At exactly 8pm last night, I got a call from a friend who lives in Hong Kong. She asked if I knew who she was and I, being good with voices, got it in one. Anyway, it turns out she was in Shanghai for meetings and was calling on the off chance that I might be free for dinner. Now as anyone who knows me well will verify, I have a pretty packed social schedule. Friends habitually book my time months in advance, but by some incredible stroke of luck (on her part) I had no plans for dinner and had not eaten yet. I did have an appointment with my tailor to pick up a new, bespoke suit (black with bright pink lining, flat fronted trousers, single vent, 2 buttons, narrow lapel), I decided that might not go down well as an excuse to refuse her dinner invitation.
So I stopped by her hotel to pick her up and then we headed off to nearby Hamilton House, a French style brasserie and bar, where I have previously enjoyed a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, but never actually eaten.
The restaurant is located in one of two old art deco colonial buildings, located on the corner of Fuzhou road and Jiangxi road, the other identical looking building housing the Metropole Hotel. Both buildings were commissioned by the Donald Trump of the 1930s, Sir Victor Sassoon (no relation to the hairdresser as far as I know) who also commissioned the Cathay Hotel, renamed The Peace Hotel after the war, and it was designed by architects Palmer and Turner. There’s a laser printed sign on the door to Hamilton House which says “please be careful, this door is 73 years old” which I guess they’ll be changing in a few months time to read “74 years old“.
We were reminded by the very attractive hostess that they only accept cash, and after seeing the pale concerned look on our faces, she added that there was an ATM machine nearby if it came to that!
The places was buzzing and crowded with trendy looking expats and returnees. I felt a bit out of place in my plain office attire, but hoped my youthful looks would compensate for that.
The menu was just the way I like it – extremely simple. I’ve never seen the menu but after 2 minutes I knew what I was going to be having and even had time to decide on a back up dish in case my first choice was not available (a common occurrence in China).
I went for the poached egg on a bed of spinach and brioche followed by the roasted lamb which came with ratatouille and delicious roasted potatoes – something I have a week spot for. My friend, F, had the fois gras (I think she forgot there was a good chance we would not have enough cash to pay for the meal!) followed by the seabass. I like fish as much as the next guy but I always feel that fish is always better when it’s done in a Chinese style, steamed, with some ginger and spring onion for example.
My starter was quite filling and the main course was far more than I could handle, so the extra side of salad and sauteed green beans (20 rmb each) was clearly a mistake that won’t be repeated next time.
All in all, it was a very pleasant dinner, and at a mere 558 rmb for two (but with no wine), I thought it was extremely good value and between F and I, we had enough to pay for the meal and taxi ride home, without the humiliation of running to find the ATM!