Party Lifestyle

China Rouge

Written by Andrew W Scott

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Friday 30 March saw the long-awaited launch party of China Rouge. Our CEO Andrew W Scott was lucky enough to be invited to this exclusive event with an invitation list that read like a “who’s who” of Macau and Hong Kong society. He gives us a sneak peek inside south China’s hottest private members’ club, a forbidden chamber that only a special few will ever get to see.

China Rouge at Galaxy Macau
Entry Private members club by invitation only
Membership Enquiries +853 2888 0888
Opening Hours Bar and lounge 19:00 to 02:00 Wed to Mon
Showroom 21:00 to 02:00 Wed to Mon (03:00 weekends)
Tuesdays for private bookings and events only
Executive Manager Mr Noel Furrer
Showroom Entertainment World class artists from China, Asia and around the world
Dress Code Casual chic

Since long before Galaxy Macau opened some 12 months ago, the executives at Galaxy Entertainment Group have been touting China Rouge, and telling everyone how wonderful it was going to be. The delayed opening had almost become a running gag around Macau, so much so that I even teased Galaxy’s Vice-Chairman Mr Francis Lui and China Rouge’s Executive Manager Mr Noel Furrer about it on more than one occasion.

The showroom at China Rouge

The showroom at China Rouge

But deep down in my heart I knew what was going on – Galaxy has earned itself a reputation for this kind of thing. Unlike some other operators around town that rush at projects like a bull at a gate, Galaxy was quietly and efficiently making this club simply perfect. They weren’t prepared to open the doors until the fastidious Mr Lui and his team had truly implemented the vision for the venue. That finally came to pass in March and the wait has been well and truly worth it. China Rouge is simply sublime. It’s going to take something truly amazing to top this awesome venue.

Galaxy Macau has once again lived up to its “World Class, Asian Heart” philosophy. There is no doubt that China Rouge is world class, and it most definitely has a very Asian, specifically Chinese, feel and ambience. It is abundantly clear that no expense has been spared. All the artwork and furniture in China Rouge is custom made, and wherever you look there is a feast for the eyes.

The China Rouge Name

China Rouge’s Chinese name is 红伶 (Mandarin: hóng líng, Cantonese: hung ling). The name is very classy and somewhat nostalgic. The first character, 红, literally means red (or sometimes crimson), and in the China Rouge name specifically relates to women. The second character, 伶, is a very formal and ancient word referring to an actress. The name is evocative of a strikingly elegant actress from yesteryear.

What is China Rouge?

This is the first question one might ask. Is it a nightclub? No. Is it a bar? Not really. A cocktail lounge? A theater? Well, sort of.

Galaxy themselves have struggled to define it. They’ve variously referred to China Rouge as a “forbidden chamber for the elite”, “part performance lounge and part ultraexclusive by-invitation-only private members club”, or even simply “for those with discerning tastes for the finer things in life”. Finally, they settled on a slogan, “beyond black and white”, which we are told means “an experience of extremes through a series of forbidden chambers, an exciting journey where art comes to life.”

The bar in the showroom

The bar in the showroom

Rather than trying to define it, allow me to describe it. The entrance to China Rouge is tucked away in a discreet, little-used corner of the main lobby with quick access to the outdoors without walking through the casino floor – perfect for A-listers wanting to shun the limelight and quickly jump into their limos. Guests enter through a grand entrance, are greeted by elegant hostesses, and then proceed from one chamber to the next, a seemingly endless cavalcade of exotic room after exotic room, each beautifully proportioned and dripping with opulence, art and exquisite things.

Everything is supremely designed in a way that is classy but not overstated. The common themes throughout the venue are the color red, the influence of the feminine and an unmistakable feeling that you are simply somewhere special. There are two main spaces at China Rouge: the lounge and the showroom. But wherever you look there are nooks and crannies, entrances and hallways, each with the promise of an even more exclusive VVIP area or perhaps some secret hidden treasure beyond. No doubt there are private rooms tucked away that even now are yet to be revealed.

The lounge is perfect for an intimate drink and good conversation, and the showroom is the place to enjoy the world-class entertainment on offer, which ranges from cabaret singers to unplugged performances to hotter-than-hot DJs. The showroom is simply perfect for any form of entertainment. If it’s world-class and is deemed suitable for a sophisticated audience, it can be at China Rouge. The showroom’s main floor has both private tables and standing areas, and there is also an uber-private mezzanine floor, with luxurious personal boxes vaguely reminiscent of the boxes reserved for the social elite in the grand theaters of centuries past. An eighteenth century French aristocrat would not be out of place here. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were secret passages leading to these boxes somewhere!

The design

Multi-award winning Hong Kong product and interior designer Mr Alan Chan was the man behind China Rouge’s design. His Japanese interior design partner was Mr Ryu Kosaka (Kosaka-san), Creative Director of Aoyama Nomura Design. Mr Chan is amongst Asia’s most celebrated designers and brand consultants. Over the past 40 years, his Hong Kong based studio has collected more than 600 local and international awards and his portfolio includes influential brands such as Coca Cola China, Fendi, the Four Seasons hotel, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Salvatore Ferragamo and Seiko.

Mr Chan says it took him an entire year to create China Rouge. “I decided to take the art deco style of 1930s Shanghai as the main theme,” he explained. “Not only because of my personal preference, but also because the artistic style of that era is vivid – making strong visual statements, with beautiful details and colors. That period in China had a profound impact on designs that followed across Asia.”

During this golden period Shanghai was referred to as the “Paris of the East”, and was the economic and cultural capital of Asia. The rich, famous and powerful lived fabulous lives and the women were beautiful and alluring.

“Women in 1930s Shanghai were impressive to look at. In their honor, the China Rouge interior design contains many feminine elements that make the whole concept more attractive. The club takes its name from females of that time, as the color red relates to women.”

Mr Chan also lists Paris’ famous cabarets where artists, philosophers and aristocrats partied the night away as another inspiration, as well as the Russian-born French painter and designer Romain de Tirtoff, better known as Erté, whose creations are iconic of the 1930s art deco movement.

“It has been an amazing project to work on, and I must applaud the determination of Galaxy Macau to create something truly exceptional. As a designer, it has also been a joy to be able to indulge my imagination and push my boundaries of creativity. I believe China Rouge has exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

The service

Macau has a reputation for amazing hardware in the form of stupendous architecture and the awe-inspiring scale and infrastructure concomitant with being by far the number one gaming venue in the world. Macau’s reputation for her software in terms of human resources and a service mentality is far less stellar. This is due in part to the incredible speed at which Macau has grown, and in part to the current labor policy of focusing on hiring locals. While this sees Macau with a mere two percent unemployment rate (amongst the lowest in the world), it has left employers obliged to hire any Macau local with a confirmed heartbeat. It has been a real challenge for the big properties to engender a service culture in their staff, and it’s a challenge that quite frankly I think Galaxy has met better than her competitors.

The lounge at China Rouge

The lounge at China Rouge

The task of creating this service culture at China Rouge has fallen upon Executive Manager Mr Noel Furrer, and judging from what I saw on the opening night he has done a fine job so far. Noel has been a seasoned campaigner in the hospitality, entertainment and club scenes in Geneva, London and Hong Kong, and now brings his experience and expertise to Macau. I remember him from the days when he was Events and Entertainment Manager at Hong Kong’s internationally renowned KEE private members’ club. Noel has been kind enough to keep me informed of China Rouge’s progress over the last year or so and is justifiably proud of his new baby. “During my career I have had the pleasure of working with some of the top VIP establishments in the region,” explained Noel. “I can honestly say that China Rouge is the most inspiring and impressive venue yet. China Rouge will quickly become the venue where members can see and be seen.”

The art and artifacts of China Rouge

The art of China Rouge is modern, yet classical. All the works in the club are new commissions, but recognize Chinese history, literature and culture. China Rouge designer Mr Alan Chan chose current leading artists including Buhua, Chen Man, Deng Xinli, Ling Jian and Zheng Lu to create the magnificent pieces to be seen around the club. Not to be outdone, he created some pieces himself.

The wide range of artistic expression includes paintings, photography and digital art, alongside works rendered in jade, bronze, lacquer, stained glass and mosaic.

One of the most striking pieces at China Rouge is “The East Sun is Red No. 2”, by Ling Jian. Ling evokes both the China of the past and the China of the present in this piece. He conveys the extreme temptations of money and power in the new China, embodied in a beautiful and provocative woman in a sexualized setting, yet still alluding to the conservative and restrained image of a communist female soldier.

Food and beverage

There is no doubt the highlight of China Rouge is the amazing design, ambience and surroundings, coupled with the fine company and entertainment that should be found at such a venue. It seems almost droll to mention the food and beverage on offer. The food will be inspired by Shanghai cuisine, but I doubt there will be much of it eaten as I suspect China Rouge will generally be an after-dinner venue. Beverages are of course a completely different matter, and plenty will undoubtedly be consumed! Naturally the best champagnes and top quality wines will be available, along with signature drinks and expertly mixed cocktails, not to mention all the premium spirits one would expect of a venue of this caliber.

The launch party

The launch party was very hotly anticipated in Macau, Hong Kong and throughout southern China. The venue was full to capacity but not uncomfortable, and everywhere you looked were celebrities and gaming industry identities – the rich, famous, powerful and/or beautiful. Guests included Galaxy Entertainment Group Vice-Chairman Mr Francis Lui, Managing Director of Shun Tak Holdings Limited Ms Pansy Ho, Chairman of Cheuk Nang (Holdings) Limited Mr Cecil Chao, President of the Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Ms Gigi Fu, China Rouge designer Mr Alan Chan and Hong Kong models Miss Rosemary Vandenbroucke and Miss Ann Ho.

The entertainment was top-class and varied, but mostly Asian-themed. The headline act was the talented Dutch diva Ms Laura Fygi, who has released 15 albums since going solo in 1991 and whose voice is as strong as ever.

From left to right: China Rouge Executive Manager Mr Noel Furrer, Galaxy Entertainment Group President and Chief Operating Officer Mr Michael Mecca, Galaxy Entertainment Group Vice-Chairman Mr Francis Lui, China Rouge designer Mr Alan Chan, Galaxy Entertainment Group Director of Human Resources and Administration Ms Eileen Lui, Galaxy Macau Senior Vice President Non-Gaming Operations Ms Gillian Murphy

From left to right: China Rouge Executive Manager Mr Noel Furrer, Galaxy Entertainment Group President and Chief Operating Officer Mr Michael Mecca, Galaxy Entertainment Group Vice-Chairman Mr Francis Lui, China Rouge designer Mr Alan Chan, Galaxy Entertainment Group Director of Human Resources and Administration Ms Eileen Lui, Galaxy Macau Senior Vice President Non-Gaming Operations Ms Gillian Murphy

Ms Fygi gave a stunning performance. It was a shame there was so much crowd noise at times, as many of the guests had not yet grasped the concept that the showroom was generally for performance and appropriately timed conversation, whilst the lounge was the best place for more intense discussion. But this was a relatively minor point and no doubt a function of the excitement of the occasion. On the whole the party was a fantastic affair. The ambience was simply perfect and I enjoyed both the performance experience in the showroom and the more intimate conversation to be had when retreating to the lounge.

The big question – how to get inside?

There is no doubt that China Rouge is exclusive – elitist even. At the press conference just hours before the launch party, Galaxy supremo Mr Francis Lui said, “We call China Rouge the forbidden chamber in part because of the exotic ambience we have created, and partly because, as a private members’ club, only the select few will be able to access the hidden world inside.” At the same press conference, Noel Furrer was asked what the entry criteria was, and when his answer was deemed unacceptable, the journalist retorted along the lines of, “So it’s not for everyone, then!”

What a silly statement. Of course it’s not for everyone. That’s precisely what a private members’ club is! There are plenty of places that any member of the public can go. China Rouge has made it very clear they want to know their guests before they enter, and only those befitting will get in. In short, you have to be someone or know someone to find yourself within the hallowed walls of China Rouge.

To be honest, entry should not be so hard to achieve. I can’t say for sure but I suspect if you’re a player with a decent playing history, simply ask your host, and you’ll get in. If you’re staying in one of the Galaxy hotels (Banyan Tree, Okura or Galaxy Hotel), and speak nicely to your concierge or perhaps call China Rouge, you’ll probably get in. I suspect it’s simply a matter of cultivating a friendship and getting to know the fine people down at China Rouge. There may be an announcement of some kind of formal membership policy at a later date, but for now I think it’s simply “by invitation only”. And I see nothing wrong with that.

For the foreseeable future China Rouge is going to be the place to be seen, the place where the big boys play. If you’re looking for a sumptuous night out in a wonderfully sophisticated and elegant setting, this is the place to be.