This past October Holiday in Shanghai marks my second one since moving here in 2015, and it never ceases to amaze me how many things there are to do in this incredible city. Before I get into the details of what I got up to, let me explain a little bit about this ‘October Holiday’ I speak of.
Also known as Mid-Autumn Festival or Golden Week, this holiday originally marks the celebration of the fullest moon in the lunar calendar year. Due to it being a week-long national holiday, there is a large amount of traveling that goes on, so it’s pretty much a guarantee that every bus, train or metro station, as well as airport, will be jammed. We avoid the crowds (we live in China, there are enough of them during day to day life) so we like to travel outside of these holidays or at the very least a week before and after them – which is what we do over Chinese New Year. We also end up saving quite a bit on airfare, which is always great!
Luckily for us, we’ve had family visiting us over the last two holidays, so we’ve gotten to enjoy the city we live in even more by giving them a taste (quite literally) of some of the many things on offer here:
Roast Beef Sandwiches + G&T’s at The Bunker inside Green & Safe (Xintiandi)
Tucked away at the back of the Green & Safe, located in the famous Xintiandi area, is a bar called The Bunker. Their seasonal cocktail menu is probably one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen, with the likes of the ‘Japanese Salad (dried fish and prune infused apple vodka, rice wine, carrot juice, porcini syrup, lemon juice & tofu foam), ‘Papaya South Pacific Strategy’ (pandan infused The Botanist Gin, papaya milk, lemon juice, Thai style milk tea syrup, curry powder, egg white & soda) and the ‘Mexican Pesto Mary’ (pesto mezcal, green apple puree, tomato juice, lime juice, black vinegar, green tabasco, sea salt & black pepper).
Their food menu is small but you can also order off the Green & Safe menu, which is great if there are no tables available in the front, because Bunker is usually quiet during the day. We decided to escape the pouring rain and have a late afternoon drink and something small to eat, so we opted for simple yet delicious G&T’s and roast beef sandwiches. If you’re feeling more adventurous and/or hungry, I highly recommend the cocktails as well as the pizzas.
Pineapple Buns, Fried Chicken Wings & Beef Rice Noodles at Cha’s (Sinan Lu, near Huaihai Lu)
The likelihood of you having to wait for a table at this old school Hong Kong-style diner is very high, but totally worth it. I was first introduced to this establishment through a takeaway iced milky tea with milky tea ice cubes (which kept me awake until 3am) and was instantly hooked.
After a couple of times eating here, I’ve managed to figure out what I like to order off the massive menu, and can confidently say that the Pineapple Buns, Chicken Wings and Beef Rice Noodles are three of my favourite things to eat in Shanghai.
Wontons + Noodles on Yandang and Huaihai Lu
I’ve grouped these three spots together purely based on the incredible proximity to one another. Lucky for me all three are within a 5-minute walking distance to where I live, and recently discovered when researching good spot to find local food in the area.
Ding Te Le is a small spot located just past the entrance to our lane on Huaihai Lu, and incredibly popular with locals. It’s open 24/7, which is unique, and makes delicious scallion noodles and deep-fried pork chops.
Wei Xiang Zhai, situated just off Huaihai Lu on Yandang Lu apparently makes the best sesame paste noodles in Shanghai. While I can’t really confirm this due to the mere fact that I haven’t tasted any others, they’re damn good. It’s a very busy little noodle shop, so prepare to queue if you get there during the lunch or dinner rush. Totally worth the wait though!
The wonton place near the corner of Yandang and Nanchang has an official name, but I have absolutely no idea what it is. The most important thing here is the wontons are delicious, the broth is ridiculously tasty, as opposed to some of the totally bland, dish-watery varieties that I’ve tasted before. Winter in Shanghai is going to be a lot more manageable knowing a warm, comforting bowl of wontons and broth is close by.
Jianbing on Wulumuqi Lu
Jianbing was the first bit of street food I tasted when first arriving here, and I have loved it ever since. You’ll be able to find little holes-in-the-wall pop-ups dotted around the city that sell them, but I’m prepared to stand by the belief that the ones sold on the corner of Wulumuqi Lu and Wuyuan Lu in the Former French Concession are the best – they also stay open until the afternoon, which is testament to how popular theirs are (and also quite wonderful if you’re looking for something delicious to eat after a big night out drinking, and aren’t prepared to leave the house before noon).
Bloody Mary’s at Beef & Liberty (Xiangyang Lu, near Huaihai Lu)
Beef & Liberty are very well-known for their burgers, but they also make one of the best Bloody Mary’s in Shanghai. It might have something to do with the pickle juice, but if you’re a fan of this “salad in a glass” cocktail, then you should definitely give theirs a shot. The 2 for 1 Burgers on a Monday are also a winner.
Hotpot at Qimin Organic Hotpot Marketplace (Hengshen Lu, near Yongjia Lu)
There are loads of hot pot restaurants in Shanghai, and while I haven’t been to all of them, Qimin is by far one of the best in my opinion. Before I mention anything else, the fact that you get your own hotpot was the first thing that stood out for me. My seafood allergy is annoying, but becomes a major buzzkill when it comes to sharing food – so the idea of not having to share broth with anyone who enjoys a crab dumpling is a relief. There’s also the ‘blow your head off spicy’ broth options that I avoid at all costs, so this is really a win-win for everyone who has their own personal preferences.
Besides that, the quality of the ingredients is incredible (the vegetables from their own farm), there’s no funny stuff in the broth and you get to snip your own mushrooms and pea shoots straight out of the boxes they’re growing in. It’s a bright, beautifully decorated restaurant that’s crept up my list of to-dos’ very quickly.
Afternoon Tea at the Park Hyatt Shanghai (Century Avenue, near Dongtai Lu)
If you’re keen to see to Shanghai from a completely different viewpoint, then going up one of the tallest buildings in the world to do so is key. Unfortunately, this could equal long queues and large crowds of people, but we have a much better option.
Skip the chaos and go to the 87th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre (also affectionately known at ‘The Bottle Opener’), one of the tallest buildings in the world, where you’ll find The Park Hyatt Shanghai that occupies the 79th – 93rd floor of the building. You can’t make bookings, so it’s best to get there early, enjoy the view and order the afternoon tea set. It’s a great assortment of small sweet and savory bites, along with tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Cocktails at Speak Low (Fuxing Lu, near Ruijin Lu)
Recently ranked #10 in The World’s 50 Best Bars 2017, this multi-story speakeasy is accessible via a secret entrance hidden behind a bookshelf in the Ocho Bar Tools store on Fuxing Lu.
We’ve had some seriously enjoyable evenings there, but I’m yet to work my way through the entire cocktail menu – although that’s challenge when you find one you really love! Make sure you try the Taxi Colada, served in the most stylish paper takeaway coffee cup I’ve ever drank out of. The service is fantastic, with an upbeat and informative team of professionals managing the bar.
Matcha Lattes, Pastries & Ice Cream at Paté (Madang Lu, near Fuxing Lu)
Hands down, the best matcha latte and ice cream I’ve ever tasted. In fact, everything on their menu including the word ‘matcha’ is incredible, and it probably has a big thing to do with the fact that they’re using a legit Japanese matcha from Kyoto. The handmade pastries are gorgeously displayed in their glass cabinet, and change on a seasonal basis.
Other personal recommendations include the croissants, Figuier Cake, Dark Chocolate Religieuse, Lemon Thyme Tart and the utterly unique Vitelotte Mont Blanc. Besides the food, it’s a beautiful little café that’s quiet and is run by a great, friendly team of people.
Teppanyaki at Kagen (Taojiang Lu, near Hengshan Lu)
All. You. Can. Eat. And. Drink. That’s right, free-flow booze and food for under RMB400. There’s sushi, seafood, red meat, chicken, rice & vegetables, as well lots of wine, beer and sake. We even ended our evening off with flambeed bananas and ice cream, as well as some very high flames. The quality of the food and service here is excellent, which is probably why you absolutely must make a reservation.