Opened in October 2009, The Peninsula Shanghai was the first new building constructed on the Bund in 70 years.
No. 32 The Bund was originally part of the grounds of the British Consulate, established in 1849. It’s an unashamedly luxurious hotel, with the largest rooms in the city and the only hotel in Shanghai with a customised car fleet, including four bespoke Extended Wheelbase Rolls-Royce Phantoms, six BMW Peninsula Editions, two MINI Cooper S Clubmans, an immaculately restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II and a BMW i8 hybrid vehicle, some of which might be parked at the rear entrance as you pull up. Unseen, but nevertheless available, is also a Princess 54 luxurious private yacht on the Huangpu River.
Like the Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai, the design of the hotel reflects that mix of modernity with nods to the locality, particularly in the interiors of the hotel. So you get a mix of 1920s art deco with Chinese motifs, and this mix is also true of the design of its Chinese restaurant – Yi Long Court. The aim was for it to resemble a 1920s rich Shanghainese merchant’s home and combine both Chinese and Western design elements.
“The 1920s and 30s was an exciting era, rich in the layers of culture,” Interior Designer Henry Leung says. “It was the Golden Age of Shanghai as an international city and a rich and unique style developed, mixed with the more traditional, and that was Shanghai Deco.
You can most clearly see this in the seven private dining suites, each named after famous Chinese Teas, since these have both a dining room and a relaxation area of leather sofas around a low table. Each of these rooms has its own theme, varying in colour schemes, décor and layout. For instance, the Mao Feng Room, named after a Chinese white tea, keeps to a pale green palette with a grand chandelier, Western-style wardrobes and a marble Chinese table, replicating the unique style of 1920s Shanghai. Book the chef’s table, however, and it is more modern with windows looking into the kitchen and a large CCTV screen showing chefs preparing the food.
The main restaurant has views down to the Bund, but also into the British Consulate Gardens, which brings a welcome splash of green to the urban atmosphere of central Shanghai. Inside, the superior sound-proofing means you can forget all about that and concentrate on the food, although it’s worth looking around at the mix of modern art and antiques in the restaurant.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited, which was established in 1866, is the parent company of The Peninsula Hotels, and the restaurant’s menu, while having plenty of Shanghai dishes, has a Cantonese slant. Hong Kong-born Michelin-starred executive chef, Tang Chi Keng opened this restaurant in 2011 before moving on to Hei Fung Terrace at The Peninsula Tokyo, and LiLi at The Peninsula Paris.
Now Chef Tang has returned, and the promise is of Cantonese dishes, regional Chinese and dim sum. Ingredients include caviar, foie gras, morel mushrooms, snow crab and steamed lobster, mixed with plate presentations learned from French cuisine and kitchen techniques from Japan. Dinner menu examples included (appetizers): steamed lobster dumpling coated with squid ink flour and marinated fresh abalone with Chinese wine. Main courses: wok-fried Wagyu beef in black bean sauce and Cantonese fried rice with snow crab and shrimp egg roe.
We went for lunch on a day when it was in the mid-30s outside and too hot for even the most determined sight-seeing.
After cooling off in the air-conditioned lobby we were ready to sit down and drink green tea, though less sure if we wanted a substantial meal. The staff were on hand to advise, and luckily lunchtime has lighter options, and we had a selection of dim sum and appetizers, followed by an enriched organic tomato soup with seafood. Both were light, particularly the soup, but full of flavour, so the main courses of braised prawn in mild chili sauce and pan fried prawn with spiced salt (one dish) and wok-fried diced Australian beef in black pepper sauce weren’t over-powering. A final serving of fried rice with pollack caviar and diced scallops, and a chilled mango pudding served with Chinese petits fours set us up to go out once more and head down to Yu Gardens for some souvenirs for back home.
Top class Cantonese and Chinese dishes served with a French elegance. Lovely views into the gardens of the English Consulate on one side, or out towards the Bund on the other.