakeasy pub, but the most challenging part is "a bar within a bar" concept, which the client asks for. So the front bar will be a cosy and welcoming gastropub which serves everybody in the neighbourhood. The back bar will have its own entrance, not only special drinks are served, but there is also a DJ booth for small music events. It has a more intimate interior almost like a private club in its own, serving exclusive guests only. The client would like the two bars to have “totally different” styles but at the same time served by the same closed kitchen and WCs at the far back.
We first approach the project by looking at a lot of "speakeasy" references – which usually have a very bespoke and distinctive entrance/foyer design from the space behind. Therefore, we start with the front bar design by referencing gastropub such as Fitz's in London. We try to incorporate a classic interior style with a signature back arch wall as a centrepiece but in a modern touch. The façade we hope only hints part of the interior from the outside while seducing passersby to walk from one end to the side entrance. We reference ribbon windows from some modernist architecture and interestingly, also the Twentieth Century Limited Train – a first-class train travelling between New York and Chicago from 1902-1967 that the mixologist deliberately suggested. For the back bar concept, we have looked into the Chiltern Firehouse In London and Tokyo Music Bar in Mexico trying to achieve a more “living-room” like space with a lot of timber lining and brass details. For the vanity corridor that connects both front and back bars to the WCs and kitchen, a more contracted pink space is created to link up two different themes while a secretive, hue mirror sliding door is designed to disguise the room behind.
Although there are different tones required by the speakeasy pub, we still want to keep a rather consistent "material narrative" throughout the space. In essence, brass is the material we have highlighted and think that would suit best for the brand image of “diplomat” too. From the curved pebbledash wall and ribbon brass window frame on the facade outside to the front bar that incorporates custom brass details with the brown leather banquette seating, we also try to use brass as the base to create different palettes. The two big arch displays matched with the fabric wallpaper in subtle metallic gold effects become the feature in the room. For the matt pink Venetian paint corridor and inside the back bar, we have also selected some feature lights and furniture in brushed brass finish to keep the coherence.
The curved leather banquette seating is designed to let the front bar space more flexible. It could form an 18-seat setting with bar stools and high tables but also could serve 20-30 guests standing in the main space by removing the seats. The dimension of the curved bench is also architecturally derived from two structural columns in the premises. Section-wise we also design its back to be covered by brass and at the same time bend the material on the facade to form the ledge. So the curved brass ledge also forms as a piece of urban furniture for Tun Wo Lane and Scavenging Lane. The whole fit-out process takes about four months.
The readers may wonder where the photos of the back bar are. As the client wishes the back bar to be private and exclusive, no photo is allowed to be published. Anyone interested has to pay a visit.
Team: Bong Yeung, Benjamin Hoong, Ardis Wong, Ian Law