Shanghaied in Dalston

The DLR would like to apologise to Dalston. We have been unfaithful. We write this with shame on our faces and guilt in our hearts.

Ever since we discovered Lao di Fang/Gourmet San on Bethnal Green Road, we have dedicated ourselves to this most authentic of Chinese restaurants. Each visit was tinged with regret that we were leaving the confines of Dalston, but still we couldn’t resist their Uighur kebabs and excellent chili-vinegar sliced potato.

Still, we reasoned, there must be a rival in Dalston that could return us to the quirkily dressed confines of E8. So it was that last night we drunkenly descended on Shanghai on Kingsland High Street to review their fares for you and us.

Shanghai: definitely an improvement on pie and mash.

Shanghai is infamous for its decor: the front of the restaurant is a well-preserved pie and mash shop that the waiter was proud in telling us dated from 1862. It seems incongruous to be ordering Chinese dishes in that most East London of surroundings, but the interior is beautiful and hence a pleasure in which to dine.

That’s not to say that the decor is uniformly pleasant. Behind the front room, the restaurant appears to be painted almost entirely in Farrow and Ball’s 1970s Chinese Restaurant colours, so always sit up front if possible.

Where east meets east: Shanghai retains the glorious features of the original shop.

The divergence in decor quality was reflected in the food: the tofu in yellow bean sauce was excellent, with the tofu firm and the sauce barbecue delicious, while the Shanghai Devil had a pleasing fire to it. However, the xiao long bao (steamed pork buns), a Shanghaiese speciality, were bland and watery, while the juices on offer were not freshly made.

Still, a menu should not be judged on just two dishes, and there was a wide selection of delicacies to be tried in the future (not least an entire roast pig). It’s not all Shanghaiese, either, with Sichuanese, Cantonese and Hakka dishes featured, so there’s plenty to bring us back. The staff were attentive and friendly enough to let us in even though it was after closing.

Do you know how hard it is to make Chinese food look appetising in photos? But trust us, this tasted dope.

Is Shanghai going to replace Lao di Fang in our affections? Not quite yet, but the convenience of its location and the (mostly) high quality of its food, the be all and end all of a Chinese restaurant, means we may not stray quite as often from our Dalstonian homestead.

Shanghai (the Dalstonian restaurant not the east Chinese mega-city, doofus) is at 41 Kingsland High Street, E8 2JS.

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