Long and behold, liquid laundry is usually one of the first brewery restaurants you hear of when you first come to Shanghai, and I can’t believe I’ve put it off for so long before I made a visit. First off, the place is much larger than I expected, covering most of the second floor at Jiahuafang. Even so, it is impressively fully seated on a Saturday night, but don’t come here then if you’re expecting to catch up with an old friend because the music gets so loud that it is a struggle to talk over it. It was also really difficult to catch the waiter’s attention within such a large crowded space, and service at best was so-so.
Moving on to the better parts, I am a sucker for ingenious menu designs and I loved the one at Liquid Laundry, which is literally a menu attached to a wooden laundry board- brings back nostalgia for a time when those were still used. The food was also amazing! Everything was not only fresh, but also flavorful to the max. I wanted to order their renowned beef egg panini but was told it was only available for brunch time on weekends. We started out with their homemade fries, which came in a huge plater along with three sauces. Crisp and warm, the fries were splendid but we had to watch ourselves before we got to full from that. Then came the seared yellowtail and big bone (with marrow) with a side of toast. I never thought that bone marrow and toast would ever be good companions but here at Liquid Laundry, they’ve made it work. We couldn’t skip desert as the waffles on the menu looked absolutely amazing, as did the ice cream on top. We ordered the Belgium waffles with blue berry ice cream and it was taste bud heaven as the waffle and cream melts into a blended delight in your mouth.
Their beer is also freshly brewed. Arrive before 8pm for happy hour prices. Upon scanning a QR and registering for their membership, you also get a coupon for a free beer platter; the catch is you can only use it on your next visit, but all the more reason to come back. Price without drinks comes out to be 200 rmb/person.
According to the terms of the Chinese visa, foreign citizens must register with their local Liquid Laundry within 60 days of entry. If you don't - where else are you going for brunch? Is it good? Can I come?
Having visited for the first time this weekend, I can see why Liquid Laundry is such a perennially popular choice, especially among Shanghai's avocado-loving expats. It's inarguably good-looking, dependable food (once you get past the subtle entrance lifts). My food envy wasn't even limited to my own table: the florally-embellished Salade Niçoise opposite me looked just as good as the breakfast pizza at the window table, or the caramelised banana pancakes to my right. I'm still thinking about the lovely, chubby breakfast burrito, and I didn't even eat it myself.
Luckily, when my food arrived, it was just as aesthetically delicious. I ordered the "Green Eggs and Ham" (98rmb), just like two other people in our party and probably a good 20% of the other patrons. The menu doesn't oversell it, either: the two perfectly poached eggs were nestled in a mass of greens, salty bacon (which they try to pass off as fancy ham) and dense, seeded rye bread, with a ubiquitous sliced avocado topping. Effortless Instagram glory. It was a good choice. To be fair, though, everyone else made good choices too. My friend's pancakes were satisfyingly fluffy (and huge in diameter, too); the abovementioned Niçoise featured fresh, barely-seared tuna and purple potatoes amongst the edible flowers. There are also some veggie options, although I'd love to see more strong vegan offerings.
The drink selection is less exciting than the menu. Liquid Laundry hasn't really embellished (or replaced) its standard evening bar offering with brunch-appropriate choices. There are no surprises: alongside the classic Bloody Mary, there’s a small selection of other cocktails, as well as tea, coffee, wine, beer, etc. A 75cl bottle of mineral water is a fairly extortionate 65rmb, so you might as well have a proper drink with your avocado toast.
There were a few little niggles here: the bread and ham were a bit hard, the service could have been quicker, and my "Disco Fruit Tea" wasn't even sparkly. No matter how many restaurants move towards the “you receive your food whenever it’s ready, regardless of the fact that we haven’t started whisking your friend’s Hollandaise yet” model of service, it still never fails to annoy me. I'd also say that paying 133rmb for one brunch dish and a tea is a bit steep in a city that routinely sells great 10 kuai noodles. There are some cheaper options (a bagel plus topping is 25rmb), but most dishes are 75-110rmb. These are minor quibbles considering the effortless atmosphere and strong menu, though. If you haven't already been, check it out. It's an essential part of the visa application. Or at least, it might as well be.