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The other night, we went to a media event at the new Moroccan Lounge and Bar in Hong Kong - Lilya. We were not there for the tasty food, or even the artistically presented drinks. We were there for the design, and we were not disappointed.

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Inspired by Marrakesh’s raids, LILYA Moroccan Lounge and Bar is aiming to add a sensual flavour to Hong Kong’s late-night scene. It is not really a restaurant it is a lounge, which serves food and drinks in a social environment to great Arabic beats. This is not a place to go to if you are starving, it is more aimed at groups of friends or even lovers, who want to go out and socialise, share a few small dishes, and have some seriously good drinks. Tucked away on the second floor overlooking Wyndham Street’s bustling scene, the lounge successfully transports guests to an exotic hideout in Marrakesh, and the spot is just as perfect for a few relaxing after-work drinks, enabling you to forget all the hustle and bustle outside and just be for a while.

This is rare in Hong Kong.

Bringing a slice of Morocco to the heart of Hong Kong

The result is a fully immersive experience, and a tribute to Morocco’s exotic nature and passion. The team behind it are "locals" and so everything is authentic. As a matter of fact, most of the design and interiors have been produced by artisans in Morocco and been imported to Hong Kong, to ensure all the details are exactly right. As an example, the ceiling is made out of plaster, but it is handmade in Morocco, sculptured by local artisans, and then shipped to Hong Kong.

And the experience begins as soon as you step out of the lift. Already here you are sucked up and enveloped in the Moroccan culture, with a wall of traditional Babouche slippers in flamboyant colours (see featured image), purchased from the Souk in the old town of Marrakech. We have been told there are 400 or so of them. The lanterns hanging overhead makes it feel like you have stepped straight into a souk. We can't help thinking how great it would be to exchange your own shoes for a pair of slippers at the door, to really cement the feeling that you are in another place, but when we think of the practicality of it, and the chaos it would bring, we conclude it is better not to. This wall is very clean, and the result striking.

LILYA - Tassels

One wall adorned with tassels, this is just one of many design features in the new Moroccan pearl. Image Courtesy LILYA.

Walking into the earthy red and orange lounge, representing Marrakesh, the welcoming atmosphere with low cozy lush couches and poufs and elegant ornate pillows immediately stands out. Not to be missed are the different walls of eye-catching silk tassels, another of mystical Fatima hands, and another two of elegant Arabic graphics that adorn the walls. You feel cocooned by this welcoming, a bit mystic culture. The bar is covered by luxurious mosaic zellige tiles imported from Fez that even more so define the space, and traditional patterns are repeated again and again, in all from intricately carved wooden room dividers, to the lanterns on the tables, and the patterns on the bar.

The 90-seater lounge consists of a main seating and bar area, a terrace and a private room which can accommodate up to 15 guests. The private room is an homage to Les jardins Majorelle.

Handcrafted doors lead out to the terrace, an homage to chefchaouen, a city in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco, known for the striking, variously hued blue-washed buildings of its old town. This is a terrace where you could sit day or night and sip a drink and discuss life and all its mysteries. The white walls on the terrace shifts the feeling completely, and here you definitely feel like you are sitting outside, even if the large windows are closed up. Again, rare in Hong Kong.

LILYA - Terrace Area

The terrace. Image Courtesy LILYA.

 

Anita Lopez is Dining Concepts Director of Design and looks after the design of all of the group's 27 restaurants and bars, including Lilya. Tom Brusse, Lilya's GM and Co-founder, also hailing from Morocoo, introduced the concept to Hong Kong, and was heavily involved in the Moroccan design and environment. He is visibly proud (and so he should be!) not only of the result, but also of all the handicraft fighting over space inside. But it never feels crowded, it feels just right somehow. And although I myself have never been to Morocco (mental note to put it on my to-d0 list) it feels like it "should" look. Tom knows all about the materials and designs used, and proudly exclaims that the chandelier-like lamp in the ceiling is the same design (but with a different pattern) that hangs in the palaces. The grand, ornate brass covered lamp is the ceiling centerpiece of the lounge, designed and crafted by no other than legendary Yahya Rouach – the highly-praised Marrakech artist who creates for King Mohammed VI of Morocco. 

 

LILYA - Main lounge area (1)

Main lounge area. Image Courtesy LILYA.

 

Drinks are also thoroughly crafted, and feature typical Moroccan ingredients, served in custom-made engraved glasses and traditional teapots. The lounge's Moroccan take on the rather normal and sometimes boring Mojito is fabulous. Signatures include the Oriental Fashion, made with 27 different spices from Morocco; Ali Baba, a smoking cocktail reminiscent of Aladdin’s genie lamp which is as much fun as it is tasty; and Bazaar, a house-infused Titos’ verbena, served in exclusively designed LILYA glasses.

 

The bar at LILYA, with mosaic zellige tiles. Image Courtesy LILYA.

Where it happens. The bar at LILYA, with mosaic zellige tiles. Image Courtesy LILYA.

The Lilya Mojito. Image Courtesy LILYA.

The Lilya Mojito. Image Courtesy LILYA.

And the food... It has to be mentioned briefly. The head chef has created a menu of authentic Moroccan cuisine, definitely to be shared. All dishes use traditional cooking styles such as Agadir tagines and Tangeroise baking – a 14-hour slow cook, together with spices from Mellah including cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, saffron and ginger. The rich variety of fragrant, flavourful herbs, spices and ingredients result in dishes that both smell and taste divine.

Both drinks and food are on the pricier side, considering they are small dishes, but you come here as much for the experience and atmosphere as for the F&B choices. As said before, it is not a place to come when you are starving and craving a steak, it is a place to come for great atmosphere, and to share some exquisite cocktails and a bit to eat with friends. What we love most is that  they have effectively managed to transport you to another world, despite busy Wyndham Street being just outside and one floor down! We will be back again for sure.

Oriental Fashion. Image Courtesy Lilya.

Oriental Fashion. Image Courtesy LILYA.

 

LILYA Moroccan Lounge and Bar 

Location: 2/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong 

Phone: +852 2526 2578 

Website: www.diningconcepts.com/restaurants/Lilya 

 

Opening Hours: 

Monday – Sunday  :   6pm till late 

(last order for food: Monday to Thursday – 12am, Friday to Sunday – 1am) 

 

Connect with LILYA at 

Facebook: facebook.com/Lilya.Moroccan 

Instagram: @Lilya.Moroccan 

      • LILYA - Terrace Area
      • LILYA - Tassels
      • LILYA - Bar Area with mosaic zellige tiles (3)
      • LILYA - Private Room (3)
      • LILYA - Main lounge area (1)
      • LILYA - Oriental Fashion
      • LILYA - Lilya Mojito

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