The transition from the mundane lobby into this new Hangzhou and Shanghai cuisine restaurant, opened by a Zhejiang restauranteur, is a visual rush. The interior is charismatic and charming, like a nouveau European apartment, with marble inlaid wood floors, jacquard wallpaper, lush floral oil paintings, and vintage furniture set with candelabras, shaded lamps and pomegranates in delicate china bowls. There are cushy sofas, flowing curtains in doorways, and shelves backed with goldenrod-yellow paint and arrayed with vases and Buddha heads. It's a pleasure just to look around at each object, and at the multiple fabrics and textures of each wall.
The food is not as successful, but it feels like they care about improvement, and if you stick to the surprisingly honest manager’s suggestions you will have a pleasant meal. He steers you away from the Chinese yam with blueberry sauce: ‘To tell you the truth, it’s not very good.’ Thank you, point taken. Go instead with the more acceptable broccoli in a salty butter-yellow stock with diced vegetables and pidan (西兰花上汤32RMB) and the Lao Shaoxing wu rou (48RMB). This traditional pork dish in a savoury-sweet brown sauce offers gorgeous wobbly thin slices of pork with distinct layers of white fat and dark lean, like an archaeological site; each slice sticks satisfyingly to the teeth, first melty and then softly chewy. Clams with mustard sauce (32RMB) are bathed in a brilliant orange broth with a pungent wasabi flavour that somewhat overpowers the tender little clams.
Stay away from the ‘iron platter Yongkang goose liver’ (98RMB). The barely-cooked through liver on its bed of thick-sliced scallions is a waste of a delicacy. For dessert, ‘hometown stuffed glutinous rice balls’ (18RMB) are tasty, chewy pancakes rolled up with a generous smear of brown sugar and crushed peanut. The crowd here is young and hip and animated, everyone is having a smashing time in this stylish space, and you will too – just order on the advice of the manager.