Beverley Byrne is wowed by the buzz, the architecture and the food in China’s wealthiest city
Shanghai, China’s largest, most populated city, may be embracing global branding in fashion, design and food (yes, there are McDonalds and Michelin Stars) but do traces of the old colonial behemoth still exist?
First impressions are endless grey apartment blocks morphing into downtown skyscrapers. The recently opened W Shanghai – The Bund Hotel is one of them. A gleaming monolithic chopstick, the W overlooks the Huangpu River and the cloud hugger architecture of Pudong giving Shanghai its iconic, brand image skyline.
Inside, W clearly stands for Wow. Most rooms feature wall to wall windows showcasing blockbuster views, haute couture technology with playful interiors channelling Walt Disney and Andy Warhol. The W may appear to be one vast, fun filled pleasure palace but it takes food very seriously.
At YEN restaurant, Chef Kong Khai Meng elevates Cantonese cuisine, the most delicate and refined form of Chinese food, to another level. Admittedly, ‘Hokkaido Scallop, Fish Maw and Bone Cartilage Potage’ is more challenging to read than to eat but these stylish, minimalist dishes are about as far as you can get from the set menu at your local High Street Golden Wok.
New York is the inspiration for W’s ‘Kitchen Table’ bistro style restaurant offering designed-to-share favourites from sea food platters to cured in-house charcuterie. It’s also where breakfast is served. Every style of start the day cuisine can be found here from French patisseries to Noodle Soup with each station manned by a battalion of staff providing the freshest ingredients cooked, juiced or cut to order.
‘Liquid’ at YEN is a speakeasy style cocktail bar taking inspiration from Shanghai’s roaring twenties past. Low lights and pulsating DJ led dance music create a club atmosphere in WOOBAR where signature cocktails are served in whacky glasses shaped like birds or Chinese lanterns.
Calories are counteracted at the hotel’s indoor pool, FIT gym and AWAY Spa’s raft of deluxe treatments are designed to maintain the W’s mantra – ‘Detox, Retox and Repeat.’ At sunset, the WETDECK outdoor pool area magically metamorphoses into party central backlit by the Bladerunneresque neon fantasy which is Pudong by night.
Ten minutes from the W’s exuberant hipster embrace, is The Bund, Shanghai’s homage to its colonial past. A metro ride to the French Concession reveals more of Shanghai’s cosmopolitan contrasts. From chic coffee bars and up market restaurants to traditional tea houses and the ultimate in authentic Chinese fast food, Mushiki (bamboo steamer baskets) piled on pavements waiting to be delivered by bicycle or moped, Shanghai is still as intricate as a willow pattern plate.
In 2016 Michelin awarded coveted Stars to Shanghai restaurants for the first time.
The most recent addition to the Michelin constellation is Two Star Yongfoo Elite. Set in a graceful former diplomatic manor house this traditional private dining club offers immaculate gourmet cuisine.
T’ang Court at the Langham Shanghai Hotel is the city’s only Three Michelin Starred restaurant. Executive chef Justin Tan has created an authentic yet complex Cantonese menu served with Chinese wines in a contemporary setting.