The beautiful thing about living in Shanghai is that it continually provokes small revelations about oneself. Didn’t ever think of yourself as an impatient person? Join the DiDi Express queue on a rainy evening. Never imagined that you could survive the rush-hour metro crush of People’s Square? You’re still here to tell the tale. Thought you’d never like a restaurant in a mall? Here comes Rye & Co.
Set in the newly opened boutique mall Xintiandi Plaza, this all-day eatery-cum-cocktail bar from the team behind The Nest and The Cannery sits over two levels – its café, slinging healthy bowls, smørrebrød and baked goods with a Nordic bent, is connected to the rooftop bar and terrace by a narrow spiral staircase. It’s decidedly un-mall in its feel and attitude, outside of its retail surrounds, with a breathy cover of ‘Jolene’ by Icelandic artist Lay Low playing over the speakers on one visit.
There’s a reason to come here almost every hour of the day. In the mornings, snack on flaky apple Danishes flecked with cardamom and sticky caramel butter rolls with your cappuccino or freshly squeezed elixir of beetroot, apple and pineapple. In Scramble in a Jar, rich, buttery scrambled eggs studded with chives come piled atop creamy mashed potatoes, all meant for spooning onto lengths of sourdough toast. At lunch, while the Nourish Bowl – a less-than-coherent jumble of quinoa, grilled paprika, pine nuts and a strange tomato sauce – may nourish but not delight, a punchy beef tartare smørrebrød on molasses rye toast vibrates with grated horseradish, watercress, sorrel and dill mayo. An excellent aubergine tartine on sourdough recalls baba ganoush – smoky and sultry aubergine puree heaped on a bed of lentils, red onion and cucumber tossed with light yogurt dressing. And if IKEA’s your only point of reference for a Swedish meatball, your eyes will pop when you taste this rendition served with preserved lemon, sun-dried tomato and a shower of basil, coriander and dill over bulgur wheat in a piquant North African-influenced tomato sauce.
Bold flavours continue apace upstairs once the sun has set. A white, shimmering ceiling installation utters above low-slung lounge seating and a long, gently curved bar. Balanced, nuanced and 100RMB each across the board, cocktails carry on the successes of the bars at The Nest and The Cannery.
It’s hard not suck down the tropical Tom Yum Goong-Colada in one go, an enchanting Creamsicle-esque riff on a piña colada with Thai spice-infused gin, coconut liqueur, pineapple juice and pandan syrup. The Rasputin ignites all senses; served in a glass rimmed thickly with aromatic chocolate smooth to the lips, buttered tequila pairs smartly with port, raspberry cordial, lime juice and chocolate bitters.
More earthy, savoury flavours emerge in the gin-based Doctors Formula, a flamboyant hot pink from beetroot juice, rounded out with dill and fennel shrub and vanilla and verbena syrup. The BGM wafts a light perfume of truffle to the table, courtesy of a truffle cordial mixed with gin, yellow chartreuse, clarified lemon juice and bitters tasting of baking spices. The toothsome RYE & CO brings it full circle, rippling with overtures of bread and cereal in its blend of rye whisky with sweet vermouth, Fernet Hunter, sesame and coconut cordial, plus a splash of coconut water and Angostura bitters.
In the end, we might still not be mall dining evangelists, but Rye & Co has made sure we’re not non-believers either.
By Cat Nelson