“LIVE life to the fullest!” exclaims Jay Hammond, the creative brain behind the newly opened Fu Luck Bar, the latest intervention in TREC Kuala Lumpur, the country’s largest and latest entertainment and F&B enclave along the bustling Jalan Tun Razak, KL.
The affable Australian has translated the playful spirit of childhood memories from the 70s and 80s to the modern Malaysian
restaurant and bar. The colourful interiors, with the charming hand-painted art on the walls and ceiling, take visitors instantly on a spectacular journey into time.
Fu Luck Bar is a new concept by TREC F&B Ventures and complements the already-vibrant melange of eateries in TREC. “I believe this will resonate with our customers; a concept that touches on memories and nostalgia.,” begins TREC’s co-founder Cher Ng.
Fu Luck simply means prosperity and happiness in Mandarin. Interestingly, the same pronunciation in Cantonese translates to “pants down”. But jokes aside, Ng is keen to stress that Fu Luck Bar has been carefully curated to stay true to the thematic scheme. From the interior design, music, right down to the food and beverages, everything fits beautifully to evoke that feeling of childhood magic.
Stepping into the premises, a sense of nostalgia floods over me, cloaking me in a comforting and familiar embrace. I note with pleasure the walls, each part telling a story, a reflection of childhood whimsy during the 80s and 90s. A giant White Rabbit candy pops out from one end, looking so lifelike. And right opposite, there’s the quintessential ‘Lady of the Orient’ staring out mysteriously from the traditional granny’s face power canister. As my eyes wander to the ceiling, I’m transfixed by the sight of familiar green army figurines lined up in a peculiar formation. Oh yes, it’s the flexing yoga poses!
“The interior design aims to create conversations and evoke memories through a play of scale and iconic memorabilia. Every few months, we have plans to change the design arrangements by introducing new childhood memories and creative elements,” shares Hammond.
Fu Luck Bar pays homage to the eat-drink-make-merry culture and recalls a time when life was simply naive, undisrupted and simpler. “This was the childhood before we had tablets and devices. We were more adventurous, we played freely and had a lot of imagination,” continues Hammond.
LEARNING THROUGH EXPERIENCE
Recalling his early years, the 56-year-old modestly confides that he was not the smartest of students and neither was he the most creative. But by the age of 18, he found himself running Victoria’s most popular yacht club. A year into the job, he decided to travel for the very first time to New Zealand “... simply to see the ‘unknown world’”. Upon his return, he set up a small business selling juggling balls made out of balloons and bird feeds.
“It was a successful business but after almost two years into it, my business partners and I sold it. In the back of my mind, I knew that I’d made enough money to travel for the next 10 years,” remembers Hammond.
And so he took off.
In 1993, he kicked off his travels with a road trip across Australia and later continued on to Asia, Africa, Europe and various continents around the world. This all happened before the era of mobile phones and the Internet.
“I was still writing letters back then,” shares Hammond as he flashes a smart phone that he’d recently acquired. “I’m still struggling with this whole smart device thing. I guess I’m just an old-school kinda guy!”
Continuing, he shares that when he eventually arrived in Singapore (in 1993), he only had S$10 (RM29.47) in his pocket. He was hired by Television Corporation of Singapore (now Mediacorp) back then to be in charge of staging and props. Hammond worked on movie sets, and years after, became one of the most prominent urban artists in the Lion City with his very own company, which is still running today.
The Australian is the man behind the revivification of Haji Lane from a plain pathway to the most vibrant and colourful street in Singapore. But he’s modest about his role, saying: “I lived there and simply wanted to make a difference. It was all about trying to bring the community
together through a simple act of creativity.”
Haji Lane was where he and his business partner Idris Johor made a name for themselves. Today, the duo is known for their remarkable transformational scenography and design works on the popular landmark.
His years of travelling, believes Hammond, have given him an added edge and a very different mindset. Happily regaling me with lively anecdotes from his travels (from Egypt to China), Hammond emphasises on the importance of knowing how to open up to people.
“It’s important to learn from people you meet and understand their way of life. These are the people who can potentially make a difference in the paths that you choose to take,” he confides, expression earnest.
As I listen intently to his story, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the sight of a pair of makeshift chandeliers made using hand-painted abacuses. Following my gaze, Hammond chuckles and shares: “Idris made that. This is one of the ways that we add personal touches to our design.”
To my surprise, he suddenly whips out a pencil case and a very old-school ‘buku latihan’. “This is what I carry around with me all the time. It’s exactly what I need to sketch,” he explains, noting my questioning look.
Back to his latest ‘baby’, the Fu Luck Bar, Hammond shows me a sketch of the restaurant’s facade which he shares was inspired by a photo of a street peddler selling wanton noodles back in 1957.
“When I saw the photo, I couldn’t help noticing the bicycles parked right in front of the noodle stall. I loved the composition and decided to translate that to the entrance of Fu Luck Bar,” explains Hammond about his decision to incorporate the two bicycles located by the shop front.
That photo, which he’s referring to belongs to the family behind the 62-year-old multi-generational name, Pudu Chan Fatt Wanton Mee ― the people behind one of the signature food items served in the restaurant.
Hammond, who’s also involved with the staging of Zouk Singapore and Zouk Kuala Lumpur, will also be working on several new projects under TREC’s expansion plan, which also includes some exciting mural works and The Iron Fairies, an iconic and magical bar designed like an ironsmith’s workshop.
Soon it’s time to take my leave but there’s a question I’m dying to throw at this dynamic designer before I go. “What’s the secret to your success?” I ask, ears alert, ready to devour nuggets of wisdom. Eyebrows raised, he chuckles heartily before replying: “Just go out there and see the world!”