THE north Jing'an area isn't known as being a cultural hotspot but that's changing as the neighborhood evolves. "Recently, it's become much more dynamic," said ifa Gallery director Alexis Kouzmine-Karavieff, whose gallery has been a Changde Road fixture since 2008. A walk south on Changde Road out of Changping Road Metro station takes you past a popular local Thai restaurant, a unique shop that carries everything posh from Middle Eastern rugs to Japanese ceramics, an edgy art gallery that specializes in contemporary Chinese work and a design studio that is stocked with vintage Shanghai Art Deco furniture.
The 800 Show Creative Industry Park complex is filling up with cute coffee shops and classy wine bars but this Thai restaurant immediately catches the eye. Boasting a diverse menu that is heavy on northern Thai favorites like Thai prawn curry and other popular Thai dishes like Pad Thai, beef salad and steamed fish, The Spice is constantly packed. "Reservations are required," confirmed manager Anil Rajin. "On weekends, you should call a day in advance and during the week, call in the morning." With such demand, it would be natural for The Spice to open more branches but Rajin explained that, "we are focused on being a quality business, not a volume business." Rather than open a new spot, The Spice has opened an extension. The chic additional space includes tables spread further apart and plush seating. Both parts of the restaurant serve the same menu, with dinner dishes ranging from 100 yuan (US$16) to 120 yuan per person. A lunch set costs 68 yuan for a curry dish with an appetizer, soup and salad.
Next to The Spice's new extension is this unique shop that specializes in a variety of luxurious items. From the outside, Yan Bo Zhi Shuang Ge looks like it specializes the odd combination of expensive pipes and French wines. However, walking around the store's two floors reveals items ranging from Japanese teapots to Middle Eastern rugs to ancient military wear. Separated into sections similar to a museum, each part of the store focuses on a specialty item. It's the perfect place to accessorize your home if you are able to afford such items as an ornate Buddhist shrine. "Our biggest sellers are the pipes and smoking accessories," said manager Alan Qian. With pipes ranging from 800 yuan (US$128) to 420,000 yuan, many goods are aimed at high rollers. The store has an association with European porcelain maker Meissen which will take the form of a boutique Meissen store opening in January next to Yan Bo Zhi Shuang Ge.
Opening hours: 9:30am-6:30pm
Address: C2, 800 Changde Rd
Since opening in 2006, the ifa Gallery has been devoted to showcasing the best of the Chinese contemporary art scene. While initially located in Shanghai's artistic hotbed, M50, the gallery has been in its Changde Road site for the past four years. Built in 1923 and once the home of a British Customs official, the space houses exhibitions that change every two months featuring contemporary artists living in China. "About 80 percent of what we show here are pieces that I would have in my collection if I could afford them," said director Alexis Kouzmine-Karav?eff. The gallery hosted early shows for artists like Liu Bolin who has gone on to have international success. This weekend, its latest show "My Country" opens. "I asked each artist to make an installation about their country," Kouzmine-Karav?eff said. It features works from artists such as Latvia's Zane Mellupe, Germany's Roland Darjes and China's Gao Brothers.
Opening hours: 10am-7pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Address: 621 Changde Rd
Gelin Casa is a design studio and furniture shop that specializes in classic old Shanghai style from the 1920s and 1930s. Full of vintage Shanghai Art Deco pieces, the store is a huge hit with expats. "The owner is involved in design and knew that people liked this old Art Deco style," assistant Angelina Ma said. "So we created this showroom and over the years, demand for this style has become much higher." Small pieces such as clocks and fans are available for around 1,000 yuan (US$160.5). Larger items like vintage sofas cost between 4,500 and 8,000 yuan. "It's an interesting style that is very different from the Art Deco movement in Europe," Ma said. In addition, Gelin Casa stock a variety of new designs, such as coat racks, that complement the classic style. Customized orders are available and the store brings antique pieces to the showroom as it acquires them.
Opening hours: 9am-5:30pm (Monday to Friday), 10am-6pm (Saturday and Sunday)