There are some invitations you don’t say no to. Dangerous Dinner is one of them.
Earlier this year I saw an image of a decadent private dining experience, unlike anything in Hong Kong. As a history teacher by training, tour guide by trade and writer by occupation the concept quite literally ticks all my interest boxes. The more I learned, the more I desperately wanted a seat at the table! That is how I found myself, on a balmy November afternoon, nervously boarding a bus with strangers, blindfolded and on my way to a secret location.
What Is A Dangerous Dinner?
Have you ever walked past the city’s older buildings with wonder? Even in the bustling heart of Central, Wan Chai and Sheung Wan you can see beautifully restored buildings offering a glimpse into a bygone era.
Then there are those a little more hidden. Perhaps you’ve taken a hike past the crumbling walls of a Hakka village, or seen the jungle taking over a once-stunning colonial villa.
Over the last few years, a new type of adventure has taken over the city — urban exploration, or “urbex”. Sacha Yasumoto discovered her passion after her teenage son spotted an abandoned building from their apartment window. Curiosity got the better of her, she started exploring and hasn’t looked back since!
A quick search on Facebook brings you to the Hong Kong Abandoned Villages group (Sacha is a moderator), which brings together enthusiasts to share tips from their latest discoveries. From there it has evolved into special interest WhatsApp groups, walking tours and photography exhibitions through her Grey Walls Gallery.
The next logical step? An extravagant, fine dining affair — The Dangerous Dinner! A meal to bring together Sacha’s love of architecture, food and meeting new people from all walks of life.
Loved Then Abandoned… A Farewell To A Little Piece Of Hong Kong History
History is never a simple story. Especially when you throw the British Empire into the mix. While most of us are well versed in the basics, few know the pockets of ethnicity rooted in the city’s colonial past. In a global metropolis like Hong Kong, everything has a ripple effect. When India gained independence in 1948 a significant hole was left in the British military. A place that was filled with the might of the Royal Ghurka Rifles. It’s a relatively small population today (approximately 29,000), but most Nepalis in the city are descendants of soldiers stationed here until the handover in 1997.
Our bus pulls up to a post-war army barracks near Tuen Mun. Rather than an abandoned building, this site is in need of a little (or a lot!) of love. Unfortunately, real estate is such a hot commodity that the property has been sold and is destined for demolition and redevelopment in the not-to-distant future.
“Just How Lucky We Are”… A Fitting Theme For The Evening
We boarded the bus in our finery, ready for an evening of indulgence only to be quickly reminded of how lucky we are. Our journey begins with an introduction to the work of Crossroads Foundation — an NGO dedicated to serving global needs. The team has been granted use of the historic barracks since it was decommissioned as an army base. They too, will need to say goodbye and find a new headquarters (if you know somewhere suitable, please get in touch) once the developers move in.
As well as providing aid to those in need through donated resources, Crossroads Foundation helps those in more privileged positions understand the unique plight of those less fortunate. We are given a sample of the Refugee Run, a Global X-perience simulation so profoundly moving that the team has delivered the programme to world leaders and global CEOs at the annual World Economic Forum.
There’s gunfire, yelling and armed soldiers who take away our phones and handbags. It’s intense and not something I was expecting. I’m sure that the hundreds of millions of displaced individuals, asylum seekers and refugees were never expecting their fate either.
It comes as a stark juxtaposition to the opulence of the evening and a worthwhile reality check given the conflicts currently raging around the world.
The Dangerous Dinner — A Twilight Temple Farewell
The mood is quiet and reflective as our Dangerous Dinner destination is finally revealed — the former temple of the Royal Ghurka Rifles. A building that hasn’t been abandoned, but certainly has been unloved since the Ghurkas moved out. This little slice of history unfortunately can’t be saved and so we are there to give it a fine send-off.
A musician plays under the towering banyan tree and a fire flickers an ambient light on the crowd. Champagne in hand, the chatter intensifies as diners reflect on the refugee simulation and anticipate the meal ahead.
Finally, it’s time for the main event. The plush red velvet curtains part to reveal an elegant tablescape of crystal candelabras and an abundance of red roses (from the team at Heaven Scent Events). Guests find their seats at the long tables and become fast friends with their fellow Dangerous Diners.
A sneak peek out the back reveals a tent housing trestle tables and portable cooktops — certainly not the kitchen set-up most fine-dining chefs would be used to! Miraculously, Chef Mayu dishes up a delicious and artfully plated gourmet five-course menu featuring delicate Gin-Jake Salmon and rich Slow Cooked Wagyu Beef.
Read More: Your Ultimate Hong Kong Bucket List
There are some experiences that are certain to stay with you. Far more than a meal, Dangerous Dinner is an immersive journey through time, a reflective evening where heritage and modernity intersect and one that I feel culturally richer for having attended.
Be the first to hear about the next Dangerous Dinner by following @dangerousdinnershk. You can learn more about Hong Kong’s abandoned buildings by following @lovedthenabandoned and Grey Walls Gallery on Instagram or joining the Hong Kong Abandoned Villages Facebook group. If you want to hear more from Sacha Yasumoto, catch her at the upcoming TedXTinHauWomen 2023 or her next Grey Walls Gallery exhibition.
Read More: Your Guide To Fine Dining In Hong Kong
Our editor was invited as a guest of Dangerous Dinner, but all opinions are genuine. Image 1 courtesy of Sacha Masumoto, all images courtesy of Jess Mizzi.