Culture, food and music in Shanghai, China

April 15, 2012

Pudong skyline at night

I used my recent business trip to Shanghai, China to also indulge in some cultural activities. First, I participated in a new program of “Shanghai Flaneur”, a walking think-tank founded by one of my friends, Katja Hellkoetter.

The topic of this newly designed walk was “Shanghai’s historical ballrooms and it’s ballroom culture”. Katja had invited me to join and get an idea what her Shanghai Flaneur initiative was all about.

But before I take you any further, let us start with a re-union dinner on the river-terrace of The Seagull on the Bund Hotel – 海鸥饭店. From here, one has a wonderful view of the river, the Pudong skyline and the Bund. The hotel is in a perfect spot, at the confluence of the Suzhou and the Hungpu river.

View of the Bund from the Seagull Hotel

Re-union dinners are never perfect as far as the quality of the photo extraction is concerned. In fact I show you only three of the many dishes the two of us consumed. The first is a composition of doufu with leach and pine nuts, the second is shredded mushrooms with dried pork strips, and the third a puff-rice filled with various colourful vegetables and shrimps. These dishes did not only look good, they were super-delicious.

The doufu with pine nuts

Dried pork and mushrooms

The “veggie rolls”

Needless to say, we drank beer with the meal.

The Tsingtao beer

Unfortunately, it started to rain and we had to look for shelter. This did not bode well for the walk later that evening which was about to start in the Astor Hotel nearby.

I will not give you an account of the walk proper, just of its beginning and the end. The walk was conducted by Andrew Field, a university teacher of Chinese history.

From the Astor Hotel we walked along the Bund (fortunately, some of the participants had brought umbrellas otherwise I would have been drenched). And we ended the very interesting and entertaining culture-walk about two hours later at The House of Blues and Jazz.

The House of Blues and Jazz is a great place. that very night the Greg Lattrell Band from Boston, USA played blues and soul music, what a treat.

The Greg Lattrell Band

I just loved the music, especially the blues pieces they played, and stayed until the very end. This was a perfect day, re-union dinner with Katja at the banks of the Huangpu river, the walk with the Shanghai Flaneur along the Bund, and the blues music of Greg and his band.

Come and see, feel and experience Shanghai, the Paris of the Far East.

Another wine experience in China

November 7, 2010

One of the privileges of a frequent traveller, even if exclusively travelling on economy class, is the use of the lounge. As a “wino” this is great territory to sense and experience some of the global trends in the wine industry and/or the airline service providers.

One such trend seems to be the use of paper cups instead of proper glasses. That’s at least what my recent experience in the business class lounge (star alliance) at Shanghai Pudong International Airport suggests.

I found the “wine ensemble” below. Isn’t it cute?

Wine at your service

I could not resist a tasting of the two wines on offer, a white from China and a red wine from France. Unfortunately I could not find any trace of the French wine in the internet. I had noted down “Tour Gouvercin” as the name of the wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon) which was quite pleasant to drink, fruity with body and structure.

The second wine, a ‘Clos des Chenes, dry white wine’ by Imperial Court, a brand re-designed and re-established by Shenma Winery. The wine was a bit “thin” but since the cooler (as seen in the picture above) guaranteed a pleasant temperature, I found it not so bad, light but technically well made.

My wine tasting at Shanghai Airport

China is not only an emerging world power but also a booming market for oversees wines. Chinese grape wine consumption increased from 554 million bottles in 2004 to 899 million bottles in 2008. However, per capita consumption is still very low, about 0.4 litres per person per year.

That’s all good news for wine producers and distributors. Also that imported wines account doe only about 11.8 % (2008) of total domestic consumption is “music in the ears” of the non-Chinese wine industry.

Wine educators have their tasks outlined for them as well. Chinese consumers do not like tannins and acids, often perceive grape wines as “sour” only. This is why the mixing of red Bordeaux wines with coke and spite is quite common consumption habit. This needs to be changes, I guess. Since Chinese people have very complex taste buds, it should not be too difficult to make them appreciate the wonders of fine wines.

Shanghai: on the run

November 6, 2010

I had not much time for food and drink while on a business trip to Shanghai this week. But it is always interesting to visit the “Paris of the East”. Now that the World Expo is over, it was a bit more quiet than the last six months but the controversy of the award of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xioabo kept the blood of CCP officials boiling.

What did the Shanghai Daily say? Hu’s visit to France which has become a good old friend again and the order of 100 airbus planes made the front page. This contrasted well with issues the Shanghai people are concerned with: the high tax/licence fees for their pet dogs. Nice mix of local and global.

My breakfast: coffee and the Shanghai Daily

After my talk which I gave to German students I had some time for a quick lunch snack: dumplings in a broth with noodles, and a glass of the house red, of cause a Chinese wine. Delicious. Nice mix of East and West.

Lunch snack with red wine

The Bund Brewery in Shanghai – 上海外滩啤酒总汇有限公司

June 29, 2010

A wheat beer brewed in China

A couple of weeks ago when I visited Shanghai I ended up in a very nice watering whole, the Bund Brewery. The brewery is located in one of the side-streets of the famous stretch along the Bund where droves of people stroll along the river and enjoy the spectacular city scenery.

The bar with the brewery equipment

The Bund Brewery is a crowded and noisy place, full of Chinese customers interspersed with a couple of foreign tourists. I went straight to the bar and ordered what my neighbor was drinking, a wheat beer. I should not regret it. The beer was very nice, just like a good Bavarian wheat beer. Excellent, and not too expensive. Later I had some snacks as well.

German brewing equipment from Bamberg

When looking around I realized that some of the equipment came from Bamberg in Franconia. I had to take a photo of the plaque.

If you stroll along the Bund and you do not want to visit one of the many posh, elegant and exclusive cocktail bars, the Bund Brewery is the right place for you, a true “people’s place” for common folk and others alike.

Bund Brewery
11 Hankou Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu
Shanghai, China
Tel.: 6321 8447
Opening: Fri+Sat 11am – 4am, Sun-Thu 11am – 2am

Cragganmore: Best Speyside Malt Whisky

May 31, 2010


I find that Chinese airports are good places to buy fine single malt whisky. I was lucky to pick up a bottle of 12 year old Cragganmore from the Speyside, North-east Scotland. In Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion this whisky is given 90 points which is quite remarkable. And this at the costs of only 328 Yuan (Shanghai Airport).

The 12 year old Cragganmore

According to the Malt Whisky Companion the 12 year old Cragganmore is one of the finest Speyside malts. Is is of golden colour, has a very complex aroma, is fragrant and delicate. It is a very smooth drink indeed. When I tasted my newly acquired treasure, my heart made a huge leap. How lucky I was. Next time I will bring the book with me to make informed choices. This time was pure chance. Cheers

Cragganmore Distillery
Ballindalloch, Banffshire AB37 9AB
Tel: +44 (0) 1479 874635

City guide book: Shanghai Promenade

May 30, 2010

The cover of Steffi’s book

Shanghai would not have been as much fun without the above book. If you are a German speaker, the best book to read before traveling to Shanghai is Steffi Schmitt’s “Shanghai Promenade – Spaziergaenge zwischen den Zeiten” (freely translated as: “walks between the times”). It gives you a fantastic head start into the fascinating world, past and present, of the “Paris of the East”.

I was so glad that I had mastered about 200 pages of it before descending on the city. My ignorance was much less than otherwise and I felt relieved somehow. I saw the town in an historic perspective which made it much more palatable. Because of the building boom of the last 20 years, it is easy to forget that this town is loaded with a very interesting past.

From page 385 onwards, Steffi describes 10 city walks. When I strolled along the Bund, all these historical facts came to mind and I felt like a real time traveler. Unfortunately, I had no time for any of them because my work schedule was just too tight. But it made me hungry for more, to visit the city again and spend some time to explore it’s beauties.

It’s easy to get this book. Just google the title and order it through Amazon or any other provider. The only thing I missed in the book is maps. I would love to have more maps in order to be able to locate events and places in general. But for the 10 proposed walks, no worries, there are maps guiding you through.

Schanghai: The new Bund at night

May 28, 2010

The Bund at night from the terrace of “M on the Bund”

Shanghai has seen a tremendous development over the last 10 years. Last year when I visit the “Paris of the East”, as Shanghai used to be called, its famous “Bund” was still closed for renovations. With the World Expo came also the re-opening of this part of the metropolis which presents itself in a new incarnation.

I had dinner with an old friend on the terrace of the South Beauty restaurant 俏江南 overlooking the Huangpu river on the 10th floor of the Super Brand Mall in Pudong. The terrace offers a splendid view at night. South Beauty is a chain restaurant with dependencies in the capital Beijing and other provinces. It is seen as one of best Sichuan food restaurants in Pudong and Shanghai. The food was good, but we ordered too much of it. We were rather late and the service was friendly but quite slow. But I liked the food. In internet reviews South Beauty received varying reviews. Some rank it 57th of the 320 restaurants in Shanghai, other see it as 100. Some reviewers see the quality as 3.5 out of 5, others rank it 8 of 10.

After our meal, we crossed to the other side of town. because it was late, we had to take a taxi but there is a tunnel under the Huangpu river which is spectacular transportation. If in Shanghai you should try it, instead of a taxi. our object was the terrace of another landmark of Shanghai’s nightlife: M on the Bund.

I had visited it’s sister restaurant, Capital M in Beijing a couple of months ago. The terrace is wonderful and the new Bund presents itself as it always did: in great style. The Glamour Bar, one floor below M on the Bund and run by the same owner, is the place to have what we German’s call “Absacker”, a night cap.

Opened in January 1999 M on the Bund is located in the Nissin Shipping building which was built in 1921, the same year the Communist Party of China was founded (also in Shanghai). The Miele Guide ranks the restaurant as one among the top 20 in Asia! That’s quite an achievement.

The picture above gives you and idea of the views. The place to be, I guess.

South Beauty
10/F Super Brand Mall, 168 Lujiazui Lu,
Pudong, Shanghai
Tel.: 5047 1817

M on the Bund
7/F, No.5 The Bund ( corner of Guangdong Lu )
Shanghai 200002 China
邮编 200002
Tel (86 -21) 6350-9988
Fax (86-21) 6322-0099

The People’s Paradise

May 27, 2010

In between meetings I had the opportunity to visit the World Expo in Shanghai. Goodness me how many Chinese visitors flooded the place. Their interest in foreign nations and foreign culture seemed without bounds. Already early in the morning long queues built up very quickly so that people had to wait for 2-3 hours before they could enter a pavilion.

I manged to see only three country pavilions from the inside: Bangladesh, Mongolia and North Korea. I did not have to queue up for either of them. The casual visit was very educative. Now I know where the people are king: in North Korea.

The main slogan in its pavilion was: Paradise for people.

I must have missed something. Abduction of foreigners, gun boat tactics, and starvation comes to mind; senseless nuclear programs to take the world hostage and pay for the extravagances of one family and medical treatment of its leader.

Go north young man and migrate to this country of the gods, where people live in paradise.

The North Korean pavilion, with no queues

No one queuing for North Korea

The inside: large pictures and posters of paradise

Capital M – Beijing

January 21, 2010

Capital M Beijing, an artists view

As always when I visit Beijing, I pay a visit to Brian Wallace, the director of Red Gate Gallery, my most favorite art gallery in China, and beyond. After about an hour of talking and catching up about Beijing’s art scene (and a quick box lunch), we also started talking about good food and inadvertedly talked about Michelle Garnaut and her newest restaurant in Beijing: Capital M.

Ever since Michelle started out in Hongkong in 1989 with 500 Dollar in her pocket but many good ideas and opened M at the Fringe, which won the Hongkong Dining Awards in 2009 as best restaurant, she has made a name for herself in restaurant and entertainment circles.

In 1999 she opened M on the Bund and later The Glamour Bar – self-declared as “Shanghai’s Sexiest Bar”.

Unfortunately Michelle was not there when we entered the bar early that afternoon for a glass of bubbly. Brian treated me with a bottle of Taittinger. But first he showed me around so that I got an idea of the place and its stunning views. We had a great time.

From Brian’s handphone camera

I will try the food next time I visit Beijing. Looking forward to it. Cheers

Red Gate Gallery
Te.: +86-10-65251005

Capital M Beijing
3/F, No.2 Qianmen Pedestrian Street
(just south of Tian’anmen Square)
Beijing 100051 China
邮编 100051
Tel +86 -10- 6702-2727
Fax +86-10 – 6702-3737

Shanghai delight

December 18, 2009

The Bund from the Pudong side

My friend Wolfgang took me out on a walk in Pudong. We started with dinner in a restaurant overlooking the Bund. After that we “climed” the two highest buildings in Shanghai and enjoyed the architecture and the view.

I just love Chinese food, especially the cuisines which are a bit more spicy such as Hunan, Sichuan but also Yunnan style food. The plates below give you and idea. The dishes were delicious and the presentation was also quite nice.

Green beans and stripes of beef

“Stinking dofu” with soybeans

Green pepers with octopus

A jelly desert

Tsingtao beer

We could have ordered a bottle of wine but beer, especially Chinese beers, go very well with Chinese food. It was a wonderful reunion after many years of only conversing via mail. For me it was also the first ever visit to Pudong. The highrises are worth visiting and exploring (many restaurants and bars with breathtaking views).

My suggestion: Go to Shanghai as long as you are still young.