Its high excitement in our apartment this week, we are on the countdown, only a couple of sleeps to go and my parents will be here in Shanghai, checking out our new life here for the first time!
Of course, my primary objective is to show Mum and Dad that our home really is a home. The children are settled in their own rooms, we have our own things around us and this is now our home. I want to reassure them on the points that parents and grandparents might need reassurance on, by showing them where their darling grandchildren will go to school, where they will run around and swim, where there are western doctors and good food. I want my parents to see that our home is safe, comfortable and well – nice. My mother is a super stylish lady with a keen eye for décor, so of course I want everything to look great! High on the agenda is getting our paintings hung before they arrive – including a beautiful framed print which was a gift from my parents and a fun painting of my family that my mother painted for us years ago, along with our favourite Tin Man picture (Christchurch friends will understand that one).
Once they’ve had the grand tour of our apartment, we have four short days to introduce them to Shanghai! Four days?? Such a short visit? Yes, well, this is because they already had this trip booked for months before we had booked ours – this was to be a stopover in Hong Kong on the return leg of a few weeks in Europe. What was to be a lovely long stopover on the way home to New Zealand has evolved instead into four days in Shanghai. Which raises another issue – not only is time short, but I think my parents will already be tired and probably not in the mood for being tourists in another big city. Thankfully, as seasoned travellers, they have been very clear about their expectations for their four days in Shanghai – “Pick four excellent restaurants”, said Dad assertively, “and that’s about it”.
My parents are foodies, the best kind of foodies; lovers of both fine dining fare and fantastic street food, they are enthusiastic about superb food superbly prepared, whether it’s served on a silver platter to black tie patrons or on a greasy stick to bare-footed locals. So my challenge is clear: I have four days to give my parents a snapshot of the best of Shanghai’s food. The brief is clear, the pressure is on, and the research has begun.
If I’m going to give them a snapshot of our local favourites, that would mean a stroll down the road to where we eat as a family: pizza, Mexican or excellent steak among other offerings. Its good food, but its not exciting, it doesn’t make the list.
There’s The Bund of course, Shanghai’s most famous street and home to many fine dining options – arguably some of the best eateries in Asia, so surely that makes the list? Yes! But where to go? We haven’t dined there yet ourselves so I am asking around for recommendations, counting on the palates of others when it comes to finding somewhere suitably gorgeous and with food to match. This will have to be something special, posh frocks and French champagne special.
Then there is authentic Chinese, that’s got to make the list! Ross and I have eaten at a few, and there’s one outstanding contender – I clearly remember my first impression of this beautiful building, the unique décor and the food was so special, unexpected, unusual, unforgettable, and divine.
As for street food, I know it’s out there somewhere, but Shanghai is a big city, where do I start? On this point I’m cheating, and despite their simple request for four days of simple foodiness, I’ve booked a little tour. A private tour, we’ll leave the kids at home and just the four of us will head out to explore Shanghai at night with a private guide – on a couple of motorbikes with sidecars! So I have that night loosely sketched out – we’ll start with a lovely dinner in the former French concession (where I can recommend a divine Turkish place or a tranquil Japanese setting both with spectacular examples of their native fare, beautifully presented), then a couple of hours on our sidecar bikes will take us, at my request, where the street food is – for a more adventurous supper!
That makes three, so for the last night? I’m tempted to take them to some lane of many restaurant choices, to wander along and peek at menus as we go until something draws them in – one of my favourite ways to dine, and I think theirs too. I can already think of three such places to choose from, but the best option may be right in the city, where we would be surrounded by the spectacular sky scrapers with their many roof top bars.
As for the myriad of other ‘can’t be missed’ offerings of Shanghai’s food, well, thank God for lunch! I think one thing is for sure, I won’t be cooking much of anything next week, but I may need to make time for the gym!