On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.
Three pleasant surprises out there in F&B land this week. Look at these fancy new places you can eat delicious things in:
Quick Take: A chic but approachable modern bakery and ice cream shop from Shanghai's resident baker's manager, Son Quach. The ex-man-at-Farine is hosting a succinct and delectable line of frugally priced baked goods, as well as that trendy WIYF ice cream.
What It Is:
Shanghai hasn't really been wanting for bakeries this past year or so, but this is the new one from Son Quach, a local notable on the F&B scene for his run at game-changer (and game-destroyer?) French bakery Farine. He's back in the business of managing a boulangerie with a French baker in the back at this new one-room operation Luneurs, across from the original location of Pie Society in Xingfuli. This one's all about direct enjoyment of pastries, sweet and savory, in a very stylish environment. Seating is just one long communal bench, with small stool tables for your confections. It's not a place where you plop down with your laptop all day long a la Lost Bakery; if you're going, you're going specifically to try line of goods, presented reverently sans glass case on a marble alter, like sculptural works.
The menu also encompasses sourdough, baguette, and toast loaves to take away, four variations on WIYF ice cream, and a selection of coffees, including Vietnamese (for 25rmb) from 20-35rmb.
I love the design of the room, which is subtly elegant and mod, and offers a really unique presentation platform for the items on the block. I'll say again, though, it's a bakery and not a laptop cafe, better suited to quick snack in-house or take-away business.
The plain croissants are most excellent: beautiful color, buttery, flaky, with a crunchy top, nice layers and with a hint of salt. Basically, the Platonic ideal. Even better the Ham Cheese Croissant, which is that with a gorgeous slab of brie cheese and ham for 35rmb. Really good deal. I could eat like 10 of those a day.
The crust was a little hard on the Tart Raspberry, which was a little disappointing and the Pista Choco Almonds was just alright — fine for just 25rmb.
The ice cream's staggeringly great though. When did ice cream get so damn good? Feels like I'm always having fantastic ice cream these days. I'll say this: Wherever else we're at as a species at this point in 2018, humanity has gotten ice cream down like a motherfucker, that's real talk.
Quick Take: Gaga Cafe is the first Shanghai outlet of the massively popular Shenzhen modern teahouse chain. Taking up a location in a Raffles City Changning heritage building, this one's already been featured in Wallpaper* magazine for its standout design. You're going for that and their trademark next wave / next level tea and coffee offerings.
What It Is:
Gaga Cafe rules the nü tea house scene in Shenzhen but this is their first one in Shanghai, taking up residence in the "Potter Building" at Raffles Changning, which was a nunnery or something back in the '20s before they converted into this very polished cafe, which pleases God, one presumes.
Like (one of) the main ones in Shenzhen this one is designed by Shanghai-based Coordination Asia who are importing cool, sleek, minimal, and relaxing colors and lines into the mix, ideal for affluent shoppers of European fashion houses to rest their weary souls and have trendy tea in.
You're here for their signature line of fruit tea and the on-trend sea salt cheese tea and coffees. They also have a light Mediterranean food menu of salads and brunchables into a range of sandwiches and pastas, and, of course, steak, because this is China, honey, and a fancy place ain't fancy for shit unless there is some kind of steak on the menu.
98% of the venues that make explicit overtures to court luxury shoppers in between spending sprees at Prada on the way to Louis Vuitton inevitably end up in some kind of infantile, tacky, chrome-damaged, cotton candy-swathed hellscape that no sane person would ever want to go into. Gaga Cafe. Is not that. It's nicely designed. It's tasteful. The tea is great. The sea salt coffee is really, really great.
It's lux and wealthy without being showy about it, and it's making me try my hardest in this life to be the best person I can possibly be so that I can be born again in the next as a tai tai, and then I get to hang out in it all day long wearing aggravating sunglasses with elegant lighting reflecting just so off my Giorgio Armani 'Flash' Lip Lacquer No 522 lip gloss.
What can I say, it's my dream.
Quick Take: Jing'an gets its own version of the popular Alimentari deli from Popolo Group. The direct importers are offering lots of tasty Italian goods to nibble and imbibe in-shop or out, and expanding the menu concept into degusteria terrain. But yeah: 75rmb meat and cheese platters. And wine bottles that start at 140rmb. That's all you need to know.
What It Is:
I'll say it again because it really is all you need to know: 75rmb meat and cheese platters. And wine bottles that start at 140rmb.
For those of us with style and breeding who live in the Former Fren — XUHUI I MEAN XUHUI — we know all about Alimentari. From the Popolo Group (Gemma, Bar Central, etc.), the venue is their Italian deli and artisanal goods outlet, wherein they stock meats, cheeses, cooking accoutrements, and more for cheap prices. To put it another way, it's like The Beer Lady but for (most) all the fabulous things in life you want to put in your mouth. You can eat in or take away.
So they've brought it to Jing'an, scrapping their QV Wine Bar venue on Wuding Lu. They didn't have a long lifespan as QV, a wine and snacks bar concept that sort of picked up where Enoterra left off — back in 2010. QV was maybe a little too dark and dated for the Wuding Lu bar street. This is open and airy, and yes, bursting with that rustic Italo vibe.
In addition to the all-important meat and cheese products, take note on these boutique products: La Torronfetta (a crumbly nugget with almonds); classic Leone candy; Villa Lanfranca Saba; Single-Wine Vinegar "Vitae"Mengazzoli; Mulino Bianco oven baked crackers; Miel d'Acacia honey, and more.
In addition to the deli and imported goods, they're offering a range of in-house bottled cocktails, a range of paninis, and, in the future, more hot items on the menu and brunch. Look for the former items now and the latter items in a few weeks.
It's Alimentari imported to the heathen hordes of Jing'an and they don't even deserve it, the savages. But yeah, prices are great, everything is quality, and it's a nice environment to hang out in with some friends drinking booze, eating cheese, and living your best dolce vitas.