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The best new menus and restaurants right now in Shanghai

New vibes for some of our old faves and a couple openings worth a trip to the sleepy South Bund

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Heritage by Madison)
Spring's always a time for new beginnings. And now that we're inching our way into summer, a glut of new restaurants across the city are hitting their stride. Here are the best places we've eaten this season, including new vibes for some of our old faves (if you didn't make it to lush Tianzifang hideout Botanik last summer, now's your chance) and a couple new openings worth a trip to the sleepy South Bund.

Dao Jiang Hu

In the endless Shanghai saga of restaurants bopping from one home to another, modern Chinese concept by Betty Ng (Ginger), Dao Jiang Hu, found a new spot on Taian Lu after its former short-lived digs on Donghu Lu shuttered this year. The lanehouse dining room glows warmly as soft light from paper lanterns reflects off the pink walls while servers in chequered qipao and cloth Mary Janes carry platters of succulent dongpo rou (braised pork belly), Yunnan black truffle chicken and spicy Hunan-style steamed fish laden with fermented chilli.

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50 Taian Lu

Polux

Critics' pick

Polux is the latest venture from Paul Pairet. A household name in the world of Shanghai food and drink, Pairet’s behind two of the most internationally recognised restaurants in the city: upscale brasserie Mr and Mrs Bund and immersive, multi-sensory experience Ultraviolet where its ten nightly seats sell from upwards of 4,000RMB per place. Polux is Pairet gone casual, an ode to his love of the French café.

There are all the trappings of a French café – your croque monsieurs and madames, onion soup, steak tartare – but with levelled-up flavours and some modern-day classics in the mix: an avocado toast, a club sandwich, a burger. You’ll find Mr and Mrs Bund staples, like the excellent Eggs Mimosa (devilled eggs with tuna-whipped mayo and pickled anchovy), rejigged for more casual digs.

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No 5, 181 Taicang Lu

Heritage by Madison

If anyone can draw people to the South Bund, it’s Austin Hu. The hype started almost a decade back at his first Shanghai restaurant Madison, with its booked-out brunch nearly every weekend, and has followed him ever since. Hu’s ‘go big or go home’ cooking has always gravitated towards comfort food – tater tot nachos (Union Trading Company), Ferrero Rocher pancakes (Diner, Hu’s since split), meatball subs (Madison Kitchen, RIP) – and Heritage by Madison makes it personal, drawing on the flavours of his childhood which was spent across Shanghai, Japan and the US for a menu of refined small plates.

Addictive salted duck yolk lotus root chips, smoked Xinjiang almonds and lovely puffs of golden rye mantou with a swipe of bright edamame hummus make for smart snacks before dishes like a velvety tea-smoked chicken supreme, charred octopus with four variations of kimchi or melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with shatteringly crisp skin.

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600 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu

Jin Hua

Critics' pick

Named for the term used in Yunnan to describe exceptional women, Jin Hua (‘golden flower’) turns out unpretentious takes on the province’s cuisine in a space that crosses Yunnan’s tropical dreamland vibes with a womxn philosophical outlook. Tasselled lamps hang over the tables, long sprays of ivy drape from the ceiling and a wall of ageing photographs and posters plastered with images of female icons of yore. And yes, the slide is still there.

The menu largely traverses classic Yunnan fare, heavy on the wild mushrooms and spicy-sour notes. In line with its ethos, vegetarian and vegan options appear in abundance or are clearly marked where swaps are possible.

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408 Shaanxi Bei Lu

Botanik

Botanik is back. After a long winter hiatus, the rooftop garden restaurant in Tianzifang has refreshed itself for the 2019 season. Edible greenery sprouts forward from every available nook and cranny – sprigs of lemon balm and mint brushing up against your elbows during dinner. Led by Aussie chef Elijah Holland, the team turns out 12-course tasting menus, driven by local and foraged ingredients. Weekends only and reservations a must.

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No 301 Lane 169, Jianguo Zhong Lu

Bun Cha Cha

Pho and Banh Mi have long been the poster children for Vietnamese food around the world, and in Shanghai, it’s been no different. Menus might flirt with lesser-known characters but those two always take the feature roles. Now, a basement-level eatery in Lippo Plaza is shifting the spotlight – it's Danyi Gao’s love letter to classic Vietnamese grilled pork and noodle dish bun cha.

The dish (58RMB) takes front and centre on the menu by Gao (partner and chef behind funk and soul supper club Shake), and rightfully so. Piles of vermicelli noodles, mountains of green (basil, coriander, mint, perilla leaves, romaine lettuce) and juicy, grilled pork belly and meatballs – all to be dipped in bowls of fish sauce – arrive in abundance and feel like the next best thing to a flight to Hanoi.

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222 Huaihai Zhong LuOnline booking

Egg

There’s fresh blood in the kitchen at the small-but-mighty Xiangyang Bei Lu café. Egg has trundled along quite blithely with its avocado toast and coconut cold brew, but owner Camden Hauge has brought in Jamie Pea to head up the café’s kitchen. First order of business? A refresh of the menu.

The ethos remains the same with local ingredients at the fore, but with reinvigorated spirit. The menu changes regularly, featuring items like taro hash browns, egg and cheddar on a sesame-scallion shaobing and avocado toast (of course) brightened up with peas and mint.

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12 Xiangyang Bei Lu

Waterhouse Restaurant and Rooftop

The road has been rocky recently at the ground floor of The Waterhouse. Last year, the boutique hotel on the sleepy South Bund waterfront opened contemporary French concept Oxalis to replace Table No 1. Oxalis lasted just short of a year before closing abruptly this winter, and now from its ashes comes Waterhouse Restaurant and Rooftop.

Pol Garcia (La Marjula, formerly El Patio) has designed a menu loosely themed around the Mediterranean, leaning heavily on Spanish and Italian influences – beetroot gnocchi dressed with black pudding sauce, pine nuts and bacon; Iberico ham croquettes; pistachio hummus with smoked aubergine. It’s a kitchen-only changeup, with few to no tweaks to the space’s polished industrial aesthetic, the lovely courtyard setting or the rooftop’s stunning views up The Bund.

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1-3 Maojiayuan Lu

Shinpaku

Shinpaku has filled the hole left by UNICO and The Chop Chop Club’s quick exit last summer from Three on the Bund’s second floor. Accented with a handful of paper lanterns, the contemporary Japanese restaurant’s look is clean, minimalist and almost sparse – a neutral background for fresh cuts of sashimi, unagi grilled in-house and deep-fried tuna belly sushi rolls.

Sake’s the name of the drinks game, with a roster of 100-plus bottles and a selection of charming glasses to choose from. Views from the main dining room stretch out over the Huangpu to Pudong’s skyscrapers and if you’re not whipping out your phone for that, it’ll be for the kitchen’s clutch of playful dishes: a deliciously smoky clam that arrives with flames still licking at the shell or an artful slice of honeydew melon topped with cream cheese frosting and sake jelly at the meal’s end.

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3 Zhongshan Dong Yi LuOnline booking

Da Vittorio Shanghai

With a history stretching over 50 years and its original three-Michelin-starred location nestled in the Bergamo foothills outside of Milan, the much-lauded, high-end Italian restaurant has landed in swanky new digs in the now-bustling Bund Finance Center. It may not boast the lush countryside environs, but the food here by the Cerea brothers is just as luxurious: rich, umami-packed paccheri all Vittorio that’s a pomodoro of a higher calling, the caviar-laden ‘egg “a la Egg”’ and melt-in-your-mouth slices of roasted wagyu bone-in ribeye.

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600 Zhongshan Dong Er LuOnline booking

Peking Inn

Sure you can get shuijiao or Peking duck, but for the most part Shanghai is a wasteland for Beijing (and even Dongbei) cuisine. Set in Jiashan Market, Peking Inn is bringing a bit of Beijing to Shanghai in the guise of the capital’s comfort food, chunbing. Usually, a superlatively low-key affair (a selection of home-style, stir-fried dishes and meats that you wrap into pancakes), Peking Inn has gussied up the chunbing experience with fancy cocktails, neon lighting and a very lovely terrace for a, dare we say it, welcome break from slurping soup dumplings.

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Line 259 Jiashan Lu
Online booking
Cages

Cages

The Jingan sports centre and bar has always been good for grubbing (its monthly Chicago-style deep-dish pizza night, for one), but Jason Oakley’s weekly Thursday night barbecue menu is next level. Launched earlier this year, the menu starts from 5pm with a whole slew of six excellent meats, four sauces and classic barbecue sides. Stuff yourself with platters of smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and dry rub chicken or go all in with a full rack of pork ribs and wash it down with corn bread and a slice of pecan pie.

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