Monday, November 27, 2006

Discovering New Heights in Shanghai, China

The Bund in Shanghai is a one mile stretch of the western side of the Huangpu River and has been witness to much of the city's turbulant history. The word 'Bund' is thought to originally come from the Urdu word 'band', meaning an embankment, levee or dam, and to have been brought to Shanghai by the hotelier, Victor Sassoon, who built the Cathay Hotel (now called The Peace Hotel) on the corner of The Bund and Nanjing Road. Originally a tow path along the river, the Chinese authorities required 30 feet of space to be left between the water's edge and any buildings constructed along The Bund in order to allow movement up and down the path and account for tidal variation.

Buildings started to be constructed along The Bund, formerly part of the British settlement but later becoming part of the international settlement, in the late 19th century and the building boom continued into the early part of the 20th century. This area along the river rapidly became a major banking and trading hub in East Asia.

After the Communists came to power, many of the banks and trading houses along The Bund were closed or forced to move out. A later reversal of policy saw many of the landmark buildings restored to their former use but it was in the 1990s that the Shanghai Municipal Government decided to regenerate the area in a bid to boost tourism. The view of The Bund has now changed with a 10-metre high levee and walkway constructed in order to prevent flooding. Despite its ugly appearance the walkway provides promenading opportunities for both Shanghai residents and tourists as well as great views of both the buildings on The Bund, the Huangpu river traffic and the Pudong skyscrapers beyond.

Towards one end of the mile-long stretch, lies No.3 The Bund, an elegant post-renaissance building built in 1916 by the Union Assurance Company and for many years occupied by the East Asiatic Bank and the Mercantile Bank of India.Having fallen into disrepair, the building was re-designed by a US architect, Michael Graves, and re-opened in 2004. The building now houses designer shops, a spa, an art gallery and three excellent restaurants bringing a touch of style back to The Bund, not that it ever really went away for long.

On the 7th floor is New Heights, a contemporary brasserie offering fabulous views, great food and stylish dining at a much more reasonable price than some neighbouring restaurants on The Bund.

The interior is modern with a wonderful wine cellar lining the interior corridor, open kitchens, a bar area and 'Ally Mcbeal style' conveniences i.e. unisex. The exterior though is where it's at and it's well worth booking a spot on the terrace in order to benefit from its superlative view. Outdoor heaters are provided for nights with a chill in the air. If you're able to really splash out, you might be interested in the Cupola, which houses two private dining rooms, above the terrace.

The restaurant kitchen is headed by Neal Giles, an Australian who has previously worked at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the menu, catering for both Asian and Western tastes, amuses by offering things that swim, things that walk etc. A nice touch to finish is the chance to have mini deserts - half price and half the calories but all the taste. The hot chocolate fondant with rosemary ice cream (pictured) is simply divine. However, if you really want to finish the night with a Shanghai flourish take a stroll along The Bund and simply drink it all in.

Address: 7/F, 3 on the Bund, Shanghai

Tel: 021-63210909

Opening hours: 10:00 - 02:00

Total bill for 2 with wine: approx 400-500RMB

All major credit cards accepted.

Reservations recommended.

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