Summer is almost here: enjoy it by dining al fresco. Here are the best new spots to try this year.
With 28 million residents itching to get outside when the weather is nice, and a whole world of travelers to impress, Shanghai is constantly reinventing itself. This summer there is a plethora of new, fun and exciting outdoor drinking and dining venues for you to try. Here are our top picks for 2014.
1. TOPS at the Banyan Tree Hotel – 19 Gongping Rd. at Haiping Rd.
This one has just opened in April, so don’t be surprised if you are met with blank stares when you mention it. The North Bund is finally taking off, so dinner at Kathleen’s Waitan followed by drinks at the swanky Banyan Tree Hotel’s chic rooftop bar TOPS is the perfect way to discover it. TOPS offers views of both the Bund and Lujiazui and has an extensive cocktail list, yet thanks to its relative obscurity TOPS is rarely crowded.
2. Element Fresh at K11 Art Mall -- #300 Huaihai Middle Rd. at Huangpi Rd.
Family-friendly California-style comfort food meets high society luxury at the new K11 Art Mall. Element Fresh is one of Shanghai’s most prolific expat restaurant chains, and a simple decision for most of us when we want a filling (if unexciting) and uncomplicated dining experience with reliable quality in comfortable surroundings. Now that Element Fresh has locked up nearly all of K11’s limited outdoor dining space, we can add great views and sunshine to the list. Prices are the same at all K11 locations, so Element Fresh’s K11 rooftop garden is now the go-to place for a chilled out lunch with a fresh-squeezed juice, a sandwich or generous signature salad, and a coffee or glass of wine -- plus plenty of fresh air five stories above Huaihai Road.
3. La Cocina -- #9 Dongping Rd. at Hengshang Rd.
It’s not technically a patio, but the open-air counters facing sidewalk at La Cocina are reminiscent of a quaint café or bistro you would duck into in Barcelona or Madrid for a glass of wine and pintxos during an afternoon spent sightseeing. La Cocina will put you into a whimsical mood, and once the weather really heats up this summer you’ll probably appreciate the combination of sidewalk seating and indoor air-conditioning. With outstanding Spanish food and happy hour deals on wine and beer in the evenings, La Cocina may become one of your favorite quick stops this summer on the way to an evening with friends at, say, Sasha’s next door.
4. Sasha’s -- #11 Dongping Rd. at Hengshang Rd.
Sasha’s has been around for a few years now (so it’s not “new”) but it’s deserves a mention thanks to a huge yet cozy patio, nice drinks, great food and a very interesting history. The oddly pink mansion turned restaurant/bar used to belong to Soong May-ling, the wife of Chiang Kai Shek, and is now named after his alleged Russian mistress. Aside from this colorful past, it’s a fun place to meet friends and one of a very few mansions that the public has access to in the former French Concession, which in itself should warrant a look.
5. The Waterhouse -- #3 Maojiayuan Rd. at Zhongshan South Rd.
The Waterhouse may be across the street from the over-reaching, under-achieving Cool Docks, but it feels worlds apart. The rugged, deconstructed feeling of the lobby and lounge, the chic glassed-in gourmet restaurant, the funky minimalist boutique hotel and the stellar rooftop all serve as stellar examples of what Shanghai should be doing with its communist-era factories and warehouses, particularly along the city’s many waterfronts: repair or retrofit what’s needed and reuse the rest, rather than tearing them all down in favor of skyscrapers. But the focus of this article is outdoor space, so after dinner at the signature restaurant head to the rooftop of The Waterhouse for an outstanding view of Pudong in what feels like a futuristic herb garden.
6. Hotel Indigo rooftop lounge -- #585 Zhongshan East Second Rd. at Dongmen Rd.
Located at the South Bund, Hotel Indigo is hard to miss. It’s the tallest building for several blocks around, and the rooftop lounge located on the 30th floor offers great views of both Pudong and the historic Bund district. As part of the cocktail lounge, technically all you have to do is order a drink and you get access to the outside patio, along with a bowl of peanuts, for free. However, the best way to experience this outdoor space is by having dinner in the hotel’s classy CHAR restaurant just below (which has exceptional views on its own, though behind glass), then order dessert but request it to be sent to rooftop patio so you can eat it with an after dinner coffee or cocktail.
The Honorable Mentions
These outdoor dining options and patios spaces barely scrape the surface of all the choices you have for dining al fresco in Shanghai. Here is a quick list of other noteworthy destinations: Lost Heaven (Bund location), Abbey Road, Cotton’s (both locations), Café des Stagiaires (Dagu Rd. location), Kabb (Xintiandi location), Bali Laguna, Mesa, New Heights, M on the Bund, Coconut Paradise, Kathleen’s 5, Barbarossa, the Kommune, New Heights, and the Shanghai Brewery (Dongping Rd. location).
Enjoy the summer!
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