Travel: My Shanghai
Explore the increasingly sophisticated food and drink scene in this vibrant and cosmopolitan city at the mouth of the Yangtze river. Ian Dai shares his tips on the best restaurants and bars to visit
Ian Dai finds the hottest spots to eat and drink
WHENEVER I’VE VISITED hong Kong in the last few years, I’ve been to a French bistro called La Cabane. It offers top-quality cider, as well as wines from the Jura, the Loire and even natural wines from all over the world. such diverse choice was once the envy of wine lovers in shanghai like me – we thought restaurants like La Cabane could never take root in shanghai. But things have been changing fast during the last few years…
In 2018, a restaurant called Le Bec Boutique opened in shanghai, offering a huge choice of intriguing wines from around France. RAC, an all-day venue with a wine bar specialising in natural wines, soon followed.
Today you can find the whole wine world in shanghai: from classic Burgundy and grower Champagne to upcoming New World regions such as Tumbarumba in Australia. While the hong Kong wine market is still dominated by Bordeaux and Burgundy, shanghai is increasingly opening up to wines from Portugal, Georgia, Greece and elsewhere. It means that the diversity of the shanghai wine market is closing in on – if not already surpassing – that of hong Kong.
In addition to this, the BYO scene is thriving in shanghai. Many Chinese restaurants are amenable to guests wishing to bring their own bottle, only charging a small corkage fee, if any. (however, do note that western-style restaurants and top hotels don’t usually welcome BYO.) Even better, in order to offer more competitive dining prices, many restaurants – especially new-generation modern Chinese eateries – charge a reduced mark-up on their wines.
While Cantonese cuisine used to be the only Chinese player on the international fine-dining scene, the last three years have seen a variety of regional cuisines step into the limelight. shanghai is now a showcase for these colourful expressions of Chinese food.
Inspired by Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in California, Yu Zhi Lan (see right) has established a Michelin star-worthy reputation among connoisseurs with its boutique sichuan cuisine. Meanwhile, the renowned Xin Rong Ji is widely praised for its Taizhou cuisine from Zhejiang province.
While the entire wine world is settling in shanghai, the city has also quickly caught up with other international trends in fine dining, cocktails, craft beers and boutique cafés. speak Low, now one of Asia’s best cocktail bars, has pioneered premium cocktail culture in shanghai. Its inventive and well-crafted offerings are given a local twist – you can even order a selection of specially matched tapas to complete your experience. After a drink in the lounge, guests can choose to drink and dine on either the second or third floor, each with unique decor and its own wine list.
Craft beer is also taking shanghai by storm and you’ll find a range of locally brewed products alongside imported offerings, while coffee lovers will be spoiled for choice by the range on offer in the city’s increasingly popular boutique cafés.
Above: the distinctive Shanghai city skyline, with the Oriental Pearl TV Tower to the fore