I had lunch yesterday with Michelle Garnaut in Hong Kong. We ate at her Hong Kong restaurant called M at the Fringe, a landmark eatery in a landmark building. The restaurant closes December 31, a casualty of the screamingly escalating real estate values in Hong Kong, which leads to buildings like the one that houses the Fringe to be sacrificed for higher rent per square inch opportunities.
But M at the Fringe had a good run—twenty years –and Michelle will be up and running in a new Hong Kong location in no time.
Meanwhile, her M on the Bund, in Shanghai, a long run hit among the Shanghai cognoscenti for more than a decade, and her brand new Capital M, right on Tienanmen Square in Beijing, are clicking along successfully.
What makes Michelle—a transplanted Aussie—such a success as a restauranteur? Basically, she sees herself not so much in the food business, as the conversation business. What makes dining experiences memorable—besides great food—is the great conversation that takes place over the dinner table. And Michelle knows how to facilitate that. In fact her M on the Bund is as much a salon as a restaurant. It’s where great musicians, poets, authors--you name it, all people at the top of their game, especially in the arts world—are welcomed and celebrated. In fact, Michelle creates programs around them, so on a given Sunday you may hear from a poet or be treated to a chamber music concert.
It’s all about the conversation. And at Michelle’s places, they talk about more than the food.