LONDON — Starbucks, wake up: Alan Yau, the Hong Kong-born, London-bred restaurateur is offering this town a new take on tea. He’s brought yum cha, the Chinese term for drinking tea, to Soho in an $8 million Christian Liaigre-designed teahouse called Yauatcha on Berwick Street.
“There’s too much coffee at the moment. People are coffee-ed out,” says Yau. “Tea needed a renaissance.”
This story first appeared in the June 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Since the Chinese rules of hospitality dictate that drink should not be served without food, Yauatcha serves 150 varieties of tea with French pastries — from a pistachio cream coconut brioche to a cinnamon crème brulée — on the street level, with dim sum downstairs.
The food is prepared under the supervision of Cheong Wah Soono from the ubergroovy Hakkasan, the U.K.’s only Chinese restaurant to win a Michelin star and the jewel in Yau’s culinary crown. Yauatcha’s decor is sleek and modern. Banquettes are embroidered with cherry blossoms and staff wear traditional Chinese teahouse-style uniforms designed by Tim Yip, who won an Oscar for his “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” costumes.
Yau started his career at 16 working for his parents’ Chinese restaurant business outside London. He later opened Wagamama, an international chain of pan-Asian noodle bars; Busaba Eathai, a Thai restaurant in Soho with communal tables and a mile-long line of hungry customers outside the door, and Hakkasan. By Christmas, Yau plans to open a chop suey house on Carnaby Street as well as a pastry concession in a major U.K. department store.
But that may be where Yau hangs his hat.
“I’d really like to try something outside the restaurant business,” he says. “I’ve done this for so long. It’s time to move on.”
— Elena Bowes