Lychee (CLOSED)

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Lane 49 Fuxing Xi Lu

This venue has closed.

The concubine of 8th-century emperor Xuanzong, the ‘Lychee Lady’ Yang Guifei, was said to be a ravenous beauty, so captivating that the Tang dynasty ruler paid more attention to her than the nation. As the story goes, imperial consort Yang loved her lychees, so the emperor would have them sent to up from the South by the fastest imperial couriers so his ladylove didn’t go without. Over a thousand years later, Yang is the subject of many a painting and now the inspiration behind achingly stylish Asian fusion restaurant, bar and lounge Lychee.

Set in a chic three-storey lane house, Lychee is the latest venture of Shanghai restaurateur Cotton Ding (behind Former French Concession garden drinking spots Cotton’s), with drinks designed by Carson Xie (The Nest), Lychee is a blossom amongst the bramble patches of fusion cuisine.

The Lychee Lady would surely swoon over a nest of spicy Thai-spiced pork scotch eggs kept company by a Bird of Hermes cocktail, a bird-shaped vessel filled with a pink blend of chilli- and black pepper-infused vodka, dry vermouth, lemon, celery and cherry tomato – it’s light and sweet, nothing like the Bloody Mary you may be imagining. Mussels soak in a milky broth of coconut cream, chilli jam and Thai basil that’s made to be mopped up with grilled bread after the shellfish have disappeared. Small plates of smashed baby potatoes with cumin, quail eggs and paprika aioli, caramelised baby carrots with yogurt and coriander, and spicy creamed spinach are worth a visit on their own.

The list of brilliant dishes goes on: green curry halibut head is fragrant and savoury hit and we’ve been back more than once for the melt-in-your-mouth peanut- and gochujiang-crusted tofu skewers with smooth chilli peanut dip and an icy Negroni Blanco, a bold and welcome take on the classic with watermelon-infused gin, Amontillado sherry, St. Germaine, dry vermouth, bitters and basil.

But there are less successful attempts, too – the boneless chicken wings with miso-butterscotch and pineapple lychee salsa, for example, are just as strange as they sound; and a black sesame panacotta doesn’t deliver a strong enough serving of the ashy flavour you’d expect.

When you visit, start or end your night at the bar, where there sits a statue of a plump, smiling woman. Ding says she likes to think of the figurine as the real Lychee Lady – who, despite being a slim belle in all the paintings, was actually known for her voluptuous full figure. Pay homage to that by feeding your own curves with a tangy slice of grilled pineapple topped in a mound of sweet cream and charred coconut.

Venue name: Lychee (CLOSED)
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 6pm-2am; Fri-Sat 6pm-4am; Sun 6pm-midnight
Metro: Shanghai Library
English address: Number 2, Lane 49, Fuxing Xi Lu, near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Xuhui district
Chinese address: 复兴西路49弄2号,近乌鲁木齐中路