The Bund’s most recognisable resident and undoubtedly one of Shanghai’s landmarks for over a century truly is an art deco lover’s dream come true, furnished with the finest Lalique glass lanterns, chandeliers and wall ornamentation. As mentioned before, I half expected to run into the Great Gatsby during my stay.
The sights and spectacles weren’t bad too. From my room, I saw down the prestigious Bund, Pudong area and across the Huangpu River, and not surprisingly the hotel also had a terrace on the ninth floor that boasted unrivalled panoramic views.
In keeping traditions intact, I must say the Peace Hotel has done a mighty fine job of doing so. Their signature Chinese restaurant Dragon Phoenix remains opulent and classic, offering quintessential Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine. If you pay a visit, do try the steamed duck wrapped in lotus leaves or the crystal sautéed river shrimp. The Jazz Bar, meanwhile, remains the only address in China for legendary jazz, carrying guests instantly back to the high society private clubs of the 20’s and 30’s with its comfortable and authentic décor.
At the hotel’s new and contemporary Cathay Room restaurant, I had the pleasure of watching heritage and haute cuisine blend while being treated to the commanding views of the Pudong skyline and Huangpu River.
The Cathay Room
As Shanghai’s epicentre for fine European cuisine, it’s no wonder the Cathay Room has always been the top table place for society and visitors to gather and dine since the 1930s. With sparkling Bund views and stellar service, the restaurant transports guests back almost a century in time to a glamorous bygone era where champagne and premier wines flowed, platters of European delicacies and prime roasts were consumed in abundance, and spectacular gastronomic creations were delivered through the kitchen doors.
Today, the revived Cathay Room embodies the same values of culinary vision, service excellence and social dining.
Certainly the Bund panorama is more magical at night, and within a day, the Cathay Room had evolved from a sun drenched luncheon room to a sophisticated evening restaurant. Quite notably, the masterful chefs had personalised a menu for us that evening which consisted of authentic European classics highlighting premium cuts of meat and seafood, accompanied by fresh seasonal vegetables and salads.
From the in-house cooked bread to the blue crab wrapped in Norwegian salmon, and the Australian beef that had a perfect fiery red center to the dessert that ended my experience on a double sweet note, the beginning to the end was thoroughly dignified. Each dish was thoughtfully plated and the portions were just right.
For a restaurant located in such a historically rich area overlooking the futuristic Pudong skyline, the Cathay Room really is worth the splurge.
Eating out in Shanghai is exactly like taking a taste tour around China, as you can sample almost all of the regional cuisines, from the hot and spicy Sichuan to carefully prepared Cantonese slow-cooked tonic broths. However you embark on that adventure is completely up to you, but I’ll list my current favourites for your consideration:
The Jade Mansion
4/F, Shanghai IFC
8 Century Avenue, Pudong District
Here you will find traditional Huaiyang food that is rare among Shanghai’s restaurants. The Jade Mansion uses seafood and fish stock in its dishes, unlike most Chinese restaurants that use meat for stock. Make sure you try their braised fish head with fish lips smothered in milky white fish broth and their seasonal Morchella esculenta that is stewed with fresh shrimp, pork and broccoli.
4/F, Bund 22
22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Xin Yong’an Lu, The Bund
This restaurant is a compelling hybrid of east meets west, with a use of Sichuan spice in the form of pepper foam and sauce in the pigeon breast and poached chicken dishes respectively. Their braised pork belly is one of their signature dishes for a reason – braised in wine and honey for six hours, crisping the skin and tenderising the meat. But as we delved into the teriyaki-seasoned and roasted bluefin tuna cheek, we knew it had to be their star dish, for it was bursting with optimum flavour that was almost as exquisite as the restaurant’s decor.
Mr and Mrs Bund
6/F, Bund 18
18 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, The Bund
For a late-night bite and creative dishes like foie-gras crumble, a giant french fry and lip-smacking lemon tart, Shanghai-famous French chef Paul Pairet’s Bund-side eatery features an open kitchen concept and is open till past midnight. Go for the view even if you’re not hungry.
Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
Private address, Shanghai
This state-of-the-art project took years, and it claims to evoke a bold and exclusive dining experience that engages all the senses to create the ultimate luxury: emotion. If you have 3,000 RMB to spare, take up the deal and have their private driver chauffeur you to a secret location in an old Shanghai neighbourhood. Each course (20 for the full dinner, mind you) is paired with 360 degree video projections, surround sound music and custom scents. Meanwhile, 25 chefs and waiters work hard to serve and entertain just ten diners. I’d love to do this the next time I’m back, but you should probably go secure your reservation now.
When all your dining options have been exhausted, however, you’ll find that you can never get sick of Fairmont Peace Hotel‘s restaurant offerings. For traditional high tea indulgence, think Jasmine Lounge, and for handcrafted pastries and delicacies, drop by Victor’s Cafe. For all other gastronomic journeys, consider the Cin Cin Wine & Cigar Lounge, Dragon Phoenix or my current favourite Cathay Room.
Even their chef-driven in-room dining is as indulgent as it sounds. I’m craving their salmon entrée all over again.