Mr Harry [temporarily closed] (CLOSED)

  • Restaurants
  • Western
  • Western
819 Nanjing Xi Lu

This venue has closed.

Mr. Harry is closed for relocation, due to reopen at the end of February 2017.

British food hasn’t enjoyed the best reputation over the years. Ex-French President Jacques Chirac once sneered: ‘One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad’. Aside from the inevitable fish and chips and afternoon tea, perhaps that’s why it’s taken so long to arrive in Shanghai.

Looking to change that perception is Mr Harry, which opened last month with the tagline, ‘Shanghai’s first authentic British restaurant’ and a tale about owner Harry Spencer’s great-grandfather importing hog bristles from Chongqing in the 1930s for hair and shaving brushes.

First impressions are promising, despite an unprepossessing location in a relatively newly opened mall on Nanjing Xi Lu. The 75-seat space is big, but cleverly broken up with mirrors and cream-panelled faux walls, creating a cosy but still smart feel that’s part Regency-era dining room, part London gastro pub. The theme continues onto Victorian ink sketches and all manner of hokey British knick-knacks. Rigged out in natty tartan trews and skirts paired with white shirts, the waitstaff look like they’ve wandered out of an Enid Blyton novel.

The menu, which divides into brunch, sandwiches, dinner, afternoon tea and bar snacks is packed with classic British dishes: bangers and mash, fish and chips and bubble and squeak, alongside more modern offerings such as roast chicken with quinoa in place of the usual spuds. Chef Paul Mair, who’s racked up over 20 years’ experience in Scottish restaurants, prides himself on using fresh ingredients sourced from ‘just down the road’, an approach he’s done his best to stick with here. Though tea and clotted cream are imported, their sausage, black pudding and bacon are from meat sourced from local butchers, while bread rolls and pickles are made in-house.

Despite being nigh-on empty on our midweek visit, our dinner gets off to a strong start with the pressed ham hock terrine: three coarsely meaty triangles paired with a delicate-tasting anise jelly, crunchy piccalilli (a chunky vegetable pickle turned fluorescent yellow by turmeric) and a slick of parsley purée. Points off for the lack of bread, though.

As arguably Britain’s most famous culinary export, we had high hopes for the beer-battered fish and chips (98RMB). The generously-sized piece of imported Atlantic cod is textbook perfect and better than anything we’ve sampled at Yongkang Lu joints The Sailors and Angry Fish: juicy white flakes of fish encased in crisp batter. The chips are a soggy let-down, a touch undercooked, while the mealy pea puree is forgettable.

Ploughman’s, usually a pub lunch staple but here available for dinner, is traditionally a sort of deconstructed cheese or ham sandwich. Mr Harry’s version (98RMB) ticks all the right boxes with two kinds of UK-imported cheese– sharp Stilton and mild Red Leicester – a crusty white roll, a leafy salad and a dollop of ‘Branston-style’ pickle, plus a homemade pork pie. Served as a slab rather than an individual pie (you can also order it on its own for 28RMB), the buttery pastry is lined with jelly to keep the sage-y pork shoulder interior moist.

Puddings include a boozy rendition of bread and butter pudding with whisky and marmalade (48RMB), a vanilla and cinnamon rice pudding (38RMB) and the British summertime favourite, Eton Mess (58RMB). That might sound like something public schoolboys do in dorms after lights out, but it’s

Brit of all right Mr Harry serves up UK staples such as a full English breakfast.actually a layered confection of strawberries, chunks of chewy meringue and freshly-whipped cream (UHT, sadly, which lends it a sugary artificial taste) drizzled with a jammy berry coulis. Wash it all down with a standard mug of tea (18RMB, made with a teabag) or a pot of loose-leaf Taylors of Harrogate tea (58RMB).

Judging by the flocks of Chinese punters on our second (lunchtime) visit, brunch and afternoon tea are more popular than dinner. However Mr Harry’s Brunch Plate (88RMB) lacks greasy spoon authenticity and is sacrilegiously accompanied by American-style pancakes and syrup. If you want fried bread, opt for the full English breakfast (98RMB) instead. The bar snacks, such as pork scratchings with rosemary (15RMB) and vinegary pickled eggs (18RMB) are a step up from the usual crisps and nuts offered in most British boozers, though our toad-in-the hole (16RMB), two miniature Yorkshire puddings each stuffed with a cross-section of sausage and bathed in overly runny gravy, could have benefitted from a heavier hand with the seasoning, as both the batter and mashed potatoes are bland.

Mr Harry’s heart is in the right place, and the concept should do well both from a novelty point of view (Chinese Anglophiles) and a nostalgic one (homesick Brits). But with decent rather than spectacular fare, it won’t be shattering many preconceptions.
Venue name: Mr Harry [temporarily closed] (CLOSED)
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily
Metro: Nanjing Xi Lu
English address: Fifth Floor, 819 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu, Jingan district
Chinese address: 南京西路819号开欣商厦5楼,近石门一路