Snack on Xiaolong bao, Champagne brunches, streetfood and fine dining. The best food & drink, restaurants, bars and cocktails in Shanghai as part of our full list of the 50 things to do in Shanghai
Indulge in a Champagne brunch
From high-kitsch entertainment at The Westin to jaw-dropping views at Hyatt on the Bund’s VUE, you could spend months doing the rounds of the city’s Champagne brunches. But if you’re going to splurge on just one, the big daddy of them all is the Waldorf Astoria’s: though priced at an eye-watering 888RMB (plus 15 per cent service charge), it’s a worthy blow-out. Billed as a ‘brunch journey’, the action kicks off under the whirring ceiling fans of the atmospheric Long Bar, with freshly-shucked oysters, sashimi on silver cake-stands and properly chilled free-flow Veuve Cliquot.
Make sure to get there at 11am on the dot to maximise your shellfish guzzling, because at 1pm you’re moved downstairs to the Grand Brasserie for round two. Unlike most other brunches, where you wander around the various ‘stations’ in a greedy stupor, loading up your plate with a bizarre mish-mash of profiteroles, pizza and pork chops, here you get slick table service and a streamlined choice of three a la carte dishes (options include eggs Benedict, Boston lobster and buttermilk pancakes), though if you’re still hungry there are seafood and dessert bars, too. As you’d expect, the bubbly keeps flowing throughout and you can also supplement it with wine, fresh juices, coffee and tea.
Learn to cook a Shanghainese dish
Teaching everything from hongshao rou to shengjian, there are a number of cookery schools in the city where you can learn to cook the local cuisine. A couple of our favourites are The Kitchen at Cooking Studio and the Chinese Cooking Workshop, both of whom offer a variety of courses featuring Shanghainese dishes.
If all those sauces and sweet-tasting dishes aren’t your thing, they also offer lessons on other Chinese cuisines and some Western options too. See the city’s other best cookery lessons (including from some of the city’s top chefs).
Eat Xiaolong xia on Shouning Lu
Given the sometimes questionable hygiene standards of some of its vendors, plus the slight air of chaos, it’s something of a wonder that Shouning Lu still survives in central Shanghai. But survive it does, and we’re grateful that authorities have so far left it largely untouched. It’s a lively, friendly place to don some plastic gloves and get stuck in to a cheap seafood supper. We recommend heading to Hanji Barbecue (number 31) or 57 Xiangla Dao (number 57), but really, anywhere that’s busy and will do you a deal on what you want to eat is worth taking the plunge with.
Snack on some xiaolong bao
Whether it’s the rainbow-coloured options at Shiweiguan (from 22RMB), the egg and pork at Shanghai mainstay Linlongfang (from 9RMB) or the relatively high-end productions at Din Tai Fung (from 29RMB), you can’t say you’ve done Shanghai until you’ve scoffed some xiaolong bao. See all these and more in our favourite dumplings in Shanghai.
Enjoy a ‘4D’ dining experience…
With 360 degree visuals, music for every course and a secretive location, Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet makes for a dramatic dinner. But the key thing is that it’s more than just a gimmick – the food on your plate is truly outstanding and the restaurant enjoys numerous repeat customers as testament to this. Of course, you’ll need a generous expense account or a bulging bank balance to be able to drop 3,000RMB for a set menu meal on a regular basis, but even if you do this just once, you’ll find it to be an unforgettable experience.
…or have a (relatively) cut-price dinner on The Bund
If you nearly dropped this magazine in shock at the price tag for a meal at UV, then we suggest you head to chef Pairet’s other restaurant Mr & Mrs Bund. and partake of their bargainous late night menu. Rock up after 10pm and you’ll be able to get a two-course dinner including a drink for just 200RMB. Not as cheap as some Xiao Yang’s shengjian bao dumplings of course, but in this location and for food as tasty as his incredible foie gras crumble, it’s an absolute steal.
Get a bite to eat at the Muslim market
The government caused widespread consternation when they disbanded the Friday Muslim market outside Huxi Mosque in spring last year, citing excessive smoke pollution from the chuan grills of barbecued lamb skewers. Since then the market on the northernmost stretch of Changde Lu has made a quiet return and while it may not have quite recovered its former glory, there’s still plenty here to make a visit worthwhile – both in terms of the food (a mouthwatering range of seasonal delicacies are available to pair with the delicious grilled lamb) and the people watching (perhaps Shanghai’s biggest regular gathering of Uyghur people). Get there around 11am to see the vendors set up and then take your time touring the various stalls.
Sip on a Shaoxing Cavalry at Yuan bar
The opening of Yuan bar at the end of 2012 was a major stride forward in Shanghai’s surging drinks scene. An experimental cocktail bar at the forefront of a new chapter in the city’s drinking culture Yuan nurtures a bright new wave of homegrown bartenders and is one of the first bars in town to successfully riff classics with Chinese ingredients to render cocktails that are actually drinkable.
One of the signatures here is the Shaoxing Cavalry. Essentially a reimagining of the Manhattan, Chivas 12 Scotch replaces bourbon and is tempered with wolfberry-infused Shaoxing rice wine (a stand-in for sweet vermouth), balanced with orange bitters and served in old-style Qing Dynasty pottery and tops the list of one of the most inventive, Sino-centric cocktail menus in town.
Vintage glassware and furniture are also Chinese. The idea is to evoke nostalgia for the 1970s and ’80s. Retro toys line the wall, bartenders wear grade-school uniforms, the bill is a school report.