On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile 2-3 new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.
Two new restaurants for your consideration. Hefty, serious meals from The Bull & Claw and Porky's. Dig in.
What It Is: After the sudden and some might say ignominious shut-down of their original Xikang Lu location, the Bull & Claw was off the radar for what felt to some like a million years but was more like three, four months before its brunch menu popped up at Hooked. Fast forward about half a year, and Bull & Claw is back in that expansive, three-story mansion on Fenyang Lu used to be El Patio.
First off, it's a real nice location. Top-of-line terrace. It's cozy but not cramped, and whoever redid the interior applied a light, deft touch. Big comfy leather seats with amble back support (crucial for long boozy brunches), white-washed walls adorned with lobster cages and the like and the space is evenly partitioned by walls and a fireplace. The second floor balcony's real lovely, with a smattering of low couch seating and tables. It's west-facing, so it'll be sun-drenched from about 10-11am onwards. Remember to drink lots of water with your free-flow champagne, sunstroke's no joke.
Third floor's an attic dining room with its own terrace, big enough for maybe 10-15 people. Seems made for parties and the like, but they're still getting that one up and in swing. Overall, a real class joint. It's got Xuhui written all over it.
Menu-wise, it's Bull & Claw. It's lobster and steaks. It's lobster, steaks and misc. Grill will run you between 258rmb for the Australian 300g Rib Eye and 1,380rmb for the 1.5kg Wagyu Tomahawk. Full Nova Scotia Lobsters available at 268rmb a piece. Steak and lobster combos have natural pride of place, ranging from 388rmb for the Half Lobster & Veal Fillet or Rib Eye, up to the Wagyu Tomahawk with 2 Whole Lobsters for 1,820rmb. Another key bulletpoint on the food list is the Wellington of Beef (218rmb). Mainly because they've got decent pastry chefs on board now.
The one big development on the menu's the desserts. Dark, secret whispers dared suggest that the desserts at the original weren't on par with the rest of the menu. Now they've got a trio of pastry-chefs locked away upstairs churning out fresh stuff like Baked Cheesecake (58rmb), Apple Pie (58rmb) and Lemon Tart (58rmb).
Booze-wise, they've got .5L draught for about 50rmb; their own House Lager, Little Creatures, Cider Republic. Bottled beers like Brewdog, Karl Strauss and Green Flash go for around 50rmb as well. Couple signature cocktails are 80rmb each, and there's a short but solid selection of bubble, rose, white and red stuff, glasses between 50-70rmb, bottles from a not unreasonable 225rmb to over a thousand for names with strange relationships to consonants.
First Impressions: If brunch is a religion, Shanghai decided The Bull & Claw was Pope. Unfortunately for the laity, the Holy See's reassigning the clergy and mass is postponed, I'm really butchering this metaphor, what I mean is brunch isn't on yet. I went for dinner, though. It was great. The Rib Eye and Lobster Thermidor (388rmb) is a terrific combination, sides like fried garlic cloves, butter herb sauce and french fries never gave the heap of meat enough time to get boring. It's just big enough for two people with moderate appetites, or one person who makes a big show of leaning back into creaking leather and patting their belly.
If Bull & Claw's comfortably in your budget, you've probably already booked a table there. If it's a bit of a stretch, give dinner a try for a date or if there's family in town. Maybe you'll be converted into one of those people that swear by its brunch. Maybe not. Heretic.
- Alex Panayotopoulos
The Bull & Claw's still in soft open, and they're only doing their dinner service for now.
What It Is: The spot be Blue Marlin on that stretch of Yuyuan Lu where Co. Cheese and Cinnaswirl are, is now Porky's. It's still a sports bar with a little live stage, one of the nicer dart alleys in town, ie. the boards aren't crammed into a corner by the toilets, and they've marked the line with thumb tacks on the wooden floor.
The menu is still massive and eclectic. You've got Quesadillas (35rmb), Tom Yum Goong Soup (59rmb), Meatloaf (99rmb), Beef Lasagnes (89rmb), Chef's Vegetable Stir Fry (66rmb)... it's a real mix. "Fusion."
The big difference ("big") is that they've now got pretty decent ribs and heavier emphasis on the BBQ and grilled stuff. Apart from things like a Sausage Platter (138rmb) featuring a cornucopia of Germanic fleshpods and a BBQ Pork Chop (109rmb) (2016 best in Shanghai, according to the menu), the main draw are the ribs. Pork Ribs (2016 best in Shanghai) come in large (218rmb) and small (149rmb) varietals, with French fries and 'slaw.
Booze menu's long. Won't go into all the detail, there's no time; Carlsberg and Tiger are 46rmb for .5l on draught, Dead Pony Ale, Guinness, Punk IPA and Hoegaarden are 70rmb. Bottle of Heineken or Corona'll cost you 48rmb. Fluorescent cocktails are 60-ish. It looks designed for Happy Hour.
First Impressions: I don't know who's ordering Vegetable Stir Fry here. Maybe it's a culinary diamond in the rough, I didn't try it. This is place is called Porky's. Beer. Ribs.
The ribs're good. Melt-off-the-bone, just-the-right-amount-of-fat, not-overpowered-by-sauce good. 10/10 ribs. Somewhere, a bald man with a beard could explain why exactly they're that good. Maybe they're smoked in a barn. Maybe the marinade is made from genuine long-haul truck wheels. Whatever. They hefty, too. A rack o' ribs'll really sit in your belly for a good solid while. Get yourself a chunky sheet-metal belt buckle with your name on it to hold that sucker in place. If the price puts you off a bit, there's talk of an all-you-can-eat BBQ Sunday brunch. Might be worth a [Deals Tested].
Good ribs aside, I'm not blown away, but Porky's doesn't give a fuck about my opinion. Drink, play pool, play darts, listen to Linkin Park and Guns'n'Roses, eat ribs. That'll do, Porky. That'll do.
- Alex Panayotopoulos