Huangpu District is most famous for the Bund, People’s Square, and Xintiandi. Its modus operandi is upscale dining, the kind of restaurants that you will find on the Michelin Guide. It is also home to some of the cities best cafes, tucked away in the corners of the district. Whether specializing in fresh roasts or farm-to-table bowls, each cafe offers a relaxing escape from the crowds.
Old China Hand Reading Room
It’s easy to miss Shaoxing Rd, but the historical street is packed with unique cafes, art galleries, bookstores, and publication houses. Combining the best of what the street has to offer is the Old China Hand Reading Room. This library cum cafe by photographer Deke Erh and historian Tess Johnston is the perfect place to bury your nose in an English book about China, all while enjoying tea and coffee.
Beloved Shanghai bakery chain Farine may be known for its quintessential French vibes, but it fits right in on the Rockbund, a hip new neighborhood made up of six pedestrian blocks behind the Bund proper. The bakery doesn’t boast the cheapest prices, but that’s because all of its ingredients are imported, ensuring the highest quality. For a taste of Farine without breaking the bank, try the breakfast set that includes a pastry and drink.
Located on another of Shanghai’s short and sweet streets, Citizen Cafe and Bar is a charming expat hideaway. Its cozy lounge seating encourages sociability, and there is a small balcony for al fresco dining. By day, the cafe is popular with young Shanghainese, and by night, the lights dim and it becomes a quiet bar with excellent martinis. A small menu of standard cafe fare is available as well.
This is one of two locations for popular bagel shop and cafe Spread the Bagel (STB). Located in the trendy Xintiandi, STB serves plain bagels, bagels with schmear, bagel sandwiches, as well as coffee, soup, salads, cookies, brownies, draft beer, peanut butter, and fresh juices. So the question with this cafe is, what can’t it do? All offerings err on the side of healthy, and plenty of vegetarian options exist.
Also located in Shanghai’s trendy Xintiandi neighborhood is upmarket specialty cafe Essence. Essence takes its coffee seriously, dealing only in single-plantation premium coffees. If you’re a connoisseur, or just not sure what you like, the menu describes the flavor profile and body of each brew. The cafe also spins creative coffee cocktails. A light Mediterranean-inspired food menu is available as well.
Hunter Gatherer | Courtesy of Hunter Gatherer Instagram
Partnering with local Shanghai farms, Hunter Gatherer is a seed-to-table organic grocer, cafe, and quick-service dining concept. Even if you’re not normally a healthy eater, Hunter Gatherer’s food will make you feel so good that you’ll want to ditch all the processed junk once and for all. As a cafe, this is also a great place to get work done without feeling boxed in. Come for a rice bowl and stay for the picture windows and spacious dining area.
Mo Mi Cafe is a Shanghai chain, and this one is located in the famous Captain’s Hostel on the Bund. Beyond the reasonably priced coffees, what makes Mo Mi Cafe so special is its line of postcards, notebooks, and gifts. You can buy a postcard, fill it out, and mail it to yourself five years in the future, all without leaving the brightly colored room.
Most people know The Beast as a flower shop and lifestyle brand. The Beast Cafe is still those things but with coffee as well. The design of the cafe is a visual delight, and the flowers give off a lasting fragrant aroma. Being in Xintiandi, The Beast Cafe attracts a well-to-do crowd, and the drink prices reflect this.
From the Wagas Group comes Baker and Spice, an artisanal bakery and deli serving baguettes, bagels, cakes, jams, pates, granola, coffee, and more. The bakery can be found all over town, but this one, located in K11 Art Mall, is the biggest and best. When you’re done sipping your reasonably priced coffee, go enjoy an art exhibit in the basement.
Playing on mid-twentieth century Chinese ideals, Kommune is a bar, restaurant, and cafe all in one. Tucked away in renovated lane house cum tourist mecca Tianzifang, Kommune manages to not feel cramped. There is indoor and outdoor seating as well as a spacious courtyard that hosts the occasional summer barbecue. Its food and drink are simple, but well executed.