Ashley Sutton Unveils an Ode to Romance at IFC Mall
Ashley Sutton, the award-winning designer behind Hong Kong nightlife hotspots Ophelia, J.Boroski, Iron Fairies and Yojimbo, is returning to the city to open his most ambitious project yet: Dear Lilly. Located in a stunning glass-walled space on the roof of IFC mall, Dear Lilly is a romantic restaurant and bar inspired by the dreamy hole-in-the-wall florists found along the most beautiful boulevards in Paris. As with all of Sutton’s other projects in Hong Kong, Dear Lilly is a collaboration with restaurant group Dining Concepts, who have consistently brought Sutton’s bold, breath-taking ideas to life, turning them from sketches on paper into some of the most striking restaurants and bars in the city.
A tribute to love and romance, Dear Lilly is a floral wonderland. Floor-to-ceiling shelves in the restaurant are crammed with vintage perfume bottles brimming with flowers and hundreds of bouquets hang from the kinetic ceiling, which gently sways the garlands.
“Dear Lilly is unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” Sutton says. “It’s an incredibly enchanting space filled with flowers, love letters and charming antique ornaments that I’ve sourced from around the world. I want people to step inside and feel like they’re in a fairy-tale.”
As guests are led to their table, they will see striking heart-shaped marble inlays set into the floor, which are engraved with extracts from touching love letters. From their tables, guests can then look down at the marble tiles and read these moving letters over a drink or meal.
After reading thousands of love letters from throughout history, Sutton decided to fill Dear Lilly with extracts from love letters sent by soldiers to their sweethearts during World War I and World War II. The name of the restaurant, Dear Lilly, came from one of these heart-warming letters.
Love letters and poems scrawled on scrolls of paper are piled on the bar alongside vintage, black-and-white photos of couples, giving guests the chance to discover stories and secrets of past loves in every corner of the floral wonderland. The bar and mixologists’ workstations are also decorated with antique typewriters, rolls of ribbon and other charming knick-knacks.
For romantic meals and private tête-à-têtes, diners can request to be seated in one of Dear Lilly’s intimate booths. Designed to be supersized versions of vintage jewellery boxes, Dear Lilly’s booths are heart-shaped steel structures that completely ensconce the diners. Sutton has specially treated the metal to give it the appearance of tarnished sterling silver, which makes the intricate booths look like they’re from another era. Inside, the sumptuous seats are wrapped in luxurious velvet.
The staff’s outfits also enhance the atmosphere of a magical, romantic garden. Some wear smart button-up shirts decorated with intricate embroidery, while others glide through Dear Lilly in elegant, Victorian-inspired dresses. Mixologists are decked out in vintage aprons with magnifying glasses, antique scissors and other knick-knacks poking out their pockets, while waitresses wear whimsical flower crowns.
The cocktails and food at Dear Lilly are just as impressive as the décor. Alongside classic cocktails such as Bellinis, Sazeracs and Manhattans, Dear Lilly’s mixologists serve a selection of signature cocktails. Highlights include the Green Fairy, a sweet mix of Matusalem Platino Rum, green Chartreuse, yuzu juice, pineapple juice, and coconut water; the Mad Enchantment, a refreshing concoction of Pere Magloire Calvados, Lillet Rouge, apple juice, lemon juice, vanilla syrup and blackberry puree; and the Mademoiselle Lilly, which features vodka, Kwai Feh liqueur, Lillet Blanc, cranberry juice, lime juice, raspberry puree and homemade hibiscus.
Historic French cocktails from the 1920s inspired many of Dear Lilly’s signature drinks, several of which also feature French spirits and liquers such as Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rouge, Domaine Canton and Pere Magloire VSOP Calvados. To match the restaurant’s décor, the cocktails are garnished with edible flowers and sprigs of lavender. On top of its selection of cocktails, Dear Lilly stocks a range of beers from several leading breweries. These beers can be enjoyed on Dear Lilly’s terrace, which has sweeping views of Victoria Harbour.
Dear Lilly serves contemporary European cuisine, with particular attention paid to the flavours of the Mediterranean. The restaurant offers both a set lunch and an a la carte menu. Available as either a two-course or three-course meal, the set lunch is the perfect choice for business executives.
Highlights of the a la carte menu include Slow-Cooked Octopus with Roasted Pepper Salsa, Rocket and Seaweed Hummus and the sumptuous Seafood Platter with Oysters, Mussels, Shrimps, Crab Salad, Baby Calamari and Octopus Carpaccio. Dear Lilly also offers a selection of salads and the Curly Kale Salad with Quinoa, Dry Seeds, Red Radish and Orange Vinaigrette is one of the chef’s own favourite dishes.
Mains include the classic Italian Puttanesca Pappardelle, which is accompanied by olives, capers, anchovies, olive oil and Parmesan. Two further standout mains are the New Zealand Lamb Cutlets served with your choice of sauce and sides, and the Poached Sea Bass with Herb Crushed New Potato and Salsa Verde.
Dinners à deux are not complete without something sweet to share after your meal. At Dear Lilly, guests can choose between a Berriolette Dome, served with chocolate streusel, berries and fluid gel; Dear Lilly Heart, an indulgent raspberry and white chocolate dish; Chococaramel Tart, accompanied with milk whip ganache, sable and caramelised nuts; and Apple Yuzu Cremeux with hibiscus and passion mint.
Now the only question is: which special someone will you invite to Dear Lilly?