Shanghai 30’s was, at one time, my favourite restaurant in Oxford. It’s located in a beautiful, ancient building across from the gates of Christ Church College on St Aldates. The restaurant is beautifully decorated. It has an old world elegance which makes you feel like you’re somewhere special. The staff always greet you in a friendly manner, and I don’t think i’ve ever had to wait for my reserved table, though I wouldn’t necessarily mind as the waiting area is so lovely. There are two rooms in the restaurant – a small, wood paneled room which I prefer for romantic dates as it’s nice and cosy, and a larger periwinkle coloured room which is perfect for larger parties. I have often taken visitors to Shanghai 30’s because it’s an impressive looking restaurant, and very affordable.
So why isn’t it my favourite restaurant in Oxford anymore? Something has changed in the kitchen. The restaurant is still the same, but the food is different, and not as good as it used to be. I used to mmm and ah over every mouthful, and also gaze in adoration at the lovely vegetable carvings and orchids which accompanied every dish. I noticed this change the last few times I ate there, but I continued to return in hopes it would return to its former glory. Sadly, I feel it may have become a little bit worse.
I went for dinner with four friends this week. The service was very slow, and I had to summon the waiter whenever we wanted something (order drinks, order food, order more drinks). Four of us ordered starters – steamed pork buns, vegetarian spring rolls, vegetarian dumplings, and another type of meat-filled bun I’m unsure of. For the most part, everyone enjoyed their starters, except for me. I had the vegetarian dumplings – one of my favourite things to order – and they were greasy and tasteless. They had good texture, but they needed to be seasoned more. Even drowning them in the dipping sauce didn’t help. Then came the mains. Unfortunately, only two of the five us were happy with what came. I ordered what used to be my ultimate favourite dish – mango wrapped black cod. It came drowned in an overly sweet, overly gelatinous goop instead of the lightly sweet, silky sauce I remember. The sauce was so plentiful that it made the outer wrap of the fish rather soggy, instead of crisp as I remember it being. And the fish was overcooked. My friend had the honey citrus chicken which was way more honey than citrus. She said (as agreed by another friend who tried it), that it tasted like a jar of honey was poured over the chicken. With nothing else. Just honey.
I sincerely hope whatever is going on in the kitchen is fixed as Shanghai 30’s used to employ one of the best chefs in the city. There used to be such skill and care taken with the cooking and presentation which seems to now be lost. Other than the beautiful decor of the restaurant I fear the food is no better than my local take-away.
82 St Aldates,
Oxford, OX1 1RA