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”.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.