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

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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

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