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Shanghai – Jason Atherton at Table No. 1 at The Waterhouse (a preview of Pollen Street Social?)

This is the start of a week of Shanghai and it begins with Jason Atherton.  If you are not familar with the London restaurant scene he is a  former protege of Gordon Ramsay who is a talented chef in his own right and used to have 1 Michelin star at Maze.

So what happens when you fly him nearly 10,000km to Shanghai?  Erm, not much of note really.

Table No. 1 is one of the it-iest restaurants in Shanghai right now and for good reason. It looks beautiful, distressed rusting steel, open spaces, custom furniture, sleek waiters. Many thanks to Neri & Hu the Chinese architects who are apparently also designing Jason Atherton’s upcoming restaurant in London – Pollen Street Social.

It started well as we went for a drink in the courtyard before going inside to choose from one of two set lunches.  I went for the more three times as expensive “Chef’s Menu” and everyone else went for the “Express Lunch Menu”.

A rather perfunctory bread basket

It began with a bread basket with a rillette and a bit of pesto. Nothing too exciting really but rather pretty.  The bread was better than most restaurants I have been to in China though not as good as Robuchon’s efforts in Hong Kong.

The best dish - a crab bisque poured over a crab salad

The next dish – the crab bisque – was the best of the meal and displayed Atherton’s Gordon Ramsay trained heritage (review of Royal Hospital Road here).

One common form of presentation I have had many times at Gordon Ramsay restaurants around London is that the waiter will bring out an unfilled soup bowl with a few fresh components of the dish dry at the bottom. Into that the waiter, with French flair, then pours a soup or bisque. Here Atherton recreated it with perfection and an intense but light hit of crab.

Metallic ceviche of scallop with gazpacho garnish

Unfortunately the next dish, a scallop ceviche, had too metallic a flavour from the tomatoes. Sourcing issues I would guess.

Below was my neighbour’s equivalent salmon spring garden starter. All foams and dribbles and actually much better than my (annoyingly more expensive) equivalent.

A rather pretty salmon salad from the cheaper set menu

Then came the mains. For me it was textures of beetroot and pork. The picture of it below is from before it had gravy poured over it which subsequently overwhelmed and disintegrated the beetroot. Now beetroot textures are all nice and trendy (Nuno Mendes is doing similar things at Viajante in London) but here they weren’t particularly good and couldn’t stand up to the pork.

The pork was, and I do not dissemble, the fattiest thing I have ever eaten. And this is in the context of having now been in Hong Kong for five months and previously lived and eaten around Spain and grown up in a country addicted to pork (England). What that means is that I am pork heavy, pork competent, pork experienced and none of it came close to this. Which I am thankful for as this was just too much. It got handed around the other diners at our table with no-one was able to finish more than one mouthful.

Too much fat and textures of beetroot later spoilt by gravy

Desserts were very much of the preprepared variety. The rasberry dessert below came out as crunchy as ice cubes and about as edible as that until if flawed out. I had a crumble tapoica martini “thing” which was a bit of fun but nothing revelatory.

A preprepared, still frozen dessert

All in all what did I actually expect from Atherton and Table No. 1?  Did I expect to have a meal equivalently as good as I have eaten in Maze in London but in Shanghai? Not really, and that was right.

Still a nice place if you are fed up of amazing Shanghainese street food, XLBs and cuisine from all the myriad regions of China which can be found easily and cheaply throughout Shanghai…  For those more attractive possibilities see later this week.

  • Price – 400 RMB or £40 for the set menu and a few drinks
  • 1/F, The Waterhouse,1-3 Maojiayuan Lu, near Zhongshan Nan Lu, Shanghai

PS for more Shanghai goodness click here.

6 Comments

  1. Looks like a mediocre meal. Perhaps dinner would be better? Set lunches often underperform, I’ve found.

    “The pork was, and I do not dissemble, the fattiest thing I have ever eaten. ” <– LOL…have you tried Tung Po Pork (Shanghainese cuisine, incidentally). If it beats even that…I'm amazed.

    • I am definitely with you that a set lunch can be underwhelming but there should be a glimmer of hope. And I even went with the all out “Chef’s Menu”. I think this is little more than an adequate cash in by Atherton. His backers correctly surmised that average by London standards would be sufficient in Shanghai.

      Pretty much the converse happens with London’s Chinese food.

      I did actually have Tung Po pork I think. The treacley fat covered red tinged pork if I am right?!

  2. Your pictures are fab .. and the food in the photo’s looks beautifully presented. Your review seems rather harsh considering how stunning the foods looks.

    • I suppose the big problem with a picture is that it really doesn’t tell the whole truth. It can’t speak to the seasoning of a dish, the flavours etc.. In some ways many dishes which photograph badly are the best dishes (I am thinking of a bacon sandwich on cheap white bread for some reason).

      I suppose that is the great problem with food blogs. Until they come with a taster they are largely useless : )

  3. Yes…that’s the dish. It’s one of the rare dishes I don’t like because it’s TOO fatty and thick! And this is coming from someone who orders her cha siu as fatty as possible, and loves lard mixed with rice. The gooey texture of Tung Po Pork really puts me off. I think it’s the problem of the heavy sauce, which is so prevalent in Shanghainese cuisine.

    If that pork you had here was even fattier…I’m in awe.

  4. I’ve been to lunch and dinner at Table No 1 and actually enjoyed lunch more than dinner. Perhaps the food was the most inspiring, but for lunch it has a really good price performance ratio (only 158 rmb!).

    http://www.sugarednspiced.com/table-no-1/

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