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I’m going to come right out with a conclusion in the first paragraph: the pastas at Arch are so good that my Italian friend, to whom pasta is almost as sacred as his mother, went back two days in a row. He also, however, ordered two or three bowls each time because the portions are sized for Venetian dolls.
The space is beautiful: there’s a geometric, Art Deco aesthetic and a cozy line of booths opposite the bar. They have their own distilling equipment on display, too, adding a Steam Punk frisson. The urbanity in the main space almost makes up for the external bathrooms. Drink more cocktails to make the memories fade more quickly (but opt for shorts so you don't have to go back as often).
Speaking of cocktails – they’re as good as the pasta. There’s a Happy Hour menu of classics and house mixes, from an Aperol spritz to a strawberry and mint short, which go for 55rmb before 7pm. Then there’s the full menu, on which drinks range from 85-110rmb, and are centred around a key ingredient. Don’t expect mind-blowing presentation, but the flavours are often knock-outs. Mango and balsamic, light coconut, beetroot – try the lot if your balance allows.
The only thing to criticise about the food menu, as mentioned, is the paltry portion size. It isn’t all that major a criticism, though, because the food is so fairly-priced that it’s defensible to order two dishes instead of one. The hand-made gnocchi and ravioli were particular stand-out dishes, along with the superfood salad. Appetizers, especially the calamari and the chicken with sweet potato fries, shouldn’t be flipped past either. We were there as a group of eight who ate and drank a lot, and our bill came to just over 3800rmb – fair game for the quality and quantity.
Arch serves small but lovely plates and drinks. Most things are priced more than fairly considering the quality. It’s a great spot for a suave date or the start of a good night with a small group.
As soon as it hits your tongue. That’s when you know you’re in good hands. The gnocchi melts in your mouth, the bright and herbal pesto lingers, and the subtle funkiness of the blue cheese jabs at your taste buds.
It’s unconventional that the first thing mentioned in a review for a cocktail bar is a pasta. However, Arch is not your typical cocktail bar. You come here for the drinks, but you stay for the pastas. And what a wonderful selection of pastas to choose from. The aforementioned gnocchi with pesto and blue cheese, orecchiette with a meaty and zesty lamb ragu, spinach tagliatelle with bite-sized meatballs and peppery arugula. It’s hard to decide which one is the clear cut favourite. Not to mention a perfectly charred octopus starter, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, that prepares your mouth for the onslaught of flavours that’s about to be experienced. The pastas at Arch are, unequivocally, the best pastas I’ve ever eaten in Shanghai.
The cocktails are nothing to be sneezed at, either. The drink list is imaginative, beginning with a selection of aperitivos that opens up your palate. One recommendation is the refreshing Campari & BBQ Orange served with a burnt orange wedge. The presentation of the Saffron & Ginseng, refreshing though potent, is highlighted by a glass dusted with pumpkin powder. Tell the bartender what kind of drink profile you prefer and have them come up with something on the spot. I wanted something a bit strong so the bartender whipped up a coconut Old Fashioned. Who knew that could be a good combination, but sure enough, just about everything works at Arch.
Arch is a well executed cocktail bar where the food menu sneaks up on you and takes you on a journey you never could have expected. Hats off to the team here because they know what they’re doing and it shows in each sip of imaginative cocktails and each indulgent bite of perfectly cooked pastas.
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