Moomin Cafe: Anti-loneliness restaurant in HK

Moomin Cafe: Anti-loneliness restaurant in HK

Solo diners have a place to dine in Hong Kong now that Japan's Moomin cafe opened in the Chinese region. Instead of sharing a meal with other fellow humans, your companion in this cafe are stuffed animals.The stuffed dining companions are there to sit next to solo travelers and help banish their loneliness.

Set in one of Hong Kong's busiest malls, the Moomin cafe is made to look like a Finnish house and garden and it features Nordic cuisine, including traditional dishes such as venison stew, salmon milk soup and piirakka.

Hong Kong's new eatery is the first overseas venture for a concept that has already proved a hit in Japan.

The franchise is inspired by popular Finnish stories that tell the adventures of a family of white hippo-like characters and their friends. Although the Moomins was first published in Finland back in 1945, it didn't receive global attention until the release of its television series in the 1990s.

The first Moomin Cafe opened in Tokyo in 2003. Since then, three more have opened and six Moomin-themed coffee stands. The timing of the opening of the Hong Kong Moomin Cafe couldn't be better, it coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Moomin creator, Tove Jansson.

Although Japan's original Moomin Cafe has been operating for over a decade, its popularity only exploded earlier this year after its "anti-loneliness" concept went viral.

To save its customers from the loneliness of solo dining, a plush Moomin character is brought over to the table as dining companion. "I thought if people can stay and sit with Moomin characters like Moominmamma and Moominpappa (parents in the Moomin family), it'd be more interesting," says Mickey Kera, who was the one who came up with the cafe concept.

However, Hong Kong's single diners may have to struggle to find an adorable meal buddy. "Unlike Japan's anti-loneliness cafes, Moomin characters will be placed at various tables and joining a Moomin character will be up to luck," says cafe spokeswoman Cindy Wu.

Wu also said that the Hong Kong location features three additional characters not found in the Japanese outlets: Hattifatteners, Little My and Snufkin.

Moomin Cafe may have originated in Japan, but the outlet tries to reflect Finnish lifestyle and cuisine. The Tsim Tsa Tsui venue is designed to look like a traditional Finnish house, with photographs of Finland and hand drawn artwork of Moomins.

"I love the venison soup stew, salmon milk soup and Jansson's temptation (baked potato with caramelized onion gratin), which are traditional Nordic dishes," says Kera.

"I really want to introduce Moomin and Finnish lifestyle to Hong Kong people." The cafe also offers Finnish traditional bread - Piirakka - and Scandinavian salad with pickled herring, as well as a Nordic dish of salmon with goat cheese and basil.

The new cafe in Hong Kong also features certain dishes that are not available in Japan. For instance, the Moomin House Pancakes are exclusive to the Hong Kong location. This dish consists of an impressive stack drizzled with cream and accompanied by a three-story ceramic Moomin house containing custard pudding, chocolate mousse and mango jelly.

For those diners who wish to take some of the Moomin house home, they can order the Souvenir Mango Cup Pudding so they can take the mug used to serve the dessert. Moomin-shaped past is also available at the souvenir store.