China: Where to Eat, Drink, and be Merry in Shanghai

  • Alfresco dining on the terrace at New Heights, a bar-cum-restaurant perched above Shanghai’s Bund riverfront.

    Alfresco dining on the terrace at New Heights, a bar-cum-restaurant perched above Shanghai’s Bund riverfront.

  • A lounge area at chef Paul Pairet’s riverfront Mr & Mrs Bund, where classic and fanciful French fare go hand in hand.

    A lounge area at chef Paul Pairet’s riverfront Mr & Mrs Bund, where classic and fanciful French fare go hand in hand.

  • Tapas at the Fat Olive, a sixth-floor restaurant overlooking central Shanghai.

    Tapas at the Fat Olive, a sixth-floor restaurant overlooking central Shanghai.

  • Alfresco dining at Fat Olive.

    Alfresco dining at Fat Olive.

  • Younik is a snappy Bund boutique dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming designers

    Younik is a snappy Bund boutique dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming designers

  • Looking out onto URBN hotel’s courtyard garden.

    Looking out onto URBN hotel’s courtyard garden.

  • Old shikumen houses reinvented as hip restaurants and bars in Xintiandi.

    Old shikumen houses reinvented as hip restaurants and bars in Xintiandi.

  • Annabel Lee stocks China-chic homewares and accessories.

    Annabel Lee stocks China-chic homewares and accessories.

  • Quirky art in the Park Hyatt Shanghai’s presidential suite.

    Quirky art in the Park Hyatt Shanghai’s presidential suite.

  • Tuna mousse à la Paul Pairet, on the menu at Mr & Mrs Bund.

    Tuna mousse à la Paul Pairet, on the menu at Mr & Mrs Bund.

  • Chefs at work in the kitchen of Jean-Georges, one of four restaurants located at Three on the Bund.

    Chefs at work in the kitchen of Jean-Georges, one of four restaurants located at Three on the Bund.

  • Shanghainese dumplings star on the menu at the Hu Xin Ting teahouse.

    Shanghainese dumplings star on the menu at the Hu Xin Ting teahouse.

  • Preparing for high tea in the soaring lobby of Shanghai’s Peninsula hotel.

    Preparing for high tea in the soaring lobby of Shanghai’s Peninsula hotel.

  • A bird’s-eye view of Xintiandi.

    A bird’s-eye view of Xintiandi.

  • A table for two at the Peninsula Shanghai.

    A table for two at the Peninsula Shanghai.

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The kitchen at Yongfoo Elite (200 Yongfu Lu; 86-21/5466-2727) also prepares popular Shanghai dishes, including a superb rendition of “beggar’s chicken”—a whole bird stuffed with onions, ginger, black mushrooms, and pickled cabbage before being wrapped in lotus leaves, packed with clay, and baked in a low oven. Still, most people come here for the fancy Cantonese fare (abalone and bird’s nest make regular appearances), not to mention the decor. Occupying a 1930s building on the leafy grounds of the former British consulate, the place is crammed with vintage furnishings and old-Shanghai memorabilia.

Some of the city’s best international dining can be found along the Bund, where meals invariably come with jaw-dropping views of the Huangpu River. The newest restaurant on the strip, Mr & Mrs Bund (6/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yilu; 86-21/6323-9898), calls the old Macquarie Bank building home. The menu, by French chef Paul Pairet, bounces between such whimsical dishes as jumbo tiger prawns steamed in jars with lemongrass and vanilla, and classic Gallic fare like boeuf bourguignon, all brought to your table by trendy, sneaker-shod waiters. Farther south, another French eatery, Jean-Georges (4/F, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yilu; 86-21/6323-3355), is one of four restaurants and bars inside Three on the Bund, a ritzy redux of a 1916 building that also houses a Giorgio Armani flagship store. Work up an appetite ogling contemporary paintings and sculptures in the Shanghai Gallery of Art before moving up a floor to Jean-Georges’s sexy, low-lit dining room, replete with darkwood floors and sofas clad with eel and elephant skin. Brunch here on the weekend is extremely popular.

Just off the southern end of the promenade is the newest outlet of Yunnanese restaurant Lost Heaven (17 Yanan Donglu; 86-21/ 6330-0967). While the dining room lacks the intimacy of its sister establishment in Xintiandi, it’s beautifully designed with antiques from Tibet and Yunnan. The jizong (wild mushrooms) stir-fried with shrimp and preserved pearl onions is not to be missed.

The bland beer gardens and chain restaurants that once characterized the much ballyhooed Xintiandi neighborhood are being replaced by smart eateries like Pavillon by Costes Paris (17, Lane 181, Taicang Lu; 86-21/5306-9988), a lavish Chinoiserie affair serving wallet-busting French cuisine. Nearby, the Shanghai Tang Café (2/F, 333 Huangpi Nanlu; 86-21/ 6377-3333) is styled in the same colors—lime green, orange, lipstick pink—that the brand’s clothing and accessories are known for. Hong Kong chef Jereme Leung’s menu is just as vivid, dominated by fusiony plates like foie gras with hawthorn jelly and sorbet, or crispy prawns with wasabi mayo and pomegranate. End your meal with a cocktail in the upstairs bar: the Shanghai-tini, muddling two different Chinese wines with vodka and melon liquor, is not for the faint-hearted.

A few blocks east, Australian chef/restaurateur David Laris’ The Fat Olive (6/F, Silver Court Building, 228 Xizhang Nanlu; 86-21/6334-3288) may not have water views, but it does impress with its skyscraper-studded outlook toward the Bund. It’s especially pleasant in the warmer months, when gourmet sandwiches and tapas can be enjoyed on the large, sofa-strewn patio.

Another acclaimed chef is behind Restaurant Martín (811 Hengshan Lu; 86-21/6431-6639) in the historic 1921 La Villa Rouge, a handsome red-brick mansion inside Xujiahui Park. For his first venture outside his native Basque Country, three-star Michelin chef Martín Berasategui has developed a menu that ranges from downhome Spanish dishes like suckling pig and paella to au courant recipes: peach gazpacho with seawater jelly, anyone?

Another historic building in the north Bund district of Hongkou, 1933—an abattoir-turned-arts hub—is home to the Factory (Bldg. 4, 29 Shajing Lu), a creative complex that includes design workshops, an art gallery, a recording studio, and a restaurant serving California comfort food with an Asian twist. The brainchild of New York music producer Sean Dinsmore and digital media agency Profero, it’s a unique spot to engage with Chinese creative types over coffee or cocktails.

Where to Shop

From Communist-era tchotchkes to designer boutiques, Shanghai deserves its reputation as the shopping capital of China. Mega-malls across the city burst with outlets from big-name international brands, but it would be a shame to overlook local labels like Urban Tribe (133 Fuxing Xilu; 86-21/6433-5366), notable for its cashmere-quilted coats and scarves inspired by designs from Myanmar, India, and China’s own hinterlands. There’s a small branch in Tianzifang—an artsy French Concession enclave of narrow, cobbled lanes—in addition to the flagship store in Fuxing Lu, where tea tastings are held in a covered courtyard. Also in Tianzifang, Nest (2/F, International Artists Factory, Lane 210; 86-21/6466-9524) sells lovely eco-chic homewares and accessories from a handful of local and international designers. Pick up everything from hand-sewn felt purses to colorful lacquered bowls and fun kids’ clothing.

Around the corner from Urban Tribe is Madame Mao’s Dowry (207 Fumin Lu; 86-21/5403-3551), two floors of Mao memorabilia including propaganda posters and statuettes of the Great Helmsman. Stroll past lovely old Modernist mansions, Art Deco apartment buildings, and nameless alleys until you reach Shanghai Trio (No. 6, 37 Fuxing Xilu; 86-21/6433-8901), a French-owned boutique popular for its mod-Chinese craftwork, from stylish totes to table accessories, scarves, and clothing cut from organic material like bamboo fiber and yak down. Also in the French Concession, Parisian native Florence Samson opened Song Fang Maison de Thé (227 Yongjia Lu; 86-21/ 6433-8283) to house her ever-expanding collection of Chinese and French teas. Today her store stocks more than 60 infusions, including exquisite blends like ginseng-oolong, all nicely packaged in quirky, retro tins.

Shanghai Trio’s latest collection is also on display at Younik (2/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yilu; 86-21/6323-8688), a shopping mecca for high-end fashion junkies on the market for exclusive pieces from up-and-coming Chinese and international designers. In a similar vein, Annabel Lee sells beautiful silks, jade-accented purses, and hand-embroidered qipaos. There’s a newly renovated boutique in Xintiandi (3, Lane 181, Taicang Lu; 86-21/6320-0045), but it’s worth visiting the sleek, all-white flagship store on the Bund (Lane 8, Zhongshan Dong Yilu; 86-21/6445-8218), if only for its design-driven displays.

Art collectors will want to make a beeline for the 50 Moganshan Lu district, a jumble of warehouses converted into galleries near Suzhou Creek. Some 120 galleries call the precinct home, including Art Scene Warehouse (2/F, Bldg. 4; 86-21/ 6277-4940), an 1,800-square-meter space showcasing avant-garde Chinese paintings, sculpture, and photography, and ShanghART (Bldg. 16; 86-21/6359-3923), another huge space filled with artworks critiquing Chinese consumerism.

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