The best of Shanghai, 2012

2012 was an important year for morons. This TV clip illustrates just why.

There was just something about the ring of ‘twenty twelve’ that inspired people to talk rubbish and believe that they are in ‘the future’.

Sadly for them, 2012 is about to become the past, and a New Year’s Eve’ is here, forcing people to remember that they have achieved very, very little in the space of the most recent 365 days.

Amongst this silliness, good can still shine through. Amongst the bad air and warped social view of how to treat other humans – some true good can still shine through within Shanghai.

So with thanks:

Best pub and nightlife venue: Shanghai Brewery

The reasons why Shanghai Brewery is good, span both gastronomic and anthropological reasons. If you go back just a few years – and especially if you go back over 6 or 7 years – places, venues and establishments of quality were lacking. They still are lacking. No matter their love of copying, many aspects of life here just aren’t quite there. Western restaurants, supermarkets, business culture and practice, taxis, double-glazed windows and housing insulation / build-quality … there are a great number of widely varying aspects of life that, though attempted, fall far, far wide of the mark.

Shanghai, if it can be classed as  self-conscious, assumes that it is an ‘international city’. The only people who would see Shanghai as a city of any sort, would be people who have never once been to a real city outside of China.

Whether it will become so is not the matter – currently, as mentioned above, thousands of aspects of status are not there.

This, finally, is where Shanghai Brewey comes in.

It shows the people ‘what can be possible’.

Don’t get me wrong – I mean it is also ‘just a pub’ and just serves food and drink.

Yet, what is also does is socially educate groups of Chinese people that there is an alternative to simply:

– going to a sticky, seedy bar and gulping down Whisky and playing silly dice games with Ladies of the Night

– going to a sticky, seedy KTV place and gulping down Whisky with Ladies of the Night

– going to a round tabled ‘private room’ in a restaurant and slurping down dishes that are salty, sweet and oily … then moving on to one of the above attractions.

Rather, they can learn that another option is available: sitting in a decent environment, surrounded by normal people. Ordering some beers and some bar food and then – crucially – sitting around and having conversation in a public space. Not just being pigeon-holed into the belief that they must follow the expected path of Whisky (because TV says so), dice games (because society says so) and having an expectation that social interaction must come with Ladies of the Night included.

So as well as quality pizza, drinks and televised sport, Shanghai Brewery raises the bar for social interaction and an expectation of civilisation within one area of regular life.

Shanghai Brewery

Best recent addition to Shanghai: ACME Pale Ale and North Coast Brewery Company

Following on from a ‘quality + beer” theme, these beers are crucial for some basic life pleasure when in china.

I’m quite sure that it may have arrived here before 2012, but it is worth mentioning now: ACME Pale Ale, along with Rogue and others.

The quality of the range of beers from this company are staggering.

I can’t see that sales will take off among local beer drinkers, because they like their swill to be piss-tasting, chemical-loaded, and Suntory. Or maybe Suntory Premium if they really want to push the piss-tasting boat out.

Yet it’s great news for real men to be able to have a real beer on supermarket shelves in China.

ACME Pale Ale Shanghai

Best money-making scheme ever: Haagen-Dazs Shanghai

Again, not specific to 2012, but still going strong. As of right now, Haagen-Dazs is pushing a lot of TV adverts out.

Actually, clothes company DIESEL can be included in this same bracket. Why?

Well, the genius of Haagen-Dazs and DIESEL is that they are using The Emperor’s New Clothes theory. And they are so smart in realising that this is the best country in the entire World in which to enact that.

If you tell people it is good – it is good. All that these two companies need to do is ONE THING only: over-charge for their product.

A high price tells a tasteless person that ‘Hey, this must be good! It is both foreign, AND expensive! Gimme gimme gimme!’

For DIESEL, this means having a shop in the most expensive shopping malls, and charging 2000 RMB for a t-shirt or 3000 RMB for a pair of jeans. DIESEL clothing was once seen as good quality in the UK, and I suppose that it still is.

Yet the difference is that due to the amount produced, you can pick up DIESEL t-shirt for about 20 GBP (200 RMB), and jeans for maybe 50 – 90 GBP (500 – 900 RMB) in outlet shops and a variety of shopping-centre clothes places.

Haagen-Dazs go a little further.

Not only do they massively over-charge for their product – which is Made in China, they don’t try to hide that – but they also have ‘cafes’ in upmarket shopping malls.

The rent must be high, but then their costs are (1) super-cheap, unskilled ‘local’ (from outside Shanghai) staff and (2) their product.

The cafe’s ‘clientele’ literally queue to sit down, carefully place their Gucci and Givenchy bags down, set their Dior sunglasses on the table next to their iPhone 5 – and then order a couple of scoops of ice cream from a migrant worker, which is then presented to them in a fancy bowl and a carefully sliced piece of fruit.

The cost of that pleasure is then around the 80 – 100 RMB+ mark. Why? Well, it’s luxury, isn’t it? I mean, that’s what TV says so, right?

Haagen-Dazs, you are marketing geniuses and I salute you.

Haagen Dazs Shanghai genius

Haagen Dazs queue China

Best Shanghai blog magazine article 2012

On balance, I’d say this one.

Funniest photo of Shanghai 2012

Without doubt, it’s still Latino Jack Sparrow. The headwear. The face. The facial hair. The chest. The clothes. Eery.

Best pasta & best lunch 2012

Rightly winning two different made-up categories, the salmon pasta is a winner. It’s a game-changer. A vanguard of righteousness, value, taste and confirmation that there is good in the World. Baker & Spice have created a pasta that is not only tastier than any of the fancy alternatives in the fancy Bund restaurants, but comes in at about 60 RMB.

If you bought the ingredients and cooked it yourself, it would still cost around the same.

But you are not cooking it. This is restaurant food that defines (or perhaps re-defines) consistency.

I suppose that in the last two months I’ve had this dish about six or seven times. Each time, it bowls a strike of taste success to the tongue. Creamy. Lemon zesty. Hint of cheesy. Smoked salmon richness and healthy-oil affirmation. I think I’ll go and have this tomorrow.

Best pasta Shanghai Baker & Spice

Best thing in Shanghai 2012: City Super’s bread

The entire sector of “life in Shanghai” is improved by City Super, Lujiazui.

It is more than a supermarket.

It is a holy grail, a sacred location, and one to which I pilgrimage regularly.

In days gone by, City Shop was the only ‘reasonably international’ supermarket here. So for your imported products and less-polluted meats, it was still the best choice.

The absolute quality – and value – of City Super Lijiazui has changed everything.

To finally be able to buy clean and imported fish and meat, as well as well-priced imported goods and foodstuffs is something not to be taken for granted.

Then – oh, friends, and then – there is their bread.

The bread in City Super is at the same high standard as a good loaf of bread ‘back home’.

That may sound simple. It may even sound hardly worth a mention.

But for the sandwich-lover, it is a critical aspect of all life.

There is a clear line of ‘before City Super bread’ and ‘after City Super bread’ time in Shanghai.

I would like to find the person that decided to make this bread and sell it in City Super, and to shake their hand or kiss their face – whichever becomes the most appropriate at the time.

City Super bread Shanghai

That’ll probably do. Just more priceless guidance from your friendly, neighbourhood Shanghai blog.

What are some of your ‘bests’ for 2012 in China?


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Categories: Expat Life, Play


Foreigner in Shanghai


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One Comment on “The best of Shanghai, 2012”

  1. January 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    City Super was a lifesaver in Taipei and Hong Kong, too. I guess because it isn’t made with rice, I couldn’t find good bread ANYWHERE in Taipei. It was all sweet and flaky–or worse–stretchy stuff. City Super was expensive, but SO worth it.

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