I love taking people down to Found 158 for the first time. Always the same reaction of a raised-eyebrow with a pouted lip followed by, ‘woah you’d never know this place exists!’. Its true. Strolling down Julu Lu you wouldn’t have a clue that this giant fish bowl houses a dynamic mix of quality restaurants and bars. Amongst these is Hooked, a seafront inspired restaurant and bar serving up classic British/Aussie/New Zealand (take your pick) style meals. You’re sure to find these breeds of expats gathering at this watering hole when they’re craving a taste of home.
They’ve got daily deals throughout the week on food and drinks, my favourite being the 2 for 1 fish and chips on a Monday. Battered, crumbed or grilled. Or if you’re feeling like something a little more decadent I’d go for the lobster mac and cheese. Drinks menu has a good selection of cocktails and craft beers and if you feel like getting messy on a Wednesday night there’s 2 for 1 gin n tonics.
Growing up down under I’ve had my fair share of everything from exceptional to horrendous fish and chips and everything in between. Hooked’s version is pretty darn good. I’ve tried both crumbed (nice) and battered (the best) versions (grilled fish n chips is not a thing). I was impressed with how well the fish was cooked and the mayo n mushy peas are a nice addition.
Having tried many of the other restaurants at Found 158 I think Hooked deserves its spot. Although it may be the least ‘exotic’ of the bunch it does its thing well and delivers on a crowd favourite. I can see this being a popular spot even with the weather cooling down, those hearty comfort meals will go down a treat!
Price for 2 (incl drinks): 260 (2 for 1 Mondays)
There has been a lot of buzz around this place over the last few months, some even crowning it the best new restaurant in Shanghai. Helmed by a well-reputed chef and located in the swanky Bund Financial Centre, Heritage by Madison seems to tick all the boxes to attract the masses.
The space is sophisticated, dimly lit with large inverted copper lampshades. Like many restaurants these days there is the option to sit overlooking the kitchen, which is always a treat to see the chefs work their magic. The menu consists of a range of Chinese-inspired small plates so be prepared to order a lot (sample a lot!).
Still relatively new to Shanghai I’ve realized that my expectations are quite different to those who are more familiar with the ever-changing dynamics of Shanghai’s F&B industry. So this was a great opportunity to try something new with a range of people, to observe ultimately what determines if they’ll be back!
Dishes of mention:
General Hu’s cauliflower – One of the standout dishes. Sweet and crunchy with a nice hint of chilli
Salted duck yolk lotus roots – a very polarizing dish. I myself loved it but it appeared to be one you either love or hate. The expression on my friends face can only be described as ‘an insult to her tastebuds’
Fried mantou with edamame – a rye based version of these buns. Creative and delicious!
Uni lobster – a decadent dish! Because of this its a ideal for sharing.
Panna cotta – Unfortunately the fruit to panna cotta ratio was off. i.e. gimme more PC.
On the spectrum of modern Chinese cuisine Heritage by Madison presents an innovative menu that pushes the boundaries. While some of the people I dined with weren’t so impressed with the stray from traditional flavours, I really enjoyed seeing a fresh spin on the dishes and am eager to see how the menu evolves.
Price per person: 300 RMB
As we say goodbye to the summer I’m trying to make the last dash around a few more lunch spots serving bold, fresh flavours before its too cold and a salad is no longer going to satisfy me. Nam Nam, (guess the cuisine) these guys have gone for a tropical style design, clad with a bold coat of turquoise and rattan style lampshades. At the very least the atmosphere will make me feel like I’m in a warmer climate. Or so I thought, the inside is a little dingy, which can only be attributed to its unfortunate location at the back end of the SFC mall. The menu has a selection of dishes showcasing classic Vietnamese flavours. Think, chilli, lime, basil, coriander, fruity salads, pho and all the fried goodies. Overall the flavours were there but the dishes lacked punch.
Dishes of mention:
Papaya salad – very stingy on the prawns, dressing was lacking
Black rice avocado bowl – over seasoned
Prawn crackers – despite being morsels of everything bad for you these were rather delicious.
Overall not a terrible experience, maybe an easy place to grab a bite before you catch a movie but nothing to write home about. Having only sampled a small selection of the menu I don’t think I can fairly comment on the quality of the entire menu and I know a good pho or crispy spring roll can be a game-changer. The menu at Nam Nam offers a typical spread of Vietnamese dishes however some could do with a few tweaks to give them a much needed lift.
Price for 2: 200 RMB
On a sticky Saturday afternoon after a few hours walking along Nanjing Rd (foolish, I know) my husband and I set off down the side streets in search of lunch. What started out as mild hunger and a willingness to wait for something that really caught our eye quickly turned into a desperate dash for anything to calm the rumbling tums. Hungry and dehydrated we came across Laoshengxing. In my delirious state I thought, ‘hey isn’t that the OG place with the Michelin star?’ Negative, that would be Laozhengxing. Onwards and upwards.
Quick scan of the menu and we chose a combo of dumps and noodles. Unsure if it was our hunger that drove us to over order or that the portions are just huge but we ended up with enough for a small army.
Dishes of mention:
Scallion oil noodles with garlic - One of my favourite dishes since moving to Shanghai. There was just the right amount of oil to perfectly coat the noodles.
Glutinous rice dumpling – a nice spice to the glutinous rice filling. Tasty but quite heavy.
The baozi and dumps were thrown at us in a plastic bag which I initially found a bit odd but actually rather convenient to transport food for the small army. Ultimately was the food tasty? Yes. Was it because I was starving? Maybe but I would certainly go back for those noodles.
Laoshengxing is a local food chain serving up some dirt-cheap Chinese classics. Not a bad spot if you’re wanting something cheap and cheerful.
Price for 2: 50 RMB
Out for an evening bike ride along Anting Lu we stumbled upon Cotton’s. The restaurant is set in a refurbished colonial style villa, with an outdoor dining area lined with lush bamboo trees and strings of fairy lights. It’s a charming space ideal for either a quiet dinner or casual drinks with a bigger group.
The menu is pretty basic. Perhaps one step above the complexity of a pub menu. One menu is mix of largely Italian inspired dishes and the other is straight seafood. They seem to cover a lot, so you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy. If you feel like classic Italian? They’ve got a good selection of pizzas and pastas. Healthy? Nice selection of hearty, grainy salads. Wine n platter kind of night? Lots of options to create an antipasto spread.
Dishes of mention:
There weren’t any stand out dishes and yet I still walked out of there feeling satisfied . I guess you could say no dud dishes is a win?
One of the things that did stand out though was the service. Staff were attentive without being overbearing and the meals were timed well.
Overall the food wasn’t anything overly inspiring but hey there is always a time and place for these kind of restaurants. Like those weeks when you’ve maybe overdone the chilli oil and your stomach is begging you to chill the f out but you’ve still got to turn up to that dinner with friends? This is a good option with a nice atmosphere and great service.
Price for 2 people: 350RMB
A good bagel is hard to come by, especially ones that are filled with something that requires a little more brain power than salmon and cream cheese. Boom Boom is set up in a great spot on Anfu Lu decked with an eclectic mix of wooden and brick interiors with industrial-style lighting. Not a bad place to park up on the weekend for a relaxing lunch or Sunday session. They offer up a mix of bagels, salad bowls and smoothies, with a decent selection of craft beers and cocktails.
Dishes of mention:
Nicoise salad – dressed with a delicious vinigarette that packs a punch
Banana smoothie - clearly made with an under ripe banana, hoping that was a one off. I can still feel the starch on my tongue..
Greenline bagelwich – the bagel itself was fantastic, lightly toasted and soft in the middle however there was too much filling. Never thought these words would leave my mouth but… maybe less mozzarella?
My only other comment is that the space is a little cramped. Like it isn’t already hard enough trying to stop people from breaching your personal space, the bad flow gives people the perfect excuse to get riight up in your grill. Get those elbows out.
As far as bagels go BBB are serving up some quality goods with a creative range of fillings. Worth checking out on the weekends for a fresh summer lunch if you don’t mind the tight squeeze.
Price for 2 people: 160 RMB
I’m curious to know how this place came up with its name. The name, the exterior, it doesn’t give much away. Nonetheless this place is always busy and the modern design is enough to make you want to take a peak. Japanese was not my first guess but as you walk inside the space it starts to make sense. Its casual but intimate, just like an izakaya.
The menu is largely focused on a selection of sashimi and nigiri with many other popular Japanese side dishes.
Dishes of mention:
Today’s best selection of nigiri – a delicious medley of fresh salmon, tuna, scallops and sea urchin
California maki roll – a familiar favourite with a tasty crab filling. Rolled in fish eggs this dish looks stunning on the plate.
Vegetable tempura – despite the loss of nutritional value these were pleasantly light
We ordered the avocado salad to balance things out. This was the only disappointment. I have real qualms with salads that scream ‘I couldn’t care less, lets just throw some vegetables on a plate’. Cold cos lettuce with quartered tomatoes and some corncob shavings. No seasoning and a self-serve dressing that didn’t really match.
If you’re craving some mid-week Japanese MOST is a reliable option. Located near the corner of Huaihai and Wuxing, it provides a good selection of Japanese cuisine with an easy-going atmosphere sure to hit the spot.
Price for 2 people: 300 RMB
Shanghai seems to be home to a suspiciously high number of Scandinavian cafes, the most well-known being the Wagas chain and their ever-growing spawn of eateries. It’s certainly a refreshing contrast to Chinese cuisine when you’re craving something light and fresh. Although many are loosely labelled as ‘Nordic’ they don’t always offer some of the classic dishes which truly define this type of cuisine. I like to judge a good menu based on the quality of the rye, the smørrebrød combos and of course the pastry selection. Rye&Co delivers on all fronts.
Rye&Co have nailed a prime spot. Set on the top two floors Xintiandi plaza they have made good use of the natural light and coupled it with the rich wooden interiors to make it warm and welcoming. With a relaxed booth style layout below and a classy cocktail bar on the rooftop they have created two elegant and complimentary spaces.
At the entrance you are greeted by a delectable cabinet of baked treats like the cinnamon scroll and a variety of fresh loaves. If you like a super dark and seedy rye this is your place.
Dishes of mention:
Smoked eggplant and lentil– beautiful babaganoush style eggplant with cucumber that added a nice crunch and cut through the smokey flavour
Pumpkin and stracciatella– sweet thin sheets of pumpkin paired perfectly with the cheese
Cinammon scroll – Impossibly soft. I could eat way too many of these.
Final comments. Presentation was impressive - theres nothing like a few well-placed microgreens to spruce things up. They also serve an excellent cup of coffee.
If you can pull off all the things you need for a great sunny brunch spot from the top of a mall in downtown Shanghai (at an incredibly reasonable price) – I’d say that’s a win. I’m picking Rye&Co as a solid brunch place anytime of the year.
Price for 2 people: 200 RMB
About 6 months ago a fellow smart-reviewer gave this place the ‘best brunch award’. Its fair to say that the Shanghai brunch game is getting pretty fierce so this was certainly a bold call, but with my curiosity peaked I was eager to see what set this place above the rest.
The Commune Social is a beautifully designed establishment with modern, industrial-style interiors and a dreamy outdoor space. Scrolling through the menus my eyebrows were raised, there is clear sophistication and originality in what they are creating here.
We turned up for a mid-week lunch and were given the choice of either the chef’s choice lunch menu; 3 dishes per person (which can include dessert/cheese if you want) for 188RMB, or the tapas menu which has a wider variety of dishes designed for sharing.
Dishes of mention:
White asparagus panna cotta, smoked salmon & pickled asparagus – certainly a decadent dish but when paired with the other fresh dishes its just the right amount
Roasted cod, tapenade, orange, grilled endive, aged sherry vinegar dressing – the freshness of the orange with the rich olive tapenade captures some of the best flavours of a European summer
The dessert menu alone makes this place worth the visit.
If you’re after a lighter option that still hits the spot go for the lemon posset. Served with frozen white chocolate mousse and lavender meringue its not only a stunning dish but absolutely delicious.
On the other hand if you’re ok with unbuttoning your pants a few notches go for the banoffee cake. A deconstructed version of the classic banoffee pie that uses banana cake as the base. Lathered in a toffee sauce and candied pecans this is not for the faint-hearted.
Commune social offer diners a unique gastronomic experience without feeling pretentious. They have successfully captured what chef Jason Atherton describes as “the deformalizing of fine dining”. As for the title of ‘best brunch in Shanghai’, its certainly a contender…
Price for 2 people: 376 RMB
The corner of Wulumuqi and Wuyuan Lu is a weekend hotspot for expats. On one side of the road you’ve got people squeezing in and out of the The Avocado Lady for their lao wai cravings (bless her) and on the other you’ll find Bowl Bowl Bowl. The upstairs dining area has a chill minimalistic vibe where you can either perch up at the windowsill and people-watch/pooch-watch, or enjoy some peace and quiet.
Summed up, BBB specialize in poke bowls, salad bowls and yoghurt bowls. I can only comment on the poke as they keep me coming back rain or shine, fresh or dusty – they always hit the spot.
The selection of bowls you can order are named according to different Scandinavian countries. But I thought poke was from Hawaii? Although traditionally a Hawaiian dish, apparently poke bowls have also become very popular in Scandinavia because of the seafood element. The bowls at BBB resemble a classic poke make-up similar to deconstructed sushi where you can choose from different seafood options as your protein. They come lined with a slab of sushi rice, packed with a generous serving of edamame, cashews, avocado, seaweed, black sesame and topped off with a drizzle of the perfect spicy mayo. If you’re keen up the experience one more notch you can go to town on the self-serve soy sauce and wasabi.
Dishes of mention:
Northern Lights poke bowl – salmon is super fresh and complimented well by the spicy mayo
No real criticism for BBB but perhaps they could offer the bowls in different sizes for those that want more of that poke goodness. Overall a reliable spot for a healthy, delicious meal.
Price per person: <100 RMB
SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.