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This new multi-concept spot is slinging excellent tacos, mezcal and more

A first look at Bonica, La Barra, La Mezcaleria, El Pasia and Loggia

Photograph: Graeme Kennedy, courtesy Armada (Bonica)
Concepts that conveniently combine dining, drinking and dancing, all under the same roof, all in the same night, work wonders when executed correctly. That much seems to be so at a new multifaceted five-in-one project around the corner from Danish craft beer bar Mikkeller in Jingan – and in the same complex – that’s recently popped up between Jiaozhou and Yanping Lus and has been garnering some serious buzz.

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Photograph: Graeme Kennedy, courtesy Armada (Loggia)

The venues are spread across two floors and from top to bottom take from Spain and Mexico in their makeup, with a sit-down restaurant, cafe, taco stand, tapas lounge and mezcal bar.

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Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler (octopus leg)

The first floor houses an indoor/outdoor café Loggia as well as a restaurant, Bonica, specialising in grilled Mediterranean meats and seafood. The kitchen that can be viewed from the intimate quartzite-tabled dining area is led by Mexican chef Marco Chavez whose cooking chops include stints at a trio of Paul Pairet restaurants (Mr & Mr Bund, Chop Chop Club and Polux). There’s also a rustic terrazzo-styled courtyard that’s more casual in design but still feels classy – a word that can be overused but certainly applicable here.

With those pieces in place, complemented by an impressive walk-in wine cellar, possibly the most important part of the puzzle – the food – is no spectator to what surrounds. Starters like French oysters (from 388RMB for six) to cheese-stuffed chilli peppers (75RMB) and sardines soaking in pil pil sauce (68RMB) atop of toasted bread with freshly grated tomato (30RMB) – order separately on the menu and pair together – do their job in setting the stage, but it’s the mains that you should be coming for.

Figtart (1)

Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler (fig tart)

Getting through a 350g slab of beef tongue (190RMB) might sound intimidating, but in reality, it falls apart in your mouth with delicate ease. And while Shanghai is no stranger to great octopus legs (Colca and Pirata come to mind) – the one here (158RMB), served with a green chili cream sauce – is already a charred and chunky contender to upset the status quo. Desserts like the fig tart (68RMB) and French toast-esque Nutella and honey brioche (88RMB) are also very much worth making room for, even if you don’t usually carry a sweet tooth.

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Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler (El Paisa)

Up a short flight of stairs is the taco stand El Paisa that’s turning out five different and excellent fillings (priced between 25-40RMB) inside hand-rolled corn tortillas along with a cheese quesadilla (25RMB) and nachos (30-45RMB). Variations include octopus, birria (pulled lamb) and Baja fish (with pan-seared seabass), but the pick of the bunch – if we had to choose one – is the always reliable Al Pastor. These are available all night long from 6pm until neighbours La Mezcaleria and La Barra close (around 2am or until the last guest has left).

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Photograph: Graeme Kennedy, courtesy Armada (La Barra)

Hidden behind a wooden door on the same floor, you’ll find the comfy mezcal haven La Mezcaleria, which (currently) has 71 mezcals imported from Mexico on its roster, a list of cocktails consulted on by bespoke cocktail bar J Boroski and acted out by Chris Peart (formerly of The Shanghai Edition) and lots of funky Mexican furnishings from masks to actual agave plants. Less secret and again on the same floor is La Barra, a tapas and cocktail lounge that comes equipped with a DJ booth, decent space to showcase your moves and also (bonus points), an eco-friendly self-serviced highball bar.

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Photograph: Graeme Kennedy, courtesy Armada (La Mezcaleria)

Overall, there's a ton to take in (and eat, and drink) and a ton to get excited about. While new openings in Shanghai are sometimes attached with a suffocating sense of hype, this is one – on first visit – where it feels very much warranted.

Address No 60, Lane 273, Jiaozhou Lu, near Yanping Lu. Venues open daily from 5.30pm-2am.

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