So many restaurants use the term ‘Asian-fusion’ in Shanghai that it’s almost become drained of meaning. While in some instances it results in a genuine melding of local and international methods and ingredients, all too often it merely manifests in the addition of Sichuan peppercorns to a meat dish.
Lady Bund, on the fourth floor of Bund 22, lays its fusion cards on the table early. The large dining area and bar features an elegant mix of Western and traditional Chinese design elements courtesy of French architect Thomas Dariel. Most of Dariel’s touches work beautifully, such as a shrine of calligraphy brushes adorning one bar-side wall, though there are a couple of misses, such as the large figures circling the windows that detract from the gorgeous views.
A central bar serves up cocktails such as the pricey Marriage (108RMB), a small teacup of Havana rum, Hakushu whisky, Amaretto, Campari and orange bitters. The Spicy Lady on the Bund 22 (108RMB) is a tart mix of Glenmorangie, lemon, cucumber, honey and Tabasco, but the promised spice is largely absent.
The food menu, in line with the decor, attempts to marry East and West, with a predictable use of Sichuan spice – the Pigeon Breast (112RMB) comes with a Sichuan pepper foam; a Poached Chicken (98RMB) with a Sichuan pepper sauce.
More impressive is the Tomato; Tomato; Tomato (88RMB), a starter that recently saw Chef Zhu Wenyuan chosen to represent China at the San Pellegrino Young Chef of 2015 finals in Milan. The beautifully plated dish is light and fresh, and demonstrates the versatility of the fruit in three parts: a savoury sorbet, a delicate jelly and a juicy plum tomato with mozzarella.
Another creative offering is the Lady Foie Gras (148RMB), which attempts to cohesively plate chocolate-dusted foie gras with smoked pineapple, Champagne jelly and hawthorn sorbet, plus a few stray pieces of popcorn. Somewhere between a liver parfait and a chocolate mousse, it’s an interesting, but not entirely successful collision of flavours.
The mains are similarly ambitious, but sadly don’t warrant their price tags. The Lamb Loin (288RMB) includes two perfectly tender cutlets, but is accompanied by an overabundance of mint and an intensely garlic puree, both of which detract from the meat. The Hainan Chicken Rice (288RMB, pictured) is an intriguing deconstruction of the Chinese classic, with a slice of juicy Wenchang chicken breast on a bed of mushrooms beside a ball of sticky rice. It’s a flavoursome dish, but charging 288RMB for rice and chicken is harder to stomach.
Chef Zhu could well be one to watch, but his dishes need to be honed if Lady Bund is going to draw enough diners to regularly fill the large dining room at this location.