When a friend offered to take me out to Bund 39 for a meal a very familiar image of Chinese cuisine entered my mind. Okay, I have had some very nice Chinese meals, especially recently but long experience kicked in and in my mind i was pre-ordering before i reached the restaurant.
My pre-conceptions were quickly dispelled. The decor is subtle and sparse without being uncomfortable. Unlike many restaurants i have visited Bund 39 steers clear of gaudy decorations and a few understated accessories are the only indication that you are in a Chinese restaurant. That said it is a small space and the tables and chairs are close together. If you want to discuss something top secret then perhaps the local park is a better idea.
I ordered a Shanghai Jiang Cha Shao as a starter, which is a pork Char Sui to those that are not fluent in Chinese. To my surprise the thinly sliced pork still contained bones and this led me into a conversation with Jasmin Liu, the proprietor and person behind the menu. Firstly, she explained that this is the way that the food is served and enjoyed in Shanghai. The bones allow for the tastiest and healthiest cuts of meat and that the people in Shanghai love to chew on the bones. The sauce covering the meat was delicately flavoured and complemented the meat rather than overpower it.
Next, I had cold chicken with noodles. This was served with a soy based sauce and peanut butter on the side. Again, this was tasty and made an excellent dish for hot summer evenings. Jasmin explained that this would normally be served pre-mixed in Shanghai but as allergens are an issue customers can add sauces to their needs and tastes.
I also tried my companions beef in black pepper sauce. I have had this dish on numerous occasions in restaurants around the world and this was a completely different experience. The sauce did not overpower the meat but retained an aromatic flavour and was served with steamed rice.
After eating i continued my conversation with Jasmin. She explained that Bund 39 was born of her frustration that she could not get a decent Shanghai style meal Europe and a frustration that Chinese food is perceived to be unhealthy. To me the food felt more akin to home cooking than normal restaurant fare, healthy and delicious.
So if you are a fan of the, slightly oxymoronic concept of European Chinese food then perhaps Bund 39 is not the place for you. But if you want a real authentic flavour of Shanghai then i would give it a try. I know which one i'm going to choose.
Instagram Suitability: The restaurant is well lit but lacks grandiose features and it’s pretty small. 2 out of 5 flashblubs.
Rons Tip: Try the noodles with chicken. Very tasty and a generous portion if you are hungry.
Rons Tip 2: Jasmin offered me a deliceious sweet plum tea. I recommend it.
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