The Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai is on the Bund in the former Shanghai Club. The 260-room hotel is in two connecting buildings: The Waldorf Astoria Club (heritage building), which previously housed the renowned Shanghai Club (famed as an exclusive Gentlemen’s Club in the 1920s) at No. 2 on the Bund, while across a courtyard is a new-build contemporary tower located parallel to the Bund on Sichuan Road.
This was the first Waldorf-Astoria – one of Hilton International’s luxury brands – to open in Asia Pacific (April 18, 2011), though it has since been joined by the Waldorf Astoria Beijing. Together the two are currently running a Taste of Waldorf Astoria initiative in partnership with the James Beard Foundation. The idea is to “…celebrate the culinary heritage of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. World-famous culinary classics such as Red Velvet Cake, Waldorf Salad, Eggs Benedict and Thousand Island Dressing were all invented at the Waldorf Astoria New York”.
There are 25 Waldorf-Astoria’s around the world (as of 2016), and five are selected each year to participate, with 2016 seeing both Waldorf Astoria Beijing and Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund’s involvement as their two executive head chefs partnered with rising star James Beard chefs.
Arriving after a stroll along the Bund, once more astonished at the skyscrapers of Pudong across the river and also the attractive lighting of the often unimpressive ex-bank buildings of the Bund, their facades turning golden as the night draws in, the hotel seemed like a celebration to cream marble. It’s most noticeable if you are dropped by taxi at the rear entrance, with ornate black grill work providing a glimpse of the interior as you walk left past the reception and concierge desk and the hotel opens out in front of you.
To reach the restaurant from here you walk around a balcony with a giant central chandelier hanging above the ground floor Grand Brasserie restaurant. Arrive at the front door and you’ll walk past the excellent Long Bar, which really needs an evening all of its own and a walk through the various whiskies on offer. Another time.
The Chinese restaurant, Wei Jing Lee is on the fifth floor at the front of the hotel, and can be reached by a choice of elevators, including an antique one. You then approach the restaurant through a dark corridor with back lit panels in the walls – very atmospheric. There are a total of six private dining suites which can host 48 guests in total in rooms along here.
The restaurant then opens up and is in the former attic judging from the steep wooden open rafter ceiling from which elongated Chinese lanterns hang. It’s a mix of traditional and modern – elegant tablecloths, deep red place mats, Chinese lattice work, large scale Chinese works of art along one wall, and a clothes horse for hanging jackets during the meal, a nice nod to the Gentleman’s Club, but useful if you are smartly dressed but it’s a warm evening (we visited in July, where daytime temperatures were well into the thirties).
The name of the restaurant either means “Blue sky view from the attic” or nothing, it depends on who you ask. I prefer the former, though of course if you dine in the evening it’s the lights illuminating the skyscrapers across the river that you will see. The restaurant features a wine cellar of around 500 bottles as well as a selection of Chinese liqueurs and spirits as well as fine teas. In charge is chef Sam Yuen from Hong Kong.
As part of the 2016 initiative we had a tasting menu of “signature” dishes, including the highlight, for us, the Truffle “xialong” bun, the truffle mixed with foie gras and somehow being both rich and light, the sort of treat where you’d be tempted to order another were it not for the 10-course nature of a tasting menu.
We had dishes that were familiar to a British palate – Sauteed prawns with seasonal fruit in sweet and sour sauce was a top end version of what you can get in the UK – pineapples in sweet and sour sauce are hard to beat, though, but also more unusual ones. Double-boiled sea whelk soup with morel mushrooms and vegetables; deep-fried scallop with minced shrimp and pear and pan-fried cod fish in goose liver sauce were examples of unusual tastes, though fried rice with shrimps, barbecued pork and scrambled egg was a familiar dish to finish with, even if I probably over-did the XO sauce I requested with this.
A memorable experience. The attic-venue works well – we almost felt we could smell the roof beams, and the approach to the restaurant was atmospheric. The service was friendly, the menu and food clear and successful in execution, and even over a tasting menu, the portions were such that we left full but not over-whelmed. Highly recommended.
Opening Hours: Lunch: 11.30am – 2.30pm Dinner: 5.30pm – 10.30pm
Seating Capacity: 120 seats, 6 private dining rooms
Address: 5F Waldorf Astoria Club, No.2 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Huang Pu District Tel: +86 21 6322 9988