Offering a huge selection of wine and Champagne by the glass (from 85RMB for a glass of Chardonnay and 120RMB for a glass of Prosecco), the Garden Terrace at The PuLi hotel in Jingan is the perfect spot to lounge on a daybed and sup on a drink in the sun. Only opening in the warmer weather, the terrace overlooks a very zen garden and water feature. It’s so relaxing that you almost feel you’ve left Shanghai. Beer starts at 60RMB for an Asahi and cocktails are priced from 120RMB for a Classic Martini. You can also pick up a snack while you’re there, including some delicious Iberico ham croquettes (70RMB) and the light and fresh tuna and avocado toast with black sesame (90RMB). Oysters, start from 35RMB/piece. It’s not cheap, but you’ll feel completely transported away from the hustle and bustle of the city below.
Al fresco spots in the former French Concession are usually seized on immediately, but this small café and bar still manages to evade the crowds that swarm over nearby Anfu Lu and Ferguson Lane. It’s an unpretentious, friendly place with a charming little courtyard out front that’s bathed in sunshine from midday onwards, but also provides some leafy shaded areas. The food menu features tasty bagels (smoked salmon, 55RMB) as well as a range of German-influenced dishes. Beers start from 35RMB, cocktails are 40-65RMB and wine starts at 45RMB/glass. In the summer, they also offer sangria and schorle, a German wine spritzer, featuring fruit juice or soda water (45RMB).
This beautifully-designed lifestyle hub has everything from a kindergarten to yoga rooms and a range of health and mental wellbeing classes running throughout the week. But we come for the booze. Hidden inside the complex is a fantastic courtyard that's perfect for an early evening drink as the sun comes down and the strings of lights overhead are turned on to bathe the space in their glow. Every day from 6-9pm cocktails - classics such as a 78RMB Negroni and originals such as 105RMB Euphoric Flip with dark rum, apple juice, stout reduction and 'euphoric' bitters - are buy-one-get-one-free, and there's a great roof terrace to check out as well. Both are rarely troubled by more than a handful of drinkers.
The yellow villa complex which sits opposite the Shanghai Conservatory of Music looks like one of the numerous former French Concession estates that are now solely the domain of the government. But despite the frosty exterior and the imposing gateway, the buildings actually house the Fenyang Garden Hotel.
Inside the hotel itself, there’s the requisite over-priced Shanghainese restaurant, but a small gap in the wall a little way south of the main gate reveals a weekend-only café spot (look for the blackboard with the words ‘garden afternoon tea’ scrawled on it). The advertised afternoon tea set (from 108RMB/person) is a fairly average offering and the limited range of drinks available are on the expensive side (48RMB for a small Tsingtao for example), but in return you get to sit out on the small terrace at the back of the café, which opens out onto a glorious lawn stretching all the way back to the hotel proper and is one of the best-kept green spaces in the area. There are only a couple of tables, but it’s such a tucked away spot that you’re unlikely to have to compete for space.
Another venue, similar to Cozy, that’s within striking distance of Anfu Lu but is tucked away from view enough to avoid being overrun, Garden Restaurant is a smart Italian joint in the former iiiiit! space inside the The Summit housing complex on Wulumuqi Lu. The casual restaurant opens out onto a pleasant decking area, which itself is juxtaposed with a small grass area, separated from the busy roads by high hedgerows. Serving a range of tipples and even offering occasional live piano and violin performances, this spot is a highly refined al fresco choice.
Lotus Eatery’s second branch on Dingxi Lu offers largely the same great value menu of delicious Yunnan food that has made its original restaurant, nearby on Yangzhai Lu, such a popular dining spot. But what makes this space different is the addition of a pleasant second floor terrace overlooking the street below. The courtyard-like space is lined with plants and topped by sun shades, and while Lotus Eatery is more a restaurant than a bar, ordering a few dishes such as the deeply satisfying grandma’s mashed potatoes (18RMB) or virgin chicken with diced chilli (32RMB) to go with your cheap Tsingtaos is no bad thing at all.
You have to get up pretty early to snag an outdoor seat on Ferguson Lane on a sunny weekend, yet just around the corner, this lanehouse-set venue remains relatively untroubled by crowds.
While the ground floor patio and decking area feature a handful of tables surrounded by greenery and overhead parasols, the real prize is the one table, two-seat balcony on the second floor, which makes for a romantic, private spot to spend an afternoon or evening.
The second floor is also where you’ll want to order from – although the French restaurant on the ground floor offers somewhat average and overpriced food, the upstairs bar serves cocktails with typical Japanese precision. The fresh fruit and Champagne cocktails (80RMB) are particular stand outs, and provide an ideal summery blend of flavours and easy refreshment.
Mardi Gras 372 Xingguo Lu, near Taian Lu. See full address details
For the most part, Warehouse Cafe is the ground floor hangout for hip Chinese designers from the warehouse-cum-office space Anken Green next door. Located beside a recently renovated section of Suzhou Creek, this small day cafe – with space for half a dozen tables outside – is shaded by bamboo trees, awnings and a rosemary bush, making for a secluded retreat with an eco vibe.
It’s an unsung quiet beer stop (Tsingtaos are 15RMB) or lunch destination that mainly services locals. Coffee is cheap (12RMB for an Americano) and the food’s good value – specials such as the roast pumpkin spaghetti (28RMB) and a healthy breakfast (42RMB) with granola, fruit salad, juice and coffee hit the spot. Though it’s only available for private functions, Anken’s roof space is also worth a look.
The slightly drab exterior on the corner of Xiangyang and Julu Lus doesn’t exactly scream sunshine drinking, but tucked away out the back of Kartel is a huge terrace with a host of seats overlooking the former French Concession. The hidden location means that it’s generally pretty easy to grab a spot, even on days when the weather would normally work against you. Most drinks range from 30RMB-230RMB, but there are even cheaper options including 25RMB for a small bottle of Tsingtao beer, making it a reasonably cheap place to drink too. Head here on Sundays for free flow mussels, French fries and beers for 200RMB per person from 7-10.30pm.