You’d be hard pressed to find too many Chinese restaurants housed inside former East End pie and mash shops. In fact, I think there’s only one. For this fact alone, Shanghai on Kingsland Road is worth a visit. And that’s before you get to the dumplings.
The long front room, its long marble bar, turquoise tiling and bevelled art deco mirrors, is now heritage listed. It was once owned by the Cooke family, who still operate a pie and mash shop in nearby Broadway Market, until they were made an offer they couldn’t refuse. These days, red-roasted ducks and pigeons and great chunks of pork have replaced vats of jellied eels in the window display, and you can order a whole suckling pig or let rip in the karaoke room.
Now, instead of meat pies, mash and bright green liquor, you sit at the polished wooden benches and order baskets of prawn dumplings, steamed barbecue pork buns and cheung fung (rolled up sheets of soft rice paper, stuffed with prawns or barbecued pork), as well as Chinese teas from their special tea menu (I know next to nothing about tea, but a Chinese friend told me the list was very good). And chilli salt squid.
Service can be torturously slow, especially late in the day, and the cavernous restaurant out the back is a little dingy. I’ve only been there for dinner once and it was nothing special. But I don’t know of many other place serving dim sum in East London, so if you’re craving a dumpling or five, some egg tarts or fried turnip cake on a Sunday afternoon (and it’s Happy Hour(s) from 3-5pm, this is the place to go.
Shanghai, 41 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, E8 2JS, tel: 020 7254 2878