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[On The Radar]: Bvlgari Hotel Shanghai

We stick our head into the new, very tall hotel from the Italian fashion brand. It's all wonderful.
2018-07-05 19:21:47
On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places we find interesting. Sometimes we stumble upon these places, and sometimes we are invited, but in both cases, we are never paid to write an opinion, rather, these are our honest first impressions, and not a formal review.

If you've been north of the Suzhou Creek recently, you might've noticed the towering orange and black structure with BVLGARI emblazoned across the top like the eye of Sauron. It's the second BVLGARI hotel in China and the sixth in line of the noble Italian house of BVLGARI Hotels and Resorts. A 48-story monument to what an Italian jewelry-maker can achieve with a bit of ambition and a lot of media coverage, it (and its Italian F&B features) are currently open. Not soft open, open-open. You can't hand someone a gold band, charge full price and be like "we'll roll out the emerald and ruby insets in a couple of months probably." Or so they told us.

What an idea!

Re: the V in Bvlgari: They take the "Italian" theme seriously. In classical Roman script, the sound associated with 'u' was spelled 'v.' The letter u didn't get mainstream usage until like the middle of the 14th century. So, Bvlgari. While we're being all pedantic, it's pronounced BU--uh, BVL-gari, not bvl-GARI. You uncultured swine.

Here're the eats and drinks. All prices subject to a 15% service charge, naturally.

Il Ristorante - Niko Romito


Quick Take: Bvlgari's headliner, Il Ristorante is simple, unpretentious, contemporary Italian done exquisitely in gorgeous surroundings.

What It Is: Michelin-starred Niko Romito known for a "ain't broke/don't fix" attitude towards contemporary Italian cuisine. Il Ristorante is about simple ingredients "ennobled by technique," as his foreword reads on the menu. Not an attitude you'll find in similar price brackets around here.

The menu's a minimalistic list of familiar-sounding dishes, like Carpaccio (328rmb), Vitello tonnato (288rmb), Tagliata di controfilletto Wagyu alle erbe (988rmb). Just dropping names doesn't give you the full picture. They're not reinventing the wheel. Saying Linguine al pesto di basilico e nocciole (198rmb) isn't making anyone go "hazelnuts? The audacity!" Even the Crispy Suckling Pig with Orange Caramel Sauce (408rmb), which sounds decadent, is fantastic because of the creamy mouthwatering consistency and the knee-quivering crunch, rather than the innovative approach to serving pig. The appeal is that it all oozes a knitted-brow dedication to time-honored Italian cuisine.


Tortelli di pomodoro con burrata e basilico (298rmb)


Crispy suckling pig with orange caramel sauce (408rmb)


Antipasto al'Italiana (488rmb)


Antipasto al'Italiana (488rmb)

It's a lux luxurious luxury hotel, so the prices are high. If this is home-cooking, it's home-cooking for people who drop 2k (or 6k++ on a room) without blinking. For those without rich parents or investors to defraud, the set menus might get the most bang for your buck. They've got a condovizione/sharing menu (1100rmb/person), and a degustazione/tasting menu (1688rmb/person), and both seem to hit the highlights. Generous wine pairings available (degustazione includes 7 wines) with Italian wines from lesser known regions.


First Impressions: Surprise, it's really good. Really (expensive) astoundingly good contemporary Italian food with an amazing view and a tasteful low-key aesthetic, from a brand known for bold and unconventional designs. The tastes are simple, well-balanced and unpatronizing. Reminds you how good fresh tomato and basil can taste in a dish. Shout-out to the bread and olive oil. The crust on that buxom loaf cracks like Mediterranean brushwood and the olive oil from Bvlgari's own orchards is smoky and shootable, repeatedly. There's a reason Italian cuisine is so popular worldwide, and Il Ristorante is a prime example of why that's a-okay.

It's also a prime example of completely booked out for the next two weeks. Just book a room and order room service, am I right, is this thing on.

Il Bar


Quick Take: A sky-high bar-lounge serving cocktails, snacks, all-day breakfast and a top-notch aperitivo.


What It Is: Lounge bar slash cozy living room, with spots at the oval copper-fronted bar, some outside seating, and lounge seats against the windows and the ridiculous view. A list of spirits as long as you'd expect, plus a of couple mezcals, cachacas and piscos (nice), and their trio of 120rmb signature cocktails. The Bvlgari is a classy gin- and aperol-based thing that balances its fruit tones perfectly. The Pink Lady is very both those things, with a hint of Sichuan pepper working nicely with the subtle flavor of red dragonfruit. The stand-out is the Riverside, which looks like it was scooped from its namesake, but is actually a fantastically herbal thing made with gin and carpano rosso. Get that.


Riverside (120rmb)

They stress their aperitivo, served with drink orders between 5.30-8pm. A classic Milanese tradition, appropriated with various degrees of success throughout Shanghai, here it manifests as a stand of snacks delivered to your seat; olives, chunks of parmesan, some cold cuts, little cherry tomatoes filled with cheese, I think? Delicious accompaniments!


Left to right: Riverside, The Pink Lady, Bvlgari


Plus bar bites and snacks, such as Burrata (138rmb), Foccacia (148rmb) and Minestrone (88rmb) which are fairly sizeable. Plus plus an all-day breakfast, whatever style you want, whenever you want, because it's a lux luxurious luxury hotel, and if you want a mariachi band and a full English breakfast at 3am, they're going to say yes.

First Impressions: God that view. Top three? Probably in the top three places in the city to have a drink, rub shoulders with people in exquisitely casual outfits, sip your expensive and naturally excellent drink and go "Shanghai, eh? Eh?" The vibe is remarkably welcoming and laidback for such an upscale hotel. Achingly chill.

Love it. Love it.

And also... Bvlgari's Other Highlights

Il Cioccolato


What It Is: China's only Bvlgari chocolatier, this little tile-mosaic anteroom at the back of the hotel serves up in-house chocolate cakes and little crisp medallions of chocolate-y goodness for 88rmb and up. They've got a signature Shanghai one; ginger and red date. Delectable. The ones served in the Bvlgari Beijing are made here and shipped up north. Suck it, Beijing.


Incoming soon are more things set inside the 7-years-in-the-renovating Shanghai Chamber of Commerce building, which is also where they have their ballroom. It's breaking with the main hotel's dominant burgundy-and-black color scheme, but still keeps it classy and understated. As far as Shanghai renovations go, this one doesn't feel chintzy and unearned.


Shanghai Chamber of Commerce entrance hall

Also incoming; La Terraza which is easily contender for best view in Shanghai. Set on the 48th floor, it sticks its head over every other building between it and the Pudong Skyline, and it's stunning. Have I used "breath-taking" yet this month? No? Good. "Breath-taking."

You'll get no pictures of it because when we went it was raining horizontally. We're not weather gods.

Instead, have some pictures from around the hotel.


The 400sqm Bvlgari Suite

F*** me, right?