Area: Taikang Terrace
. Again. Lots happening in this neck of the woods lately. Larder shares a lane with Sakesan
. Just take that stairway in front of the robatayaki bar's entrance, follow it to the third floor and you're there.
What it is:
Larder is the latest career move for Australian chef and restaurateur Steve Baker. Baker is something of a veteran, boasting 11 years in the Shanghai restaurant scene. His early China career is marked by his work under Walter Zahner at Fuchun Resort in Hangzhou and T8 in Xintiandi. His name, however, is probably more immediately recognizable as the chef/partner at Mesa / Manifesto
, which closed last spring. This is his first solo project.
To help run the kitchen he's enlisted fellow Aussie Lex Hauser, whose work you might recognize from M on the Bund
and, more recently, The Purple Onion
. The two are culinary kindred spirits, preferring straightforward cooking to the often excessive flourish that's so fashionable in food these days. No tomato foams, no beetroot caviars, no artichoke vapor, just simple, straightforward dishes that allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. It's all distinctively Australian in attitude and execution -- much of the menu, from the meats down to the olive oil have been brought in from Down Under -- with a deep reverence for anything grilled or roasted. We're talking grilled items like flank steak Bordelaise, ocean trout with fennel and mint or duck breast in a cherry glaze with duck neck sausage and fig jam. The menu ventures off the eaten path at times as well, with some servings of offal. That flank steak, for instance, is served alongside a bone marrow crumble, they do pork chops with black pudding or how about char-grilled veal with sweetbreads. There is a healthy amount of Mediterranean influence on the menu. You'll find it in side dishes like the panzanella salad or the gnocchi as well as in the "Tidbits" section with salt cod brandade. Sometimes they combine the Med with Southeast Asia too with little snacks like sambal sardines on toast. Supplementing all of that is an assortment of sides, bits and bobs like fried potato wedges, dark beer onion rings and starters like wind-dried tuna belly with crushed pea salsa or roasted pigeon with pickled eggplant.
For dessert they're doing lots of classics like blackberry clafoutis or a creme brulee made with mascarpone cheese, some have a contemporary twist, like a bubble milk tea panna cotta. There will also be a rotating selection of homemade donuts that you can enjoy alongside a scoop of Jack Daniel's and raisin ice cream. And, of course, there is a pavlova on the menu.
To drink there is a list of classic cocktails -- old standards like the sling and the Long Island as well as some signatures like the "Fred Collins Fizz" (basically a fizzy whiskey sour) or an old fashioned made with aged rum. Then there is the "Filthy Martini" made with anchovy stuffed olives. There is also a broad range of New World wines.
Baker's goal is to simulate a dinner party at his house. It works. The pre-existing elements like the vaulted wooden ceiling and the green concrete composite floor gave the place a head start. Hard surfaces and an open kitchen ensure a constant lively din. Brown leather seats and reclaimed wood with spatters of plaster and concrete give the place a lived-in quality. It's all very casual, comfortable and unassuming. Imagine an antique store where you can walk around and not worry about breaking anything and you'll have a close approximation.
Tidbits range in price from 18 to 38rmb. Starters are anywhere from 48 to 78rmb. Mains seldom creep above 160, with the exception of the rib eye for two, which costs 648rmb. Sides hover around the 20s and 30s. Cocktails are also reasonable, with most clocking in around 58rmb.
On its second day of business, Larder was surprisingly full, leading me to believe that Baker and Hauser have a legion of loyal followers in town. As word gets out, you can add droves of Aussie foodies and local upwardly mobile types.
August 29, 2012
3/F, Lane 171, Jianguo Zhong Lu,
near Ruijin Lu
Lunch: Daily, 11am-3pm (starts September 4)
Dinner: Daily, 6pm-Midnight
Brunch: Sat-Sun, 9am-5pm
Potted Trout, Lemon Creme Fraiche
Sambal Sardines on Toast
Roast Pigeon, Raisin, Coriander & Pickled Eggplant
Grilled Calamari & Pork Belly Salad
Pork Chop, Black Pudding, Apple Jam, Cider Glaze
Grilled Flank Steak, Bordelaise Sauce, Bone Marrow Crumble
Charred Veal, Sweetbreads, Olive and Egg Gremolata