This time last year, things weren't looking so hot for the Cool Docks on the South Bund. What had been ambitiously vaunted as a new Xintiandi was limping along with just a few decent venues to recommend it. Unless you had a good reason to go there (i.e. Stiller's gourmet restaurant and cooking school, or Kebabs on the Grille for great Indian food), the expat population tended to give it a miss. The lifestyle hub seemed destined to feature only on domestic tour itineraries.
The Cool Docks sits beside the Huangpu River at 505 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu near Waima Lu, and was built on the site of the Shiliupu Dock – Shanghai's oldest. Developers moved in before the Expo to turn the area into a slick new complex, complete with a central plaza and fountain, plus shikumen buildings and contemporary architecture. Its first wave of venues included a Starbucks, a Greek terrace restaurant called Mythos, several independent cafés, a gay club and a tattoo parlour. While some (including the aforementioned Stillers and Kebabs on the Grille) continue to do well, others have closed down or relocated.
However, sometime over the summer, things started to look up. The opening of the Waterhouse boutique hotel had put the area back on the map post-Expo, with its popular Roof bar and Table No. 1 restaurant. Hotel Indigo – the Shanghai branch of InterContinental's boutique brand – was built nearby, and the man-made beach at Wharf 1846 injected new life into the South Bund. A crop of new restaurants means that the Cool Docks are most definitely cool again. Here are the ones you shouldn't miss:
1) Rico Rico View In Map
Coming from the same management as Mistral and Bikes & Friends, Rico Rico is an upmarket but casual Latin restaurant and bar serving fusion food and tasty cocktails. Its adjoining beach is a huge draw during the warmer months. The beach started small, but the Rico Rico guys expanded it when they took over last year. Look out for parties and promotions there over the summer.
Add: Wharf 1846, 421 Waima Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 3330 0977
2) Bubba's at the Beach View In Map
Ken Walker brings his popular American grill to the South Bund, and Bubba's at the Beach is just as good as his original Hongqiao location. Expect hearty fare like ribs, steaks and burgers, plus decent beer and a friendly atmosphere.
Add: Wharf 1846, 653 Waima Lu, Shanghai
3) Nova Bar and Restaurant View In Map
Another addition to the Wharf 1846 complex is Nova, the sister venue of the popular Dagu Lu bistro and wine bar. With great French food and a wide selection of wines, it's a real asset to the area, and larger than the original.
Add: Room 207, Warehouse 4, Wharf 1846, 653 Waima Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 3376 6377
Opening hours: Wed-Mon, 18:00-24:00 (restaurant); Wed-Mon, 18:00-02:00 (bar)
4) South Bund 22 View In Map
The stunning South Bund 22 building is a reworking of a historic structure at 22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu. Its two main draws are the slick Zeal club on sixth floor, and the “urban pub” Brix on fifth floor.
Add: 22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6336 8868
Opening hours: 17:30-03:00
5) CHAR @ Hotel Indigo View In Map
Hotel Indigo's onsite steakhouse and bar imports dry-age cuts of beef from Australia and serves them up alongside a gorgeous view of the river and Pudong beyond.
Add: 29-31/F, 585 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 3302 9995
Opening hours: 18:00-late (kitchen closes at 22:00)
6) Roof Bar @ Waterhouse Hotel View In Map
This bar is another major draw to the South Bund thanks to its wide, open terrace and imaginative cocktails. Don't miss the gourmet bar snacks prepared at Table No. 1 downstairs.
Add: 5/F, 1-3 Maojiayuan Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6080 2928
7) Table No. 1 @ Waterhouse View In Map
Shanghai won major kudos on the international dining scene when Table No. 1 opened under the aegis of Gordon Ramsay's pupil Jason Atherton. It's cozy and laid back, with simple but perfectly prepared food.
Add: 1/F, 1-3 Maojiayuan Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6080 2918
Opening hours: 10:00-01:00
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Keywords: Cool docks Shanghai rebirth of cool docks Cool Docks South Bund
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