This new cafe and retail shop on Anfu Lu that serves "real food." Healthy eats, artisan products, and other bougie treats inside...
The healthfood/farm-to-table fad has made a slow and steady trickle into Shanghai. By the time it truly gets a foothold here, I suspect the rest of the world will have already moved on to the next big thing. In the meantime, though, we've got one more option at our disposal: an ambitious specialty grocer/produce market/cafe concept called Hunter Gatherer
The shelves are neatly stocked with artisan condiments straight out of Williamsburg. You'll find treats like fig and onion jam, 10-dollar jars of mayonnaise, and all sorts of other stuff lovingly produced by people who wear ironic facial hair and overly tight jeans.
They also carry sodas packaged in old-style screen-printed bottles, sweetened with cane sugar, the empty calories of the privileged class—none of that filthy high-fructose corn syrup.
I'm quick to ridicule, but I'm a sucker for plenty of it too. I paid 26rmb for two
chocolate sunflower butter cups—you know, like Reeses cups—and they were fucking delicious. Look for them in the "Impulse Buys" section, at the checkout counter on the first floor.
They offer a small, seasonal selection of produce as well—everything from okra to fennel to imperfectly shaped carrots. It all comes from Hunter Gatherer's proprietary farms. They've got one up in Shandong that is fully functional and another on Chongming Island that they tell me should start yielding crops next year. Both are chemical-free operations. Instead of fighting pests with Round-up, they're waging war by other means—garlic-based sprays, vinegar, ladybugs. They don't plant GMO seeds, and they're shooting for certified organic status. All of these things I can get behind.
I can definitely get behind this too...
The Whole Foods
peanut and almond butter machine grinding machine! This truly is a sight for sore eyes. It's around 80rmb for a 200g jar of it, but fuck it. I've spent nine long years in Shanghai deprived of this marvel of modern food production. Every time I return home, I smuggle a tub of almond butter back to China. No longer. It is for this and this reason alone that I'm pulling for Hunter Gatherer to not only subsist but thrive. And if Hunter Gatherer ends up going Tango Uniform, I'll be making the opening bid on this lot at the liquidation auction.
Yet another echo of the Whole Foods phenomenon: the bulk nut dispensary...
Truth be told, most of your bulk nut needs can probably be met by this lovely lady on Wulumuqi Lu
, and for less money. But these guys have lots of trail mix and granola too. Besides, sometimes you don't want to make second stop when you're picking up that 56rmb jar of all-natural ketchup to put on your tofu dogs. There is something to be said for one-stop shopping.
But none of this gets down to the core of the Hunter Gatherer concept, which is pretty solid. It's a bright and airy cafe.
Food comes from an open kitchen with cafeteria-style service similar to this place
. For 62rmb—only 2rmb more than than the tiny jars of truffle mayonnaise they sell—you get a pretty satisfying, healthy meal.
It starts with a starch foundation. They offer a rotating selection of staples—brown rice with barley, paprika rice with tomatoes, rice noodles, etc. From there you build on it with a protein option like brisket, bulgogi tofu, or blackened salmon (salmon's 16rmb extra). After that you get two veg choices, like a roasted beet and apple salad or toasted pumpkin and broccoli pancakes (I recommend both). If that mound of food on your tray doesn't look filling enough they offer a few extras, like wasabi potato salad or barley soup for 16 and 20rmb extra, respectively. Once you've got your food sorted, you can dress it all up with a selection of homemade sauces, like sweet chili, barbecue, cilantro soy, or a spicy little number called "Field of Screams."
They offer a selection of smoothies as well, each one intended to target a specific health need.
They're vivid, which is supposed to be good for you—polyphenols or something like that. I tried one that was supposed to target my immune system. It was made with pineapple, bell peppers, ginger and chia seeds, called "Bell a Chia." It raised an eyebrow at first sip. Peppers and pineapple is a fine flavor combo in sweet and sour pork. I wasn't used to it in a naturally sweetened smoothie. Nevertheless, it grew on me. The do a few other healthy drinks with fruit bases like antioxidant-rich acai or green tea and goji berries. Or if you've had a enough of all of this healthy nonsense, they've got a small selection of beers in the cooler by the cash register. Try the IPA.
So yeah, there you have it. All told, a pretty solid effort if you can get past some of the retail sticker shock (and really, is any of it shocking in this city anymore? Plenty of us willingly pay 80rmb for Tsingtaos on The Bund).
For a full listing of Hunter Gatherer, click here