Moomin Cafe: Anti-loneliness dining comes to Hong Kong

Laura Ma, for CNNPublished 5th December 2014
(CNN) — No need to worry about dinner conversation in this cafe, your meal buddy may not be able to speak -- or move, or eat.
Hong Kong's latest eatery, the Moomin Cafe, features Nordic cuisine and a host of stuffed dining companions to help banish the loneliness of solo diners.
It's the first overseas venture for a concept that's already proved a hit in Japan.
The Moomin Cafes are inspired by popular Finnish stories that depict the whimsical adventures of a family of white hippo-like characters and their friends.
The Moomins was first published in 1945 in Finland but came to global attention after the creation of several television series, the most popular in the 1990s.
Tokyo's first Moomin Cafe opened in Tokyo in 2003. Since then, three more have opened and six Moomin-themed coffee stands.
The timing of the Hong Kong cafe's opening could not be better -- this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Moomin creator, Tove Jansson (1914-2001).
Japan's original Moomin Cafe has been operating for over a decade, but its popularity only exploded earlier this year after its "anti-loneliness" concept went viral.
Plush creatures
To save its lone customers from the awkward perils 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 came up with the cafe concept.
But Hong Kong's single diners may have to fight for an adorable meal buddy.
"Unlike Japan's anti-lonliness 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 says the Hong Kong location will have three additional characters not featured in the Japanese outlets: Hattifatteners, Little My and Snufkin.
Bringing Finland to Hong Kong
Though originating in Japan, the Hong Kong cafe tries to reflect Finnish lifestyle and cuisine.
The Tsim Tsa Tsui venue is designed to look like a tradition 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 serves Finnish traditional bread called Piirakka and Scandinavian salad with pickled herring, as well as a Nordic dish of salmon with goat cheese and basil.
Moomin House Pancakes is only available in Hong Kong's Moomin Cafe.
Exclusive only in this cafe
The Hong Kong restaurant features dishes not available in Japan, such as Moomin House Pancakes -- an impressive stack drizzled with cream and accompanied by a three-story ceramic Moomin house containing custard pudding, chocolate mousse and mango jelly.
Sadly, you don't get to take the Moomin house home,but diners ordering the Souvenir Mango Cup Pudding are allowed to keep the mug used to serve the dessert.
In addition to the Moomin pancake house, coffee mugs and Moomin-shaped pasta are available at the souvenir store.
Moomin Cafe Harbour City, LCX, Ocean Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong; +852 2730 0963; open daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
A separate pop-up store will open until January 4, 2015.
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