South Lantau has its first taste of Chile. Mapuche, which sells Chilean meats, cheeses and wines, opened in Mui Wo a month ago. Lantau News spoke to owners James and Paola.
How did you come to be on Lantau?
James: I came back to Hong Kong nearly four years ago. We had been running big Spanish restaurants in Central London. That’s how we met. I’m a restaurateur. I was running three to four restaurants, but it became a bit much after our twins were born.
I had money saved up, so we went first to Chile, where Paola is from. I got involved in a restaurant tech but Chile wasn’t quite ready for it. And my Spanish was pocito.
I grew up in Hong Kong, and my dad who lives in Tung Chung suggested we come back.
What gave you the idea for Mapuche?
James: Our idea was to do tapas tasting covering the 14 viticultures of Chile. The wines and the food that go together.
Myself, I’ve opened lots of big restaurants and closed lots of big restaurants. We’re not trying to be too ambitious. This is a project of love for me and my wife.
This is a project with my wife and hopefully it will take me away from town and we can become full islanders one day. My wife is the hero here – she is the person that is working every day and making it happen.
What does ‘mapuche’ mean?
Paola: The Mapuche are the indigenous inhabitants of Chile.
Why did you choose Mui Wo?
James: We started coming down here and we loved it. More recently we have engaged with the shopkeepers and the bar people here. Everyone has been so nice.
Paola: Because it’s a community. It’s nice to go around and everyone says ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon.’ Lantau is very nice – it reminds me of Chile, especially South Lantau. Hong Kong is too big for me, especially with the twins.
What are you selling in Mapuche?
James: We started off with mainly Spanish products, the cheeses and the hams. The idea was stuff you could take to the beach that was not available in the supermarket, artisanal stuff – premium light chorizos, hams, stuff you can grab and chuck in your picnic basket.
We buy what we like to eat. Nothing here is available in the supermarket – the wines are all unique Hispanic varieties.
The idea was to call it ‘box my picnic’ – it was supposed to be a popup. But we realised people want the choice and the service. They want someone who knows about the wine.
Apart from the store, what else?
We’re doing these events called Pimp My Chef, where we bring a Chilean chef around to your house. These are the kind of events we hope to start doing just to get the idea of our food out there. We are tasting three different wine flights, with three different ceviches, with three different cuts of meat and three different reds from Chile.
We would like to turn this into a more café style shop experience, where you could come for coffee, light tapas, glass of wine. Very family-oriented and informal – you can bring your kids.
We have another floor upstairs we would like to use as a supper club. We would like to make it a tourist destination, pick people up by junk from Pier 9, bring them here for a dining experience for a few hours. That’s where we see some massive potential.
Where: Shop B, 10 Ferry Pier Road 10, Silver Centre, Mui Wo
When: Monday-Sunday 11am-9pm