Dragon Phoenix, Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Since you’ll want to try Shanghainese cuisine while in Shanghai, the choice becomes one of the best venue. Somewhere high on the list has to be the Fairmont Peace Hotel. In no particular order, here are the reasons why.
First there’s the history – built in 1929 as the Cathay Hotel by Sir Victor Sassoon and then later operating as the Peace Hotel (1956-2007), this is one of the oldest hotels in Shanghai. Admittedly it has had interruptions when the doors were closed, but now after a meticulous restoration and a reopening in 2010 it looks as impressive as the day it first opened, with plenty of period touches but also lots of modernity.
Then there are the surroundings of the Chinese restaurant – not just the decoration of the actual room, though more of that in a minute, but the whole hotel. Once inside, take the time to visit the Peace Museum (accessed from the ground floor via steps to a mezzanine floor). There are also guided tours available.
The Museum has menus from the 1930s, antique goblet glasses, details of stays by everyone from Charlie Chaplin (1936) to Noel Coward – who was suffering from flu and wrote the first draft of Private Lives while in room 314, and examples of the Lalique chandeliers from the original decoration. The old prints of the Bund on the stairs up to the museum are well worth lingering over.
Head up to the eighth floor and, before you enter the restaurant, take a detour straight on and you can see the hotel’s ballroom, approached through a corridor of Lalique sconces.
The Chinese restaurant’s interior is quite a surprise after the relatively restrained art deco of the public areas below. Duck egg coloured walls with deep red pillars with gold detailing, and lalique-style motifs on the ceilings, with as much chinoiserie as you could wish for 1930s-style: screens, wooden floors covered with thick coloured rugs and waiters in full costume.
So much for the history, the decoration, but then finally there’s the location – on the Bund, and with views over the Bund, the Huangpu River and the Pudong skyline. There are a few other restaurants with this – see our review of Char Bar and Grill at The Indigo – but it’s a real plus. It’s also something you can never get tired of because it changes so quickly. Take a look at the picture at the top of this and you can see there are several skyscrapers including the insane 632 metre-high Shanghai Tower missing.
And finally – reason four to try Dragon Phoenix – there’s the food and the service, and, being a Fairmont property, you are in safe hands for both. Staff know how to treat everyone from regulars to first-timers to China who, truth be told, would have preferred to spend their whole stay in Shanghai upstairs in the western restaurant, but know they ought to try some authentic food at least once during their Shanghai trip. They are looking for a wide choice, they want something different, but they don’t want to be scared. They want a menu that makes as much sense in English as it does in Chinese, and they want someone who can explain it to them – the Dragon Phoenix has all of that.
There are various set menus, including one simply termed Shanghainese Old Time Flavours Menu. We went a la carte and among other dishes tried
- Sauteed Diced snow beef with black pepper sauce (RMB 328)
- Char-grilled fish with teriyaki sauce (RMB 128)
- Poached noodles with scallion oil and dried shrimp (RMB 38)
- Bean seedling (poached, superior stock, sautéed, minced garlic (RMB 88)
- Chilled Sago Cream with Mango and Pomelo (RMB 58)
All the food was tasty, served promptly, and with frequent requests to let them know if there was anything we didn’t like, or anything more that they could do to make the meal more enjoyable. We were surrounded by both Western and Chinese tourists, and some Chinese business people as well, surely a good sign.
Tasty food and an unforgettable experience at one of the most famous hotels in the world.
Lunch – Daily 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, Dinner – Daily 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Address: 20 Nanjing Road East, Shanghai, +86 21 6138 6880