Amo Eno, located on Podium Level 3 of Hong Kong’s IFC Shopping Mall, is a truly innovative and unique wine bar and shop based on a forward-thinking concept, and one of our favorite Entaste venues in the city.
To find out how the place operates exactly, I sat down with some of the key players behind Amo Eno: Director of Development Andrew Bradbury, Design Director Brook Bradbury, Technology CEO Rick Stoelinga, and Operations Manager Ocean Hui. The five of us discussed the underlying concept of the brand, which is an integration of the worlds of wine, design and technology. I learned about the standards by which they select the wines to offer in their enomatic machines and about what Amo Eno customers tend to look for when they walk into the store. Rick explained the one-of-a-kind touchscreen tables unique to Amo Eno, a technology which allows customers to select wines in an interactive and fun way, using up to three sets of parameters. Finally, I asked each of them to choose one wine that they have recently fallen for.
Find out what they had to say!
Andrew: Hi, I’m Andrew Bradbury, Director of Development for Amo Eno.
Brook: And I’m Brook Bradbury, the Design Director.
Rick: I’m Rick Stoelinga, the Technology CEO.
Ocean: And I’m Ocean, the Operations Manager.
How would you describe the concept behind Amo Eno. How was it originally conceived?
Andrew: Amo Eno is a 3rd generation innovate retailing concept, based upon previous works that Brook and Rick and I have worked on for years in both restaurants and in retail. It’s sort of the worlds of wine, design and technology all integrated. We really focus on and feature unique wines and domains from around the world as well as amazing designs and artisans, glassware, accessories and lifestyle products. And we use technology to help fulfill the operations and as a new, unique way to interact with our customers.
Please tell me a bit more about how you choose the wines to display at Amo Eno?
Andrew: Well, it’s so huge, the world of wine. Coming to a market like Asia, which is a younger wine market and traditionally considered not as advanced in terms of experience, we saw that as a challenge and also as a unique opportunity. So, rather than focusing on what has been traditionally popular here, which are the wine markets of Bordeaux and Burgundy, for example, we chose to not only feature those markets but also select unique wines from around the world, unique grape varietals. By offering our customers a chance to use tasting technologies like the enomatic machines, touch-screen technologies like the Samsung surface and client touch-screens, such as Entaste, we help tell the story of these amazing wines that people maybe haven’t tried before, which are also of a unique value or offer something different, making us distinct from our competitors.
Please tell me a bit about these touch-screen tables that you have here. How do they help the customer select the wines they choose?
Rick: It’s actually a first of a kind experience in the world. It allows the user to go through 3 separate ways to find the wines that they might be interested in. The first is the most traditional one that you see in wine lists in the last 10 years where it is by color or region or wine type or price point. That’s one way people are used to looking for wines. But we’ve also decided to use descriptors, so if we have something that is “full-bodied” or “leathery palate” or “herbaceous,” you can choose that way. We have sliders within each category, which allow you to choose how fruity, how oaky, how mineraly you want your wine, and you can use these sliders to figure out how much those adjectives apply to the wine, and narrow your choice that way. So it allows one to find a wine in new and different ways.
So the average visitor of Amo Eno, what does he or she do when they come into the store, do they browse through the enomatics first or sit down and look at a menu?
Brook: I think the experience is 3-pronged; it’s about wine, design and technology, and the customer can really interact on every level. So, it’s not just your typical restaurant, or typical retail experience. Our outside display is part of the design and accessories portion of the brand, and a lot of people come in just to buy a gift or they will be walking by and see something in the window that they’ve never seen before. Or they may come in and sit down to try a glass of wine, sit at the bar, go through the technology and have some wine with their friends. And then we have people who will come in just to buy a bottle and leave, get something to take home for dinner. So I think that you cannot really give a succinct description of what the average person does when they come in, because we have so many components to the brand. We have a lot to offer and hopefully if someone comes in and experiences just buying a bottle of wine, they will come back and they’ll have a bite to eat or sit at the bar or buy a gift next time.
And a bit more about the snacks that you offer here, I’ve noticed that a lot of the menu items have wine-based sauces or wine is usually featured as an ingredient in many of them. How does this fit with the Amo Eno concept?
Brook: When we first opened here, we were trying to come up with a very good menu, realizing that we are in a mall and there are a lot of people here who may stop by for lunch with a glass of wine. So we wanted to do a wine-friendly menu. We just thought that using a different wine as part of each dish would be a really fun way to add another dimension to what we do and tie the wine into the food as well. A lot of people come in and they try a bunch of different wines so it’s difficult to focus on pairing one wine with one dish because we aren’t very restaurant-centric. But I think our menu is flexible enough that people can come in, have a fun bite to eat and try a variety of different wines.
Andrew: Just as we source out these one-of-a-kind, lesser known designers from all over the world and find tiny wineries from emerging wine regions, the food is also prepared from products that we bring in from around the world as well. So we might have vinegars that are made from wine or reductions that we use for various sauces or sandwiches, garnishes… Everything we source is just as intensive and hard to get as some of our products and I think that adds an extra layer to the brand and to the experience, because we’re using ingredients that you just don’t see everywhere.
Brook: I think it’s just simple food done well at the end of the day. And that’s what makes people come back.
A bit about the structure of the clientele, what portion is Mainland Chinese, local or expats?
Ocean: When the store opened around Christmas of last year, most of the offices were closed, so we saw a lot of Mainland Chinese people coming in to shop and to have a glass of wine. But, after that, businessmen, bankers, traders have dominated more the clientele base and most of them are a bit more experienced with wines and they know more about the wines. They get to try the big names every day in other places, so they like to come here because they hear that we have some of the wines they have never tasted, unusual wines.
Andrew: And I think as the business is just getting on its feet and the market is changing rapidly and the demographic for wine is changing, here in Hong Kong specifically, we’ve seen a flux in our demographic base. We can see a fair amount of women here; it could even be the majority, a slight majority over our male clientele. We’ve seen a lot more local Hong Kong Chinese, which is really exciting for us and what we really need to focus on here in Hong Kong, because the expats come and go with business and holidays. We’ve seen it evolve, and I’m glad to see that it is evolving towards a more local clientele, a savvy clientele who are interested in trying new wines and having new experiences and are not the classic, cliché Burgundy-Bordeaux drinkers but are trying new varietals from all over the world, wines from Uruguay or Slovenia or wherever.
Brook: At the end of the day anyone can offer big name Bordeaux and Burgundies and switch them up with the negotiants, but I think what we have fun doing and what our business model is based around is offering them something that brings out the reaction of, “Oh my god, this is amazing! I’ve never even heard of this grape varietal! I didn’t even know this country made wine!” and help them find something that becomes their new favorite bottle, which they can take home and show off to their friends. I think that’s more fun for everyone involved.
And my last question would be if you could pick one wine right now on the list at Amo Eno that you recently fell in love with, what would it be?
Brook: We’ve brought in so many new wines lately… We brought in a wine called Soumah from the Yarra Valley and the grape variety is Savarro. which is this obscure grape varietal. It’s crisp and clean, but yet has a great body, citrusy. It’s just a great all-around wine. Great on its own and great to pair with food.
Andrew: I’m going to take the easy way out. We have the separate enomatic machine, the “featured” machine, where we have 8 Rieslings from around the world, everything from dry to ice-wine, extremely sweet, from New World to Old World. There’s a grape that, as a Sommelier I have to say, is very misunderstood in general. Sommeliers geek out over it and love Riesling and know how food-friendly it is and know how amazing it is with most cuisines. We just launched this and it’s done very well for us. It’s been very well received and we have a lot of customers interested in engagement. So, I’m going to go with the Riesling machine as my favorite.
Brook: [Laughs] You cheated!
Rick: I think mine is going to be a bit of a cross-section as well. My personal favorite thing about the wine list is actually that each individual wine variety you can find in there and there is always something changing and a different varietal being added. My favorites change all the time, because I always get the chance to try something new that I’ve never tried before. So for me it would be those odd varietals that keep changing.
Ocean: My favorite for the time being would be the Margan, which is a Verdelho from Hunter Valley. It’s from Austria. It’s fresh, clean, with a light flavor, very good for the summer and very easy-drinking. You can finish a bottle of it in an hour!
Now I know why you like it so much! Thank you all so much for your time.