Being in Shanghai is like watching a civilization grow on fast forward. Every modern civilization develops, of course it does, but here in China, this re-emergence as a developed country is happening so fast that it's building up as layers of evolutionary culture. These layers mark progress in a particularly curious way, as each rises from the last before it has even solidified.
There's no better example of this in Shanghai than the international F&B industry. Compressed into 15 years is a great glass elevator ride through five-star hotel restaurants and talking-bars to italian restaurants and sports screens to michelin chefs and breweries. We've arrived at the rooftop with a speakeasy looking across at a taco hut. Everything below is only a stone's throw, or spoonful, away.
The storytellers of this journey are the likes of Lee Tseng and Kelley Lee. They've been centre stage through every chapter; Cantina Agave. The Boxing Cat. The Alchemist. Sproutworks. Names synonymous with our Shanghai journey, they're unlocking new flavors and experiences as the city transforms.
Well, a couple weeks ago I was invited by Lee to a pre-opening meal at Liquid Laundry and with all these layers and stories in mind - I was pretty damn excited.
Over on Donghu/Huaihai in the K. Wah Center it's a huge 250 covers space. Zoned with subway tiles, reclaimed wood and Edision bulbs (welcome to Shanghai 2014), it features a huge in-house brewery, cocktail bar and western kitchen. Another Boxing Cat this is definitely not. Liquid Laundry is an evolution of casual blended dining.
I struggle with the term gastropub and Liquid Laundry isn't within my definition of what a true gastropub should represent. Instead I'd consider it a themed restaurant. In this case, though, the theme is us; the current manifestation of a Shanghai dweller. This is our concept of how food, drink, ambiance and service should layer together. That we didn't know or desire this until exactly now is the magic that Lee and Kelley weave.
What Liquid Laundry really is will only emerge once it's been open a while. The proof is in the pudding and food will be the defining element in their journey. Kelley and BCB chef Sean Jorgensen have worked on a menu which nudges global food out of it's own comfort zone. It's a statement of considered complexity and frank differentiation. With that in mind that we munched through a selection of dishes and contemplated the stratification of the planet.
It all started with a smokey Negroni...
A couple of disclaimers. This was a pre-opening menu so the actual food may not look like the photos. Actually they definitely will not look like the photos because I got my hands on an amazing 1.4 lens and had the depth of field set to painful 3cm.
- Liquid Laundry
- 021 6445 9589
- KWah Centre, 2/F, 1028 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Donghu Lu [map]
- 上海市淮海中路1028号, 嘉华房2/F, 近东湖路
- ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆