Oysters, caviar, champagne ... and 6-meter slides for kids
By Ruby Gao
Weekend brunch is increasingly popular among city residents, even though the al fresco brunch season in Shanghai is only about two months long.
Between April and June is the best time for brunching outdoors, as it’s often sunny and warm — without yet being stifling.
This year’s brunch menus are showing new trends: from big to small; simple to sophisticated; to better catering for locals’ tastes.
“The trend for brunch is moving away from large buffet spreads to focusing on wholesome, seasonal and delicious individual dishes,” says Simon Brelsford, food and beverage director at Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai.
Linda Hemels, food and beverage director at Waldorf Astoria Shanghai agrees, adding that offering taster samples rather than shovelling food onto plates makes for a more elegant buffet experience.
While dishes may be changing, the laid-back, socializing side of brunch hasn’t, so portions still need to be big enough for sharing.
More restaurants are choosing to combine a la carte (for main courses) with buffet (for appetizers and desserts) to enhance the dining experience.
At the same time, the definition of brunch is becoming more sophisticated.
“Guests are looking more and more for an experience rather than just a meal,” says Hemels from Waldorf Astoria Shanghai.
“Brunch is now a very social event and it is all about the social media blitz that follows a good meal. We all love sharing our pictures with our friends, so a brunch experience needs to allow for a good selfie,” says Brelsford from AndazXintiandi Shanghai.
This is a big trend among local diners, keen to try this traditionally Western meal — and let their friends know about it on social media. Diners’ comments spread quickly, which makes the brunch market highly competitive.
Restaurants must not just pay attention to food quality but also presentation and ambience.
The market is also changing; from being dominated by expats and local people who lived overseas, local family customers now play an important role.
To make restaurants more family friendly, more big tables for up to 10 people are offered at Andaz, allowing the whole family to dine together, according to Brelsford.
“Chinese family bookings usually include three generations, so we’ve created a play area for kids, diverse beverage options for adults, and authentic flavors to satisfy traditional palates,” Brelsford adds.
Young brunch guests at the Kerry Hotel Pudong can enjoy two hours at the hotel’s Adventure Zone — a big play area with various slides, (including one measuring 6.4-meters!) usually only for guests.
Meanwhile, kids at Mandarin Oriental Pudong have their own special colorful and safe tableware to enjoy brunch.
“We find that generally if the children are engaged and happy then this means the same for the parents,” says Brendan Lane-Mullins, food and beverage director at InterContinental Shanghai Pudong.
When choosing a brunch destination, customers usually hesitate between independent restaurants, often cheaper but with fewer choices, and hotels, usually more expensive but with more choice and facilities and often better service.
Hemels from the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai considers that expensive can also mean value for money.
“Hotel brunches are often more extensive with buffet selections such as oysters, caviar, free-flow champagne, as well as live music and entertainment for children.”
Hotel chains also have a big advantage when sourcing quality ingredients globally.
This week we highlight seven hotel brunch destinations.
But before you making a phone call to book a table, take a look at our checklist for the perfect brunch.
Roast beef or dimsum?
Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai provides two different brunch options to appeal to Western or Chinese tastes.
The hotel’s Xuan Bar — a casual dining place with floor-to-ceiling windows offering street views of Xintiandi, plus outdoor seating — roast brunch blends traditional breakfast items with English weekend roast.
On offer is a five-course menu — 128 yuan (US$20.6) + 15% or 220 yuan + 15% if includes free-flow wines and other drinks. It features a seasonal salad, chef’s soup of the day, five main course options, two sweet options, and a dessert.
A main course highlight is slow roasted beef sirloin and eggs Benedict, served with ham, English muffins, roast tomatoes and flavored with hollandaise. Sweet options include butter milk pancakes with banana and warm maple syrup and French toast with caramelized apple.
The hotel’s Chinese restaurant HaiPai serves an all-you-can-eat Shanghai dimsum brunch (168 yuan + 15%), and features a kids’ play area to keep the little ones entertained.
The a la carte menu has diverse options, including nine dimsum, two soups, six appetizers, eight main courses, seven rice and noodle dishes and six desserts.
Highly recommended dishes include xiaolongbao (dumpling filled with minced pork), fried pea sprouts in wuliangye (a Chinese spirit made from sorghum) featuring crispy texture and intense aroma, deep-fried doughnuts served with vanilla and almond parfait (a local breakfast option) and soybean flavor ice cream — not too sweet.
Children aged between from 6 to 12 are half price, while those under 6 are free.
Opening hours: 11:30am-3pm (both restaurants)
Tel: 2310-1705 (Xuan Bar); 2310-1799 (HaiPai)
Address: 1/F, 88 Songshan Rd
Value in luxury
Free-flow champagne, freshly shucked oysters, caviar buffet, Australian wagyu beef and Boston lobster make Sunday brunch at Waldorf Astoria Shanghai luxurious, yet good value too.
The hotel reinterprets brunch as a food journey, starting at its nostalgic Long Bar. With dark wood, leather chairs and vintage ceiling fans, this heritage site dates back to early in the 20th century, when — as the Shanghai Club — it was where the city’s rich and powerful socialized.
Appropriately for this glamorous location, fresh oysters from France and champagne are offered here on the first stop on the brunch journey.
Diners then move to the Grand Brasseire, an opulent dining area designed in modern Manhattan style, for an a la carte menu and buffet.
The buffet features a raw bar offering a diversity of seafood, highlighted by caviar and king crab leg, carving stations, and a dessert station. The a la carte menu highlights classic breakfast dishes such as eggs Benedict, truffle scrambled eggs and pan-fried foie gras.
Buttermilk pancakes and Belgian waffles are favorites with kids, while the dessert station features hotel’s signature red velvet cake (which includes beetroot) and authentic New York style cheesecake.
To enhance the ambience, the resident band performs live jazz music.
Brunch with free-flow champagne is 888 yuan + 15%. Brunch without champagne is 688 yuan + 15%. The price for children (6-12) is 468 yuan + 15%, while kids under 6 eat for free.
Opening hours: Sunday, 11am-3pm
Address: 1/F, 2 Zhongshan Rd E1
Taste of Europe
French chef Jeremy Biasiol gives brunch at Jade on 36, Pudong Shangri-La East Shanghai a strong European influence, focusing on seasonal and local flavor. Dishes, all offered a la carte style to ensure freshness, are separated into four sections: eggs, soups, main courses and desserts. The menu changes every two months to ensure seasonal flavors.
One of chef’s signature dishes is “en cocotte Parisian style” — sunset in Paris — an egg cooked in two ways. The white is cooked as light and airy as souffle, while the yolk is roasted and covered with truffle and chicken sauce. Each bite has rich textures and flavors. We also recommend the seasonal asparagus soup with truffle Chantilly, which has a distinctive creamy texture and layers of aromas.
For the main course, the beef is recommended. Chef uses rib eye from Australia M5 grade Wagyu with marbling, which is served with wild mushrooms and a thick beef sauce to make the flavor more intense.
For dessert, the pistachio ice cream with cherry is a must-try, combining rich nutty pistachio flavor with vibrant cherry.
Adding a personal touch, chef Biasiol is in the restaurant to chat with each table and take requests and customize orders — whether it’s adding more truffle or using less cream.
The brunch set including one egg dish, soup, a main course and dessert is 328 yuan + 15% (with free-flow soft drink). The set including free-flow champagne and wine is 608 yuan + 15%.
Opening hours: Sunday, 12pm-3pm
Tel: 6882-8888 ext 6888
Address: 36/F, 33 Fucheng Rd
Cozy setting, beautiful views
Café 1188 at the InterContinental Shanghai Expo offers a buffet featuring diverse cuisines, from Italian antipasti to Scandinavian flavors, sashimi and sushi to curry, Chinese noodles to French soup.
Brunch is served in a cozy environment with homey touches, complete with open kitchen and live cooking stations. Terrace and garden seating offer views of spring blooms and beautiful 1930s-style Art Deco villas.
The seafood station is a highlight, where diners can enjoy fresh oysters served with different sauces, including ginger, coriander and lemon.
Other must-try options include crab legs and baby oysters.
“Bouillabaisse (a French fish soup), pan-fried duck liver, and chocolate pizza are among other signature dishes here,” says Denis Lartigue, executive chef at the InterContinental Shanghai Expo.
The dessert station is guaranteed to be a big hit with chocolate fans. Dark, milk and white chocolate is made into mousse, tart, cookies and cupcakes, offering an array of textures and flavors.
A kids’ corner in restaurant entertains young guests with creative arts and crafts.
Young diners can also get a free private swimming lesson with advance booking.
Brunch is 388 yuan + 15%, 588 yuan + 15% including free-flow champagne, 194 yuan + 15% for children aged 6 to 12 and free for kids under 6.
Opening hours: Sunday, 12am-3pm
Address: 1/F, 1188 Xueye Rd
In the pink
Having Sunday brunch at The Langham Xintiandi is like stepping into a dreamy world of pink: from pink macaroons to pink chocolate fondue and pink strawberry ice cream to, you guessed it, pink candies.
The Art Deco touches, chandeliers and live music create a soft ambience with classical touch. There’s an open kitchen in the center, showcasing the chefs’ culinary art and building interaction between them and diners.
Brunch combines buffet with a la carte. A large seafood station offers fresh oysters, giant Spanish shrimp from the Cantabrian Sea and king crab legs from Alaska — known for their natural sweetness and tender texture. The roast and cutlet station provides roast Australian beef, suckling pig, lamb cutlets and paella.
The cold station offers Iberian ham reserved 40 months long and Stilton cheese. Dimsum lovers can try their hand-pulled noodles and various dumplings.
Brunch (with free-flow champagne) is 580 yuan + 15%. Children aged 6 to 11 are charged 240 yuan + 15%. Kids under 6 eat for free.
Opening hours: Sunday, 11:30am-3pm
Address: 1/F, 99 Madang Rd
Culinary trip round the globe
Weekend brunch at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai features a huge buffet including global cuisines, especially Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Japanese and European. Brunch is served in Zest, a modern dining environment with an open kitchen. Outdoor seating makes for a laid-back option for springtime.
Seafood station highlights include lobster and oysters, while the Indian station has tandoori dishes.
Brunch is 428 yuan + 15%; 214 yuan + 15% for children aged 6-12 and free for kids below 6. And kids get their own dinner service and coloring-in sets to keep them amused.
Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am-2:30pm
Address: LG/F, 111 Pudong Rd S.
Get your claws into them
Sunday brunch at Level 1, InterContinental Shanghai Pudong offers the value-for-money draw of unlimited Boston lobster.
Other popular options include Peking roast duck and chocolate cheesecake and strawberry cake.
And to delight young and old diners alike, a magician performs.
Brunch is 268 yuan + 15% (without wine). Shanghai Daily readers can enjoy an exclusive discount on this option, paying just 208 yuan in an offer valid until the end of May. Simply show staff your copy of Shanghai Daily.
A 488 yuan + 15% set includes free-flow Prosecco. A family set designed for two adults and one child, is priced at 488 yuan + 15%.