a dining area inside Bao Express is flanked by greenery
Inspired by 1970s Hong Kong diners, Bao Express brings vintage charm to a modern audience.

A Button Factory Transforms into a Retro-Inspired Diner

Parisian architect Tala Gharagozlou has a unique understanding of Hong Kong culture and cuisine as a project manager at Soho House for nearly five years, overseeing the Hong Kong clubhouse. Thus, when her firm, Atelieriamo, was hired for two collaborations with Bao Restaurant Group—the sophisticated Bleu Bao, an upscale bao and dim sum restaurant that nods to the Chinese tea house, and Bao Express Paris, the group’s fourth and largest concept inspired by 1970s Hong Kong diners—she aimed to provide a unique yet cohesive brand experience.

Located in a former button factory in the 11th arrondissement, the 500-square-meter Bao Express features a bakery, diner, and basement bar, each with cheerful hues and bespoke furnishings. The initial raw nature of the building and lean budget lent itself to a challenging construction process with alterations to the floor plates, a new staircase, and improved circulation. Yet, with room for up to 150 covers per night, this meant an equally exciting opportunity “to do something bold and bring people throughout the space without having dead zones,” says the architect.

Pops of celadon and jade, colors often found in Chinese arts and crafts, pair with custom plywood bulkheads, industrial-style lacquered red fixtures, neon lights, and patterned floors. “We didn’t have a lot of natural light, so we wanted something that would cheer up the space,” she says.

The subterranean bar, The Underpool, is a satisfying juxtaposition with a hammered metal ceiling and an installation from French artist, SupaKitch, which evokes the sense of a “fun and cheeky upside-down pool,” Gharagozlou says. There’s even a metal staircase and striped diving board. Bao Express channels the best of a vintage-meets-modern Hong Kong diner, full of surprise and whimsy.

a seating area inside the celadon and jade-colored Bao Express
Celadon and jade, colors reminiscent of Chinese arts and crafts, are found throughout the space. Photography by Berenice Bonnot.

Bao Express In Paris Channels ’70s-Era Hong Kong Diners

a teal wall behind booth seating in a Chinese diner
The teal color palette provides a cool backdrop for red sconces. Photography by Berenice Bonnot.
blue and white patterned floors under red shelving in Bao Express
Patterned floors bring a sense of joy to the space. Photography by Berenice Bonnot.
Booth seating at Bao Express
Booth seating at Bao Express. Photography by Berenice Bonnot.
a teal banquette matches individual seats in Bao Express
Vintage meets modern in the former button factory turned restaurant. Photography by Geraldine Martens.
a hammered ceiling installation resembling a pool inside the bar at Bao Express
The bar, aptly named The Underpool includes an installation by French artist SupaKitch.
a dining area inside Bao Express is flanked by greenery
Inspired by 1970s Hong Kong diners, Bao Express brings vintage charm to a modern audience.

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