(Photos by Joanna)
I had been meaning to try Mr. & Mrs. Bund for a while. It’s close to the Westin Hotel where I always stay when in Shanghai. It has a bit of buzz. And the chef was the notable Paul Pairet from former fame at Jade on 36 (which has suffered since he left). Well, if I had known what I know now, I would have been beating a path to its door much, much sooner. I am not sure what I like more – the inventive French food with Asian flourishes, the sexy yet chill vibe or innovative serve-yourself wine bar? I suppose it’s all this and more that led to a recent roaring good time on my last trip to Shanghai. Say hello to my new fave in Shanghai, Mr. & Mrs. Bund (my favorite is still Stiller’s Paul ).
Inspired not just a little by the film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the linkage is obvious when you approach Mr. & Mrs. Bund’s entrance of twin red and green doors. The doors look like that of suburban manse and require the guest to ring a doorbell to enter. Already, this was not your typical French restaurant.
What lied behind the doors was a sprawling expanse of dining areas. It’s actually rare to see a restaurant so large that uses space so well. Fully of intimate nooks and crannies as well as larger tables for groups, the décor is a sexy blend of red and black.
The roof deck affords an amazing view of the bund and there is also a lounge area for relaxing before or after dinner. A separate bar area features over-size chairs reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and a special temperature-controlled, air-controlled, by-the-glass wine serving system. With 32 types of wine available by the glass, you can secure a card and serve yourself as you please…changing by the course or as the mood suits.
We were 12 people and so we ended up with a large table in the corner. The Lazy Susan carousel in the center of the table made it obvious that Mr. & Mrs. Bund advocates the spirit of sharing. With that in mind and after a quick chat with the congenial and gracious manager Rene, we decided to let the chef put together a range of house specialties for us to try. Considering that we represented a mélange of 7 nationalities and 4 of the diners were vegetarian, we upped the challenge for the kitchen. But what followed not only did not disappoint, it was inspiring. Before the food arrived there was no shortage of dynamic conversation, but once the food arrived…the group quieted. The focus was on, as it should be, the culinary creativity, whimsical presentations and quality represented. After the initial oohing and aahing stopped, conversation resumed…but it was all about the food. No more discussions of business or vacation plans, it was exclamations of surprise and delight. We laughed, we cried and the meal became a part of us.
What was so spectacular, you ask? Well, I suppose the only place to start is at the beginning. Our taste buds were awakened with an amuse bouche from the chef – a tuna mousse served playfully in a re-purposed tuna can with crispy toast points. The mousse was airy yet fully of peppery, tuna flavor, a perfect warm up for what was to follow.
Next we were greeted with two dishes, Large Steamed Asparagus with Foamed Hollandaise and the house’s signature Picnic Chicken, carved tableside and served with greens and garlic aioli. It was no mystery why the Picnic Chicken is so popular. It was perhaps the most succulent and tender chicken I have enjoyed in recent memory, and the flavour was subtly and expertly enhanced with a generous side of aioli.
Next followed the Foie Gras Crumble. Oh my! This was perhaps the table’s favourite. The combination of the green apple jelly accents, the perfectly executed foie gras and a crumbled fruit topping was haunting. My heart beats faster as I recall the sensual blend of flavours and textures in every bite.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the Steamed Prawns arrived. Not just any steamed prawns, mind you…these were steamed in a large glass Mason jar with citrus, lemongrass and vanilla. I am not sure what was more exciting the flavour or the presentation.
The vegetarians were delighted with the Risotto Truffle and Paris. A risotto with white truffles, Paris mushrooms, parmigiano and a light meuniere. In fact there was a tussle with the meat eaters over this dish and to keep the peace we ordered a second serving
Next up was Meuniere Bread, a toasted bread dredged in a light meuniere with truffle and lemon foam. It was up there with the Foie Gras Crumble as an unexpected star of the evening. If I could enjoy this daily, I would. It was beyond mouthwatering…this high-brow comfort food was totally addictive. I surreptitiously eyed my neighbor who was also enamored with this dish in order to see if I could secure the last bite.
We were startled and amazed when the Beef Long Ribs with Terriyaki Glaze, Organge Reduction and Garlic Chips showed up. These were simply enormous ribs. The large bones protruding gave them a bit of caveman Flinestones feeling. I felt purely carnivorous digging into the tender, juicy yet toothsome meat.
Finally was the Black Cod in the Bag. Another creative and whimsical presentation of black cod steamed in a heat proof bag with Cantonese sauce and assembled tableside. The delicate flavours of the fish greatly enhanced with the sauce, made for an exciting rendition of steamed fish, which can normally be a bit boring. Yes, this dish was anything but boring.
Finally, dessert. We were stuffed, so we asked if they could keep it simple. The resulting answer was yes and no. While the tastes were simply, honest, bright and fresh, the presentation and sophistication was complex and impressive. First was Chocolate Very Melting – a steamed chocolate bun, vanilla ice cream, topped with a meringue and raspberry coulis and liquor. It is just a wee bit brispy on the outside and as the name suggests, melty on the inside – in a word, heaven.
Next up was the Lemon & Lemon Tart. This seemingly simple dish takes 72 hours to prepare. A candied lemon is filled with lemon sorbet, lemon curd and vanilla chantilly. Because the lemon is candied, its not just a vessel for serving, but is actually a part of the dish to be eaten. Loving lemon, this for me was the pièce de résistance of the meal.
So the food was amazing, no doubt. But it was more than that which made the experience truly memorable. For one, the waiters were truly knowledgeable about all the dishes and actually seemed like they were having…gasp…fun. The serve yourself wine cooler was a huge hit and took a bit of the preciousness (in a good way) out of ordering wines. The music was a blend of Simon & Garfunkel, Michael Jackson, AC/DC, French Jazz, etc. which further contributed to the convivial and festive vibe.
In the end, we were 12 people (again with 7 nationalities represented), all with different culinary tastes, some drinkers and some non-drinkers…pretty much an impossible group to please. But there wasn’t one person that didn’t leave with a big smile on their face after dining at Mr. & Mrs. Bund. Many of my guests actually thanked me for choosing a place that inspired such a fun and memorable night.
This was the most unfussy French dining experience I have ever experienced – and I loved it. Who knew fine French dining could be so much fun! ?
PS – Mr. & Mrs. Bund stays open until 4am Tues – Sat, so if you are out having drinks and fancy a bite, keep the party going and head over late night.
Mr & Mrs Bund
Bund 18, 6th Floor
18 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road
Telephone: +86 21 6323 9898