Everywhere you turn in Shanghai it seems there’s another new restaurant or bar worth visiting. Whether you’re looking for quiet cocktails, local craft beer or a taste of Southeast Asia, these are three of the city’s best new spots.
If you’ve checked into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star properties ANdAZ Shanghai or The Langham, Xintiandi, Shanghai, this is your local watering hole. The two hotels are just a few blocks away, and Encore is run by a duo that previously worked at The Langham, Xintiandi. The walls of the bar, on the first floor of a heritage apartment building, are paneled in lustrous dark wood wainscoting. Its hardwood floors gleam and, in the light from a few lamps and tabletop candles, you can see the slightly faded damask wallpaper. Encore’s décor skews more neighborhood bar than chic cocktail lounge, but that’s the appeal. From behind the bar, lit by a banker’s lamp, come simple, stiff drinks such as the Vesper martini (gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc). Though its dim, quiet interior makes this more of a winter bar, Encore does have a small patio, ideal for a quiet afternoon tipple.
Craft beer is all the rage in Shanghai, but it’s usually brewed by expats. Not so at Daga Brewpub, where on tap are several beers from Chinese brewmaster Yan Gao, who earned a master’s degree in chemistry in the U.S. and is based in Nanjing. Ask for a pint of his fruity amber Baby IPA or the Lunar Eclipse, a dry stout. Daga plans to soon offer IPAs from Chengdu and Beijing. A small cocktail list stays true to Chinese tastes with a whiskey and Pu’er tea mix, and a peach and lychee martini made with Baijiu, that throat-scorching national spirit. The brewpub’s interior aims to be de rigueur industrial chic — concrete floor and ceiling, exposed brick, the requisite weathered wrought iron, metal, and wood stools, chairs and tables. Lighting warms things up and a set of stairs next to the bar leads to a small wood-ceilinged nook with armchair seating for five.
With Starling, just down the street from the Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai, its owners wanted to eschew the speakeasy-inspired, Japanese-style cocktail bar that has become so prevalent in town. Instead, they went south, drawing heavy inspiration from Southeast Asia’s colonial past. Halfway between a British officers club and the Long Bar at Four-Star Raffles Singapore, Starling’s drinks are right at home during Shanghai’s hot, humid summers. The Monsoon, served in a copper mug, is a refreshing mix of Grand Marnier, rum, bitters, lime, ginger and curry leaves. The small food menu, designed by Malaysian chocolatier Brian Tan, includes desserts like melt-in-your-mouth kaffir lemongrass panna cotta with a coconut milk base.