82 St Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1RA
- Recommended for:
- Couples, Foodies, Special occasions
Expert review of Shanghai 30's
Mr George Lee, the manager, will tell you proudly that in the 1930s Shanghai was known as the Paris of the Orient, an international destination famous for its food. This restaurant, in its curious historic setting, does not disappoint on that score.
Modern Shanghai is China’s largest commercial city, a metropolis of skyscrapers that has nevertheless managed to retain much of its 1930s Art Deco architecture in the historic Bund. Oxford, by contrast, has very little architecture from the 1930s. Indeed The Elizabeth, which occupied these historic buildings for over fifty years, was a very expensive, traditional English restaurant that made much of the mullioned windows and oak doors that it inherited from this building when it was part of a palace owned by the Bishop of Oxford. It's a curious but interesting mix.
The menu is based on classic and contemporary dishes from Shanghai and the surrounding areas of Shaoxing and Yangchow. You’ll also be able to eat Chinese favourites from Sichuan, Beijing and Canton too. The house wines – semillon chardonnay and shiraz cabernet - provide a good complement to the richness of the food. These are not wines that fall over and surrender at the first whiff of MSG (although Mt Lee insists Shanghai 30’s does not use such enhancements). The dim sum set menu, at £10.50, is good value if you find yourself in St Aldate’s at lunchtime.
The surprising anomaly of a Chinese restaurant from the Indiana Jones era inside a 15th-century clerical building is reflected in the decor: English oak beams, mock-Tudor wooden panelling and red leather chairs create a curious mix with Chinese screens, bamboo sofas and a 1930s phonogram. The blend is idiosyncratic but effective. There’s no other restaurant this could be other than Shanghai 30’s.
Polite, friendly and very prompt.
Opposite Christ Church, Oxford’s gargantuan cathedral college created by Cardinal Wolsey - the man who fell from favour after failing to secure Henry VIII his divorce. This part of the city, known as St Aldate’s, is also home to the Old Sheep Shop as featured in Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll lived and taught at Christ Church). Oxford’s large town hall and forbidding general post office make this southern end of the medieval city less amiable than the other quarters but the Old Sheep Shop (now known as the Alice Shop), Geroge & Danver’s Ice Cream Parlour, Shanghai 30's and the memorial gardens next to Christ Church are softening the area.
Not cheap but good value. Expect to pay about £25 a head unless you get carried away with the drinks menu.
More information on Shanghai 30's:
- Price guide:
- 82 St Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1RA
- 01865 242230
- Lunch, Dinner
- Opening times:
- Mon 6pm-11pm; Tues-Fri noon–2.30pm, 6pm–11pm; Sat-Sun noon–11pm.
- Accepts Credit Cards:
- Essential at peak times