I have been meaning to write this blog for a while and finally realised the best way to put this information out there. I hate the fact that there is a pressure by other travellers online to only eat ‘local cuisine' when abroad and avoid any ‘western' food. But when you visit a city such as Shanghai that has such a large expat community and being one of the most multi-cultured cities in China (which still isn't much!) there is an amazing selection of cuisines available for your discerning taste.
I do love many aspects of Shanghai, as much as I hate certain aspects of it. It is though, a foodies paradise coming maybe second in my list of top cities for food (London being the best). And the same as London, I like the fact there is a grown up, modern offering of bars and restaurants in shanghai that try to offer a short selection of food that they do really really well. Noodle Bull is one of these places, and although not western food, offers a change of taste from the otherwise greasy, oily and sauce laden dishes of traditional Chinese fare.
I would say that China in general has a lot of work to do in building modern dishes that take traditional food to the next step, that don't rely on fatty cooking oil and MSG to give flavour to the dishes. It will happen at some point and then all these old restaurants will slowly fade away (as happened in England with the advent of modern ‘gastro pubs' a decade ago).
Moving on, I put together a Google Map Engine before travelling, as our time there was limited and I wanted to try as many non-chinese bars and restaurants in shanghai as possible during our stay. Below is my top 10 list of bars and restaurants in shanghai (in random order, i.e. so all are top choices!) of places to try out for that fix of home grown fancies and treats, upmarket bistros, micro breweries along with some bars that do great Happy Hour deals and food on the side! I hope you enjoy our
Top 10 favourite bars and restaurants in shanghai article!
1. Bubba's Asia – Texas-style Bar-B-Que and Saloon
Bubba's have been around since 2006 and originally had 3 locations, now it seems that has gone down to just two locations (Riverside and Hongqiao). Bubba's serve up every type of BBQ meat you could think of, and have a daily special / discount offer every day of the week (see daily specials board). They also offer a great selections of beers on draught and bottled.
2. Morton's The Steakhouse (Chicago favourite!)
Just two words you need to know HAPPY HOUR. This is without a doubt the best value happy hour in Shanghai and you will leave feeling fat and drunk. Here is the deal, you turn up at 5pm (Monday – Friday) and grab a seat at the bar. Order a cocktail or Mortini which are priced from 45RMB (just under £5 / $8 each). Now wait… Ok so now it's around about 5:15pm and the first platters of steak filled sandwiches arrive, try not to be greedy as there are more than enough to go around to everyone. These are totally free and unlimited. If you want to nurse that 1 drink for 2 hours, then go for it. Every 15 minutes, a new platter of sandwiches will turn up and you can help yourself until 7pm when the last round arrives.
There seems to be an unspoken rule though, don't take more than 2 sandwiches at a time, otherwise you are taking the piss! Also, if you are too greedy, then on the next round the waiter's will give you last dibs or worse and skip you completely! So take your time, pace yourself and just grab 1 or 2 at a time. Work out over the 2 hours that is at least 5-6 rounds of sandwiches. So you can see, why you don't need to be a pig about it! Take our advice, I felt awful after eating that many sandwiches and it's put me off doing it ever again!
Morton's definitely is up there with the all time great bars and restaurants in shanghai to try out!
>> Visit Morton's Steakhouse website
3. The Kerry Hotel – The MEAT | The COOK | The BREW
If you want to splash out a little, but not get too extravagant then head over to Pudong side and drop into the Kerry Hotel. The hotel has it's own on-site beer brewery that produces it's own Pale Ale's, Stouts, Weiss Beer, Pilsner along with a Cider and seasonal specials across the year, a very unique offering for bars and restaurants in shanghai, even in 2013.
They run Happy Hours regularly in the style of Buy-1-Get-1-Free on all their craft beers, along with some traditional pub snacks thrown in on the side. After you have knocked a few back, grab a seat in the restaurant and enjoy some of the best cuisine available in the city for fixing any homesickness you might have!
>> Visit The COOK | The MEAT | The BREW website
4. Marks & Spencer Cafe – West Nanjing Road
Ok, so it's not what you might expect on a list of top eats in Shanghai. But if you are a british expat, you might be really missing the simple home comforts like a simple meal at M&S and british style sandwiches. The cafe opened up only in recent years and offers way more selection than all the other M&S's in China. The nearest M&S you will find to Shanghai that serves sandwiches is in Hong Kong, so this may well just do you before you do a visa run!
The cafe upstairs has a large selection of M&S favourites, including pastries, breads, crisps, sweets, frozen meals and wine / beer. The cafe serves some simple things such as sandwiches, salads / soups and coffee / pastries. It is a nice break away from all the busyness of West Nanjing Road and has a good view of the road below. Well worth a visit if you are British at least, and if you aren't British then you should head over and buy some packs of their percy pigs sweets. I promise you will get addicted to these time honoured sweeties and be coming back for more like the rest of us!
>> Visit M&S Store locator website
5. Roosevelt Bar – For the best position to take the ultimate snapshot of The Bund
The first point is the best point of this bar / restaurant. There is nowhere better in Shanghai easily accessible to take a beautiful panorama of The Bund. They also run a Buy-1-Get-1-Free offer on cocktails from 5pm – 8pm every week night. There is also an offer from 2pm – 8pm on all draft beers a Buy-2-Get-1-Free.
Roosevelt is slightly pricey but in terms of Shanghai prices at upscale bars its not all that bad and you can't beat the views at night of The Bund. There is also a restaurant where I am told offers fantastic food, although that is slightly on the pricey side. One thing to note, maybe dress up a little, as you might feel out of place like we did in our day shorts and t shirts clothing! Roosevelt is one of the poshest bars and restaurants in shanghai that you might frequent during your stay.
>> Visit Roosevelt website
6. Noodle Bull (Multiple locations)
We actually visited a newer one of its branches in the must visit ‘1933 Shanghai Municipal Slaughterhouse‘ or otherwise known as ‘1933 Laochangfang' complex. Yes, it is as it sounds, the place was originally built as an abattoir and was reconditioned in mid 2000's as a cultural / retail space. It's so surprising that this place is here, as China is in general harsh with its handling of old buildings and usually starts a-fresh on new projects. If you are into industrial design, visit here at night as Noodle Bull is a few floors up (it will take you a while to find!) and right next to it on the floor below is a really cool Russian bar called Red Square that does salsa nights and nice cocktails.
Moving onto Noodle Bull itself, this taiwanese modern eatery serves noodle dishes either soup based or dry along with a few sides. The choice is small, but what they do well is make every plate perfectly balanced in flavour and with a budget price tag on top! Well worth a visit and if you want to be sneaky, find your way through the maze that is this building to the top where the building ventilation system is for some fantastic views of the city – coupled with some really nice cool breezes during the hot summer nights!
>> Visit Noodle Bull listing on SmartShanghai
7. Hooters Shanghai (Pudong Branch)
Oh yes, if there was any sign that China has entered a period of americanisation that it can't ever turn back from, it is this place. Located on the waterfront in Pudong, Hooters is open all day serving lunch, dinner and dancing ladies on chairs. We only went here because it offered a drinks happy hour that once ended, then had a chicken wings happy hour straight afters – so 50% off beer and wings which otherwise would have been very expensive for bars and restaurants in shanghai pudong area in general.
I don't think the local Chinese really understand or ‘get' this place. Every time there was some singing and dancing, they looked startled at what was going on. Maybe they just accidentally stumbled into this place looking for some dinner. Or maybe it's too much culture clash, I think maybe a bit of both and it really doesn't fit in with even modern day China and it's people. Hey it never worked in even the UK, I think there may be such a thing as too much American..
Visit Hooters website to find our daily deals!
8. Mr & Mrs Bund – Modern Eatery by Paul Pairet
We never got a chance to go here, but I have to recommend it as the reviews out there are all positive. Not only does it have a sky bar that overlooks Pudong with killer views (they rival Roosevelt) the menu has won many awards and offers modern french and european cuisine.
This is an expensive restaurant, there is no hiding that. But they do offer some late night meal & drink offers, with Buy-1-Get-1-Free on a selection of drinks and a set menu of 2 courses + 1 side for 200RMB (£20 / $32) per person, or 3 courses for an extra 50RMB. That is outstanding value if you want to enjoy some great views of the city and dine in a nice romantic setting overlooking the Bund.
>> Visit Mr & Mrs Bund website
9. Afternoon Tea at the Park Hyatt or Grand Hyatt, Pudong (Instead of paying to visit the top of Shanghai WFC)
What better way to get the best views of Shanghai than to visit one of these 5* hotels and enjoy a high tea close to the top of the world? Now you just need to decide which tower you want to visit, either the Jin Mao Tower for the Grand Hyatt or Shanghai World Financial Centre (taller) for Park Hyatt.
The afternoon tea at Park Hyatt costs just 210RMB vs. 150RMB to instead just visit the top of the building. So instead of spending your hard earned money on just getting an elevator to one of the worlds tallest observation decks, spend 60RMB more and have a large spread of sandwiches, cakes and pastries along with tea overlooking all the other skyscrapers and the cityscape. Well worth the trip and if you want to save even more money, visit the Grand Hyatt instead which is slightly cheaper.
>> Visit Park Hyatt website
>> Visit Grand Hyatt website
10. The Shanghai Brewery
OK, so I'm a bit of a beer nut! I love beer, I don't drink anything other than beer when I go out as I couldn't bare the thought of missing a wasted drinking opportunity to have something such as spirits or wine instead. That is why this list has 2 breweries, as outside of Europe and now the US, craft beers and micro breweries are still a rarity and when you find one, you have to try what is on offer as it takes a real enthusiast to setup this type of thing in China! Which means, what they are pouring is going to be damn good.
Definitely turn up here during Happy Hour which runs from 2pm – 8pm weekdays and 4pm – 8pm weekends. You get special prices on their home brews along with a variety of other drinks. If you are heading here on a Monday and buy a pizza and you will get 2 craft beers gratis. Lot's of other weekday specials available, just consult their website for more information.
>> Visit Shanghai Brewery website
I'm going to throw in a few more ‘freebies' to this article as well. Shanghai is infamous for it's Monday Burger Madness. Basically everywhere that offers burgers on its menus generally does a deal, such as 50% off, Buy-1-Get-1-Free or free beer deals The cheapest of which is Blue Frog along with Southern Belle, Malone's, Cali Burger and Big Bamboo. We visited a Blue Frog in Pudong and I have to say it was a damn good burger!
This top 10 list is just as it reads.. only 10 of our favourites in Shanghai for eating and drinking without breaking the bank! Below is a Google Maps Engine that gives you the full list of places we researched or visited during our stay in Shanghai. I hope it makes your life a lot easier in finding a unique place to go out.
You can open it up larger here > https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zbpUNW8FAVio.keApe97FGDpE
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