It's Sinan Lu, once again
. Number 30, south of Huaihai Lu, a funky, inexpensive scarf's throw from H&M
, a splash of wine away from Brick
, a laksa noodle length from Ginger Indochine
, a pair of milk tea straws from Cha's
, and a couple of gold coins away from World of Warcraft-themed Treasure Restaurant
. It's a slender corner space with cupcakes and chocolates in the window, on the northernmost side of the building. In the macro scheme of things, that's a block east of Ruijin Lu and just a bit north of the western edge of Fuxing Park, in the French Concession.
What it is: Hof
is a boutique dessert and cocktail lounge, doing all kinds of interesting, premium things at non-premium prices. Their pedigree is in their name -- "Hof" is from the people behind House of Flour
, another dessert destination out in Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park and its their ethos of high quality at affordable prices that underpins this, their expansion into a classier, more downtown kind of lounge. They've got a justifiably excellent reputation in town for desserts and Hof really showcases that. Now, they're branching into cocktails, too.
There's an intertwined set of themes happening at Hof. The overarching ones are desserts and cocktails, and primarily, that's why you'll come to Hof -- a slice of a chocolate cake, a rose-scented Shanghai Mei Mei cocktail, maybe a few bonbons. Underneath that general Dessert umbrella, though, there's a lot happening: hand-made, artisanal chocolates; a set of chocolate desserts, like the aforementioned cake, called the Chocolate Sinan Lu, or warm chocolate rice pudding; a part of the menu classed as "Simplicity" with understated but delicious things like home-made yogurt with yuzu honey or rose-honey panna cotta with a kumquat compote; and "Iced Treats, Gelato, & Sorbet."
The other theme here is the cocktail, and to that end, they're aiming for, shall we say, excellence in simplicity. That means a pared-back cocktail list, with ten or so standards, high-quality alcohol and mixers, and three creative signature drinks. There's the Shanghai Mei Mei, an intensely fragrant pink thing that mixes vodka, the juice of waxberries (yangmei
, those knobbly, over-sized raspberry looking fruits currently in season), rose syrup, and lime juice; the Osmanthus Blossom, a refreshing summer cocktail of osmanthus (gui hua
, the highly perfumed and obsessed over yellow flowers that blossom around mid-autumn) flower wine, fresh lemon juice, apple juice, and acacia honey; and the self-explanatory Cacao Cocktail. The rest of the cocktails come in two iterations, Premium and Super-Premium, and, particularly with their signature cocktails, there's been an effort to pair them with desserts. The Shanghai Mei Mei and the Chocolate Sinan Lu go especially well together.
There's also a cafe-coffee-cake thing going on at Hof during the daytime, with light sandwiches and snacks you might recognize from House of Flour or C's
, and a small but highly curated wine list. The desserts loom large over all of this, but, taken together, the interchangeable components of Hof mean there's a lot of other ways to use this place besides just an after-dinner dessert and/or cocktail. Afternoon coffee, quick lunch, pre-dinner glass (or bottle) of wine, weekend sugar fix, quiet weekday cocktail, takeaway cupcakes for a birthday party...
Hof is classy and intimate. A good portion of the narrow place is dominated by desserts and the making of desserts, in a marble display case, and in the glassed-in showroom that's temperature-controlled, and necessary for working with chocolate. There's just a pair of seats at the small bar area, and not that many more in the comfy, dark leather chairs and tables lining the wall. There's a definite lounge vibe to the place and it'd be quite easy to while away a few hours with a cocktail or two and a steady stream of small desserts.
Hof looks a lot more expensive than it is, and that's always a nice thing. Single truffles are 8-11rmb; single origin cocoa plantation chocolate bars are 19-25rmb; the homemade yogurt with yuzu honey is 16rmb, and the rose-honey panna cotta is 25rmb. Wines by the glass are 35-60rmb; by the bottle, they start at 158rmb. A lovely dessert and a cocktail fit easily under 100rmb. Premium cocktails are around 55rmb; Super Premium are 88rmb. And those cupcakes on display in the front window? They're 12-15rmb a piece.
Groups of ladies, people on dates, anyone who likes chocolate, people dropping in for a slice of marble cheesecake to go, cocktails drinkers looking for a quiet spot, people gearing up for a night out in Fuxing Park or the Bund who want somewhere intimate to ease into the evening, customers from Cha's smartly pairing up the strengths of the two spots. The ladies.