Going back to its roots

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am


Following a hiatus of more than 60 years, the mainland's oldest operating Western restaurant has returned to its roots in Shanghai, where visitors can find an increasing number of fine dining places in renovated heritage buildings.

Founded by a United States army officer stationed in Shanghai in 1924, Jimmy's Kitchen was highly popular with the city's once thriving expatriate community, serving classics such as Russian borsch, beer battered fish and chips, corn-fed chicken Kiev, and baked Alaska. It closed its doors following the 1948 communist takeover of China.

Jimmy's Kitchen's Hong Kong branch, which was opened in 1928, has carried on the tradition to this day, although its location has changed more than once over the years. Jimmy's Kitchen is said to be the oldest Western restaurant in the country in continuous operation.

The menu at Jimmy's Kitchen Shanghai features several old favourites. But the real draw for many are the broiler seared steaks, cooked to perfection in a 650-degree Celsius broiler imported from the US.

The comprehensive wine list features more than 150 labels.

Owned and managed by Hong Kong's Epicurean group, Jimmy's Kitchen Shanghai is located in the newly renovated Old Jin Jiang Hotel in the former French Concession, part of a wave of fine dining venues sprouting throughout the city.

Many, such as the newly opened Shook!, are located in renovated heritage buildings.

Occupying the fifth and sixth floors of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, at 23 Nanking Road East, or Bund 19, the interior spaces - created by Orbit Design - are ultra-contemporary, in sharp contrast to the hotel's elegantly restored exterior.

The menu, described as 'dining without borders', has Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian and Western influences.

The wine cellar is also global.

There seems to be a trend along Shanghai's bustling Bund for food and beverage outlets to open roof gardens, and Shook! is no exception.

The Peace Hotel Terrace, which opened in June, affords sweeping views of the heritage buildings lining the Bund, across the Whampoa River and of the Pudong new development zone, with its soaring - and sometimes bizarre - architecture.

Located on the terrace are the hotel's two domed towers that have been meticulously restored.

No one is sure what their original purpose was, but they have now been turned into private dining rooms for intimate candlelight dinners.