In a city like Shanghai, it’s sometimes hard to prioritise. Food is everywhere, the options are endless, and there’s always someone raving about their new favourite brunch / hotpot / cocktail. I know. I get it. I’m not trying to add to the pressure with this review. I’m just saying – Lotus Eatery is the best meal I’ve had in Shanghai so far on many counts, and you should definitely make the time to visit.
Lotus Eatery (not to be confused with the Tianzifang Lotus Land, the veggie-focused Lotus, or any of the other seven million restaurants in Shanghai beginning with the same word) is on a street packed with the type of places you walk past and think “ooh, I want to try that one”. It’s a short amble through the park from Yan’an West or a slightly longer stroll from Zhongshan Park station. I’m including these details about walking as a hint. I couldn’t stop eating at Lotus Eatery. I wish I’d walked further during the day to offset the calorie guilt.
There’s a nice little fountain in the entrance, from which you ascend to a very well-laid-out room. It’s quite a big place, but it feels cosy: there are plenty of alcoves, cubbies and well-placed screens to separate groups. When I visited, there were a surprising number of groups with the same demographic: person (or couple) in their twenties, plus person (or couple) in their 50s. By the end of the meal, this made sense: Lotus Eatery is definitely the sort of place you want to bring your parents.
We ordered absolutely piles of food between four of us, and I’m so glad we did. The food arrives as soon as it’s ready. The first round – beef with cumin, okra, lotus root, runner beans – silenced the table. It takes a lot to knock the politeness out of a group of Brits and Canadians, but not a single person bothered to ask if anyone minded them finishing the last of the lotus root. We were all too busy eating.
The second round arrived. The wild mountain vegetable pancake was excellent, as was the rice cake with egg and pickled vegetable, the deep fried, sugar-coated Dali goats’ cheese and (ungghhhh…) the standout pan-fried Dali goats’ cheese.
This might seem like a lot of food for four people. It was. We still ordered another round, though, because we wanted some outstanding drinking snacks to accompany our massive pitchers of beer. Due to this, I can confirm that the sautéed beef and potato is also really great, which was not a surprise at all. We got some more runner beans, too. Somebody had finished all of the first plate without asking. (It was me.)
With the sheer volume of great food (and beer) we ordered, I expected a huge bill. For all four of us, the total only just sneaked over 500rmb. Incredible value for inimitable, uncriticisable food. The service was great, too, although nobody really noticed. I intend to use every excuse I can generate to go back again. My birthday. The long weekend. Thursday. Who cares. I need another goats’ cheese fix.
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