If nicely laid out, well-intentioned Western cuisine served in a choice location is enough for success in Shanghai’s gastronomic melee, then La Maison Gourmande has cleared the first hurdle. However, if it must be prodigious to jostle alongside the Anfu Lu heavyweights, then this French bistro needs a far more accomplished offering.
It’s difficult not to get carried away. Their courtyard is tremendously alluring and sure to be at capacity every balmy evening. Inside is a stylish collection of understated yet beautifully dressed dining rooms. The menu comes wonderfully simple, one page for each of a customary three-course offering. To homesick ears it must read like a serenade: vegetable terrine, duck breast, bouillabaisse, sea bass. They’re all present and vying for attention.
A duck liver pate (RMB48) served with slices of sweet bread and an underrepresentation of chutney snapped proceedings into focus. Thank goodness for the basket of baguette slices to fully support the robust flavors. The scallops au gratin (RMB78) are a more complex affair, however the fleshy meat is lost against a dominating sauce and mushrooms acting as scallop-doppelgangers. Le Bouchon’s are much better.
In French cuisine, appetizers are often the creative star of the show. So for our next course we selected safe, a large but underwhelming rib-eye steak served with a mountain of shoestring fries (RMB190) was evocative but not prime, especially at this price. Similarly mark-missing was their take on chicken pot-pie (RMB155), a slow-cooked crock of chicken in a rich sauce lidded with puff pastry. Alongside a bowl of boiled vegetables it all feels incomplete and needs harmony.
This is the kind of meal that would serve in London or Paris as a quick pre-show meal at a reasonable price. At RMB300-plus a head we were expecting more.
- La Maison Gourmande
- 021 6417-9819
- 246 Anfu Lu, nr Wulumuqi Lu [map]
- ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆