CHAR, Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Rooftop Steakhouse and Bar
The Indigo brand is the more contemporary, funky offering from the InterContinental (IHG) Group. The Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund lives up to this image and how, with some novel and very modern sculptures and artwork in the lobby.
Although this review is about the CHAR restaurant, it will be incomplete without a mention of the stupendous CHAR rooftop bar and the sweeping panoramic view it offers of the glittering, Shanghai night skyline as well as the long, curving Huang Pu river. Since the hotel is on the south side of the Bund, one can get truly splendid views of the imposing, majestic Shanghai Tower – the tallest tower in China and the second tallest in the world – as also of the famed Yuyuan Gardens. The CHAR Bar does not have a lot of space, but it does offer some seating and very attentive bar service. It costs RMB 200 as entry here on Friday and Saturday nights, as there is a DJ in attendance, however, two cocktail drinks are included in that price.
CHAR restaurant is essentially a steakhouse and grill, famous for its Wagyu beef preparations. The restaurant serves beef from many countries and offers a choice between grain, grass or corn fed. CHAR is hugely popular among the Shanghainese and has been awarded the best steakhouse in the city. It is also a Michelin recommended restaurant.
The 100-covers outlet is a long and narrow room with discreet lighting, surprisingly cosy, that opens off into squares at either corner end. The seating is divided into three sections, with the central room further sectioned; one side has a long, central table, ideally suited for private parties, while the other half has chairs with a cheerful, flowered print in black and white, with black painted ceiling, faux stone walls and unusual hanging lanterns over the tables. The left-hand corner room can also be used for private or corporate dinners, although there is no partition from other diners. The corner room to the right has a quieter ambience, where tables have been pushed close to the windows to overlook the river and cityscape, leaving most of the wooden floor bare and thus, giving a greater illusion of space.
Diners are sometimes surprised by an unexpected starter compliments of the chef, that accompanies the bread basket. Starters at CHAR include lobster bisque, Wagyu consommé, grilled foie gras, Burrata salad, spicy crab cakes, prickly ash encrusted squid and prawns and more, while the main course has dishes like the Tomahawk and Porterhouse. Apart from beef, there is also New Zealand lamb, slow cooked halibut steak and grilled lobster or king prawns, although it’s the Roasted Black Cod that is a signature dish and has been on the menu since 2011!
I chose to go with the crab cakes. Light and fluffy, the pair was served on a bed of shredded raw mango. Very well done and not oily at all, this dish leaves one in the perfect mood of looking forward to more from the chef.
For the main course, my companion Anita, the Marketing and Communications manager of the hotel, chose steak, while I decided on the signature black cod that came with a – paintbrush! No, seriously! It is served with a confit of baby carrots, accompanied by a star anise and lime syrup and hence the brush – to daub the syrup onto the fish. The fragrance from the star anise was simply heavenly and the sauce itself was superb, while the fish was so tender that it crumbled at the first cut. I also asked for a side accompaniment of diced potatoes, slow cooked in olive oil, which was quite divine.
CHAR adds a lot of unique touches to the meal experience. Each main course is accompanied by a selection of six salts, such as Himalayan, chef’s spicy mix and suchlike. Furthermore, diners are presented with a case of steak knives from Brazil, France, Japan, UK and the USA, to choose from, rather than ordinary knives being laid as place settings.
Desserts include the signature Char Banana Cheesecake, Pistachio and Cardamom Crème Brulee, Mango and Coconut Panna Cotta and more. Anita was too full after her heavy steak main course and so opted for just coffee, while I was intrigued by the sound of the Pistachio and Cardamom Crème Brulee. It arrived topped by chopped pistachio nuts and a couple of strawberries resting on a thin layer of caramelized sugar. The crunch of the caramelized sugar and the softness of the pistachio cream made for very contrasting and interesting tastes, with the subtle after-taste of the cardamom. A very light and delicate round-off to the entire repast.
CHAR is open only for dinner service and Sunday brunch. Advance booking is required, especially on the weekends.
For reservations, please call +86 2133029995 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.