While Shanghai’s thirst for new wine bars shows no signs of being sated, thankfully this appetite seems to be for variety as well as just copious amounts of plonk. Bustling, fun places such as Dr Wine on Fumin Lu have great atmospheres thanks to quirky decor and healthy crowds despite being fairly standard wine bars under the surface, while the two branches of Burdigala keep things Bordeaux-only, genuinely offering something different to the likes of, say, the slightly dull Wine Plus Enoteca on Wulumuqi Lu.
Like Wine Plus Enoteca, which upon opening last year featured flashy wine brand displays that looked like they were nicked from airport duty-free shops, the owners of new Anfu Lu wine bar Sideway see their venue as sitting on the classier end of the local wine bar spectrum. In this they succeed with far greater aplomb than their aforementioned rival – the two-tier bar/restaurant, with its deep grey walls and furniture, stays well on the right side of both flash and high-end.
Reservations are normally needed, giving a slight edge of exclusivity and ensuring that most customers happily nibble from the impressive (and expensive) ‘small bites’ menu. Baked snails go for 49RMB, a mixed meat plate is 169RMB, while the smoked salmon, ikura and scallop dish (79RMB) is one of the lowest-priced options but still feels cheekily decadent.
There is a limited selection of main courses including duck confit (119RMB) and pricier specials, all prepared in an open kitchen. But the main event is the wine. Highlights include a dark Bodega Sottano Clasico Malbec from Argentina (49RMB/glass) that serves as a house option, while the international wine list is impressive for a bar this small. As well as further Argentinian options, the pricer tipples include the Spanish Elias Mora Reserva (1,389RMB/bottle), the Chocalan Blend Reserva from Chile (329RMB/bottle) and plenty of French wines including the Chateau La Tour de Beraud Blanc from France’s Rhone valley (209RMB/bottle), all with simple descriptions clearly marked on the menu.
Service is among the best we’ve experienced in Shanghai – the staff are immaculately turned out in swish European-style uniforms, and are subtly attentive and quick. The smooth, relaxed atmosphere tops off one of the former French Concession’s more classy evening experiences, albeit one you’ll pay handsomely for if you nibble anything more substantial than a few starter morsels. More of a ‘treat’ bar than a regular slurping haunt – but one of the most enjoyable treats we’ve allowed ourselves for a while.