I’m pretty sure brunching is one of the top expat pastimes in Shanghai. The sheer amount of brunch deals can be overwhelming.
I would judge brunch based on drinks, atmosphere and food. In most cases, you are lucky to get two out of three. Bull & Claw is the exception that does a great job across all metrics.
Most free flow brunches are limited to some house wines and a standard beer. Bull & Claw’s includes those and a decent selection of cocktails and beers (even IPA’s).
Located in an old villa, Bull & Claw has lots of outdoor space with large patios and on both the first and second floors along with a private party room on the third floor. Weekends are crowded with big groups, but with the high walls, it still feels like you are escaping the city.
Lastly, the food is actually excellent on its own. The pancakes on the kids menu is basically every kids’ dream. They take two fairly typical pancakes and basically cover them in syrup, candy and ice cream. It is off the chains.
The brunch roast beef takes a traditional pub roast and elevates it by using wagyu chuck and goose fat roasted potatoes. It is a huge portion, but I left a spotless plate when I finished.
Without drinks, you can have a good two course brunch for 168 rmb.
Statement: The Bull and Claw is one of the classics and "safest" options for brunch in the city, it never goes wrong.
Evidence: What I truly like about The Bull and Claw 2.0 is the location: it is in the heart of the french concession, a restored colonial house with an amazing patio. It’s a classic brunch spot among the expat community because you never get disappointed. You can choose 1, 2 or 3 courses (98rmb, 168rmb,188rmb) or go for the daily fare section of the house specialities.
We had the Turkish Menemen (eggs, peppers, onions, tomatoes, yogurt in a pan) and smashed avocado on bread with poached eggs. Both dishes were tasty, well achieved and well presented. That’s why you never go wrong at The Bull and Claw: the food is simple but tasty, no more, no less, just accurate. Don’t miss the drinks and the free flow during the weekends, they offer a good deal.
Verdict: Guilty of being one of the best brunch choices in town. Suitable for family, friends or for a date. Reasonable prices, quality food, interesting menu and good service.
They’re really very good at brunch at Bull and Claw. At one point, searching for problems to show that I was a very discerning reviewer, I turned to the person next to me and asked if perhaps there was a bit too much bacon on his lobster benedict. Of all the ways to criticise a brunch, this is surely one of the best. It’s up there with “they’ve put an extra shot in my Bloody Mary, the scamps” and “oh no, we have a whole hour of free-flow mimosas left”.
To start with, the venue is lovely. It’s the sort of space in which your hangover gently evaporates. We sat outside under strings of bulbs, leafy branches and a clear Shanghai sky. Service was quick and efficient. All very relaxing.
The brunch menu is consistently tempting; I couldn't see an option I didn't want to eat. We went for the three-course option – a slightly misleading moniker considering that one of the “courses” is just a drink. At 188rmb, though, it’s still good value for what you get.
I ordered the Turkish menemen as a savoury option, which turned out to be a great choice. The sharp, yoghurt sauce was a particularly nice touch. The eggs were a little overcooked, but the sauce was full of flavour – plenty of richness with occasional fennel seed bursts. It was so nice to finally see a strong veggie brunch option in Shanghai that wasn't just avocado on toast, too (although they also serve their own version at B&C if that's what you fancy, because of course they do).
The bubble and squeak was also hearty and satisfying, despite the rather perplexing and incongruous sheet of fried beef on top, and the little shitake and feta fritters went down very well. When the abovementioned lobster benedict arrived (an extra 98rmb), it was a source of intense food envy around the table: muffins piled with lobster, bacon, eggs and a particularly buttery, rich hollandaise. I stand by my bacon comment above (it overpowered the lobster!), but it’s a good option if you feel like a decadent splurge.
And then the sweet courses arrived. There was a brief silence and then, from my friend with the maple and honeycomb waffles: “Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t really matter which option you order: the pancakes, waffles and French toast all looked and tasted equally good. I know that some diners will feel like they should go for the fruit bowl after their savoury dishes, but seriously – just give in to the carbs. This brunch is worth the treadmill time. I did think my French toast was slightly dry – a longer egg soak needed, maybe? – and I was surprised that the banana was raw rather than caramelised. The crunchy chocolate-peanut topping made up for this, though.
On the drinks front, I had the cucumber and apple juice, which was exactly what I’d been craving: light and refreshing. There are alcoholic options as well, though, and you can add free-flow drinks if that’s your morning vibe. The cocktails looked great.
In all, it was a very comfortable brunch. Bull and Claw is a safe bet for any occasion. Nothing mind-blowing, but more than dependable.
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