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The Beer Hunters of Yongkang Lu

Meet Grégoire Prouvost and Cédric Bourlet, two of the coolest French guys you’ll ever meet. Together with friends Alexandre Godvin and Samuel Pierquin they run a boutique beer store on Yongkang Lu called Cheers In, at the opposite end of the street to the Shaxian Snacks restaurant

Three of the four friends hail originally from Lille, in a part of France close to the Belgian border where beer is a way of life. Passionate about beer, they were frustrated that some of the best beers making their way to Shanghai were available only in restaurants. Now they can boast the best selection in the city, with beers from twenty three countries including France, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India.

Cédric, on the right, has the official title of ‘Beer Hunter’ (it’s on his business cards and everything), a job I’d really like to explore. He has managed to hunt down every possible interesting beer that makes its way to Shanghai, and bring them all together in one place. “So, what do you do for a living?”  “Oh, I’m a Beer Hunter.” There must be queues around the block for his job. Gregoire, on the left, is the ‘Ideas Brewer.’ 

One of the joys of Cheers In is that every beer is available as a single bottle purchase, so for the price of an extremely average bottle of wine you can sample six different boutique beers from around the globe. It’s a difficult choice, given the enormous range of high quality beers, so I started by asking Grégoire and Cédric to point out thier favourites.

La Chouffe, a Belgian beer from the Ardennes, is Grégoire’s favourite beer, and available only from their shop. It’s a very refreshing drop. According to La Chouffe’s website, this is an “unfiltered blonde beer, which is re-fermented in the bottle as well as in the keg.  It is pleasantly fruity, spiced with coriander, and with a light hop taste.”  To my palate, it does have a very lightly hopped fruity taste, which belies the 8% alcohol which is gonna hit you about two thirds of the way through.

Cédric’s nominated another Belgian beer, Orval, as his favourite. It’s a beer I first tried at Southern Barbarian alongside a plate of deep-fried honeybees, which the beer matched to perfection. Orval is a Belgain Trappist beer, made by Cistercian monks and their helpers, and is so popular here in Shanghai they can’t keep up with the demand. Orval has wonderful complex yeast flavours, with touches of caramel and malt and just a small amount of acidity. “For Belgians, it’s the best beer in the world!” Cédric says. 

Orval had also been my favourite beer, until I tried Tripel Karmeliet – still brewed to an original 1679 from Carmelite nuns. Brewed with barley, oats and wheat (hence ‘tripel’), this is the best beer I’ve ever tasted – fruity, creamy (thanks to the oats) and with a slight citrus acidity. Those nuns obviously knew quite a few things about beer, and despite trying to make improvement the brewery has never bettered the nuns’ recipe.

Vedett White is the shop’s most popular beer, Belgian or otherwise. It’s very drinkable, but really has none of the interest or complexity of Tripel Karmeliet, Orval, or La Chouffe.

The store has such an interesting variety of beers, like these graphically labelled ones from England’s Brew Dog craft brewery. These guys are interesting – they started in 2007 with a tiny bank loan and have grown to a £6.7 million turnover in just four years, by selling equity shares to everyday beer lovers. Clever marketing aside (who wouldn’t want to be able to say they own shares in a brewery??) their beer is good. Definitely worth trying.

Coedo, from a Japanese microbrewery, is extremely difficult to source, but Cheers In have managed to exclusively stock all four varieties incuding the frequently sold-out Shiro. If you love the light clean flavours of Japanese beers, you should enjoy these. Stoke Gold is a New Zealand pale ale made with organic hops. 

There a couple of other organic beers available too which I’m yet to try – Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager from England, and  Jade, France’s first organic beer. 

Other firm favourites they stock include Rogue Dead Guy from the USA, Cooper’s Ale from Australia, Kingfisher from India and China’s own SinKiang Black Beer. 

The store has such an enormous variety the choice can be a little overwhelming. If you prefer, you can use their website to help you choose (which country? strong or light flavoured? high or low alcohol? how expensive?) and have it all home-delivered just in time for Australia vs Russia in the Rugby World Cup. 


Cheers In
25 Yongkang Lu near Jiashan Lu, Puxi

永康路25号 (靠近嘉善路)

Ph +86 21 64188400

25 Days of Shanghai Christmas: Dec 9 Made in China Gift Guide

Stuck for Christmas gifts here in Shanghai? It’s been a wonderful discovery that not everything ‘made in China’ is easily broken, cheap, nasty rubbish. Shanghai is brimming with unique finds just waiting to be added to your Christmas list. Whether you’re looking for something tasteful, something interesting, or something just very, very Chinese, there are plenty of ideas on this page. The markets at Hongqiao International Pearl City, the Ghost Market, the Bird and Insect Market and the Dongtai Lu antiques market are great sources of interesting and inexpensive gifts, and all Made in China! For something more up-market or hand-made, Taikang Lu is the best place to start, and with so many small shops in one location you’re bound to find something wonderful.    Everything here is less than 120 yuan too!
(L) porcelein tea cups 15 yuan each, oolong tea 58 yuan/50g available at tea shops across Shanghai
(R) hand-made unbleached cotton doll, 118 yuan, Chuqibuyi, Lane 248 Taikang Lu
(L) 1960s Shanghai textile factory designs, 40 yuan/sheet, Ghost Market, Fangbang Lu
(R) Worker sneakers, size 40-46, 20 yuan/pair, hardware shops everywhere 
(L) miniature porcelain dishes, used for feeding crickets, perfect for trinkets or display, 2 yuan each, Bird and Insect Market, 405 Xizang Nan Lu
(R) Chinese kitchen elasticized sleeve covers, 5 yuan/pair, convenience stores across Shanghai

(L) Beautifully designed china cups, 100 yuan each, Platane, Taikang Lu
(R) Santa in a snowstorm musical toy, 98 yuan, Hongqiao International Pearl City
(L) Mahjong set, 50-120 yuan depending on tile size, Commodities Market, 223 Fuyou Lu
(R) Penchaolin lanolin hand cream in tin, 3 yuan each, convenience stores everywhere

(L) Notebook with hand-painted cover, 58 yuan, Taikang Lu
(R) Business cards printed with Chinese designs, 25 yuan/box of 100, Taikang Lu
(L) mei yang-yang ear muffs, 4 yuan, convenience stores
(R) Santa romper suit, 58 yuan, Pu’an Lu Children’s Market, near People’s Square
(L) 2011 tear-off Chinese calender, 5 yuan small, 8 yuan large, convenience stores and newsagents
(R) Chinese knot hair bands, 10 yuan each, Taikang Lu

The Shanghai Fabric Market Part 1

This is Part 1 of Fiona’s Guide to the Fabric Market
Fiona’s Guide to the Fabric Market
Need a suit made in 24 hours? Want a copy of your favourite dress made in a different colour? The Fabric Market on Lujiabang Lu, also known as The South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market, is a tailoring mecca. For the price of mid-range off the rack clothes at home, that never quite fit properly, you can have made-to-measure clothes that fit perfectly and in whatever colour or style you like. 

In this guide I’ll tell you which stores to visit, and what to do once you find them. It’s completely subjective, based on the making of some several hundred garments over the past year, for myself and for visitors of all ages, shapes and sizes. There are undoubtedly other gems as yet undiscovered, but this guide is meant as a way to get you started at the fabric market, and once you know the ropes you’ll have more luck at finding those gems for yourself. I’ll cover ten stores in all, five today and five tomorrow.

The lowdown – the ‘market’ is indoors and has three floors, with 60 to 80 tailors on each floor Each tailor’s shop specializes in a particular kind of garment and/or fabric. Some only make business suits, others only shirts, several just work in cashmere, velvet, leather, or denim, and a number of shops make Chinese dresses (qipaos) and jackets. In each store they have 20 to 30 garment styles to choose from, and a range of their own fabrics – from twenty to two hundred rolls or more. It’s an overwhelming experience the first time you go, and more than once I’ve taken visitors there only to have them do a fast lap of the ground floor and walk straight back out again. 

Knowing you will be overcome by choice anxiety, it’s best to have some general idea of what kind of garment you’d like to get made before you go, for example a cashmere coat or a summer dress. Only last month I took a visitor to the fabric market not expecting to buy anything myself, and came away having ordered a reversible cashmere cape. It’s 38 degrees outside! I won’t wear it for months! But this is exactly what happens when you don’t go armed with a plan.

So take a stroll through all three floors, then hone in on whatever interests you. Now you’ve found a store with samples you like the look of.

What happens next?

1. Decide on a style. Pick out the sample you like and try it on. There are no change rooms so this usually happens behind a sheet held up by the store owner to protect your modesty. Many tailors can also copy a garment you provide.  

2. Ask a price and decide on it before going further. Once they’ve measured you up they know you’re hooked and the price goes up. Expect to be able to bargain 10% off the original quoted price.

3. Choose a fabric. If you don’t find one you like in the store, you can usually buy by the metre from any store in the market and bring it back to them, and be charged only for making. Check first with the storekeeper because this is not always possible.

4. Final details of the garment should be decided very specifically, unless you want the garment exactly the same as the sample. Things like necklines, sleeve lengths, looseness of fit, pockets and cuffs should be decided. Check the lining colour and fabric, and specify a different one if you don’t like it. Ask about buttons, and if you prefer provide your own from the Button Shop 231 (see below). 

5. Get measured. This is where every bit of you gets measured and recorded on the order sheet. 

6. Pay a deposit. Generally 50-60% of the total is paid up front, and the remainder on completion. You will be given a copy of the order.

7. Decide on a delivery date. Generally, too fast = shoddy workmanship. The best results come when the store is given adequate time to complete garments. I allow five days for dresses, shirts, skirts and trousers, and seven days for suits and coats. 

8. Collect your garment. Always try it on. Any adjustments needed will be free of charge, but usually take 24 hours, necessitating a return trip. I’ve found adjustments are necessary around 30% of the time, higher with fast turnarounds. Pay the balance once you are happy with the fit and workmanship.

The First Five Stores

Shop 366/367 ‘Shirly’
Shirly has hands down the best cut, fit and workmanship in the market. She specializes in high quality silks and cashmere, and you will pay extra for the fine fabrics and the exquisite details and hand finishes. Her garments are inspired by Marni, Shiatzy Chen and Louis Vuitton. If you need a jewel coloured opera coat, an incredible classic camel cashmere coat, or a dress for a special occasion, Shirly is it. Cashmere coats 1100-1800 yuan ($170-300), depending on cashmere grade chosen. Dresses 700 yuan ($110). Allow 7 days.

Shop 226 specializes in shirts for both men and women. Their cottons are excellent quality and their workmanship is great. I haven’t replaced a single button yet on any of my shirts. Choose a fabric, then select collar and cuff styles from the board. Shirts range from 100 – 150 yuan ($16-25) depending on size and complexity. They will also make any style into a shirt dress for about 150 yuan. Allow five days.

Shop 231 sells buttons, braids, chinese froggings, silk knot buttons, ribbons, elastic and thread. Buy buttons here to replace those provided by the store.  Don’t rely on any English being spoken – the back of their card exclaims, in excruciating Chinglish:

 ‘We with new principle of management and The quality that is more, display more abundant article toward you Grow with fashionable of style, to thank numerous new old The customer continue patronage and support, thanks!’ I think it means they’re glad to have your business……
Shop 303 make mostly skirts and trousers, in relaxed styles, in wool, cotton or linen. They also do a line in pleated woolen tartan skirts, if that’s your thing. Their fits are good, and prices are very reasonable. Less than 200 yuan ($32) for skirts or trousers. Allow 5 days.

Shop 230 ‘Mina’
Mina speaks excellent English, a massive bonus when it comes to honing details of cut or fit. Her store specializes in jackets and coats in cashmere and wool. Last winter Mina made hooded duffel coats for all of us in medium grade cashmere for 650 yuan ($110). They had proper toggles, lovely pockets and were fully lined. She also makes long men’s cashmere coats in classic cuts for around 1100 yuan ($170).
The South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market

上海南外轻纺面料市场, 399陆家浜路

Open 10am-6pm seven days

This is Part 1 of Fiona’s Guide to the Fabric Market, read Part 2 here

Hongqiao International Pearl City

It’s a long way from downtown but there are treasures plenty out west at Hongqiao International Pearl City, known by locals as ‘the Pearl Market’. Don’t be fooled into thinking that pearls are all you’ll find here, because this is three floors of so much more than that.

The first floor and third floor are full of shops selling $10 Converse sneakers, North Face jackets, and Ed Hardy t-shirts. I wonder sometimes how all of these seemingly unrelated items of clothing came to be faked en masse in Shanghai, and who decides what’s next for copyright infringement. Last month it was Goyard bags (Paris price $2000, Shanghai price $14), but in hideous and lurid colours that would make the tasteful French assistants at Goyard wince. This month it’s Cath Kidston knock-offs, and Paul Smith’s new line of sneakers. You need to bargain hard, and leave your intellectual property morals at the door.

The second floor is where the jewellery is. My jaw literally dropped open when I saw this place for the first time – row after row after row of stalls selling pearls, jade, coral, aquamarine, lapis, and turquoise. More stalls selling ready made costume jewellery at prices that will make you regret ever buying the same thing for twenty times the price in your own country. Beads, bracelets, keychains, anklets, drop earrings, chandelier earrings,  fun earrings, serious earrings. 

If pearls are your thing, they are cheaper here than practically anywhere else in the world, and they come in every variety possible – freshwater, South Sea, seed pearls, big fat black pearls. You’ll go nuts.

If you don’t like what you see on display, you can also have something made up for you on the spot, and the only cost will be the price of the raw materials. Choose the beads or pearls you like, choose a pendant to go with it, and wait for five minutes while you have it all put together. Earrings start at 10 kuai (about $1.50) and necklaces at 30 kuai ($4.50).

I can highly recommend seeing Charles and Jennifer at CJ Pearls for fair and reliable prices and great workmanship. I love to take them some piece of old treasure I’ve dug up at the Ghost Market or Dongtai Lu Antiques Market, and seeing what they can transform it into. Last week it was a pair of jade fish (I thought it was a pair of hammerhead sharks when I bought it – but fish are much luckier). Charles drilled a little hole, Jennifer made the necklace to hang it on, and hey presto, a heavy duty jade lucky fish-shark necklace.

Hongqiao International Pearl City, 3721 Hongmei Lu near Yan’an Lu 

Gubei Carrefour, 8:32 am

Welcome to the behemoth of supermarkets, Carrefour Gubei, apparently one of the busiest supermarkets in the world. And it just happens to be my local.
As much as I’d like to think I can survive entirely on the contents of the wet market and my local fruit lady‘s shop, the reality is that there are things just too difficult to find anywhere else – like good chocolate, baking powder, and a decent steak. But going to Carrefour (Jia-la-fu as it’s known to locals) is like a trip to the dentist – you don’t want to go, you know it’s going to hurt like hell and cost a bomb, but you do it anyway and afterwards you feel mostly numb, but strangely virtuous. At least on the way home from Carrefour, unlike a trip to the dentist, you can eat the hazelnut choc-chip cookies you just bought without any guilt.

Why is it so taxing? For a start, it’s huge. Two floors, fifty-six check-outs, and the washing detergent section alone is bigger than most supermarkets. You can buy a motorbike, a live eel, a dried pig’s head or a four-piece outdoor setting under one roof. It’s also massively popular for its low prices and enormous choice. You know what the shops are like on Christmas Eve before early closing? It’s like that every day at Carrefour. It’s a battle of imperial proportions just to get the trolley through the crowds without going insane or injuring anyone. 

And the crowds like to see what the foreigner is buying – they find it interesting enough to occasionally take articles out of my trolley to look at themore closely. Given the stress, I try and go there no more often than every two months, so my trolley looks like I’m the in-house caterer for a family of twelve – Lurpak spreadable butter x 8, parmesan cheese 1kg, tinned tomatoes x 12, rice 10kg, four whole chickens, and 19 boxes of breakfast cereal. 

It’s a love-hate relationship, really – but at least the products are interesting. Here’s a selection of goods you can’t buy in Woolworths.

Various rice snacks, none good.

Confusing choice of chili and black bean sauces, at least that’s what I think they are. Usually I choose by the ‘label attractiveness’ method, totally flawed. 

Straight chili – tread carefully here.

The fresh seafood section – fish, prawns, eels, turtles and bullfrogs, alive or dead. The live ones make for great entertainment at the check-out if you’re not holding the plastic bag properly.

The dried seafood section – seaweed, jellyfish, shark, skate, shrimp, whole fish. Very smelly.

Cantonese-style roast meat stand – the trays at the front hold snouts, ears and trotters, from left to right. 

Tea choices – oolong, pu’er, longjin, jasmine, rose, chrysanthemum. 

Tea additives – dried ginseng

A small part of the tofu stall – about 83 different tofu products. Near everyone I know is relieved you can’t buy this in Woolworths, especially the chou doufu – stinky tofu.

There’s also a noodle stand, a dumpling stall, a full-sized bakery, a whole aisle devoted to tissues, and an Official Expo Souvenirs shop within a shop. It’s overwhelming. Thank god I won’t run out of butter for the next eight weeks.

Treasures from Dongtai Lu

I always find treasures at the antiques and curios market at Dongtai Lu, although it involves a lot of ferretting in dusty boxes, and very hard bargaining. This time it was a basket full of old silk embroidery thread bobbins. On some of the reels, the paper brand was just visible – Flying Wheel thread. After all these years the colour of the silks was as vivid as ever – reds, purples, golds, pinks. 
Now I can add ‘Wooden Chinese Bobbins’ to my growing collection of things picked up in dusty corners  of dusty antique shops. Add them to – a pair of wicker suitcases with really gorgeous paper lining (unlikely to ever get through the rigors of Australian Customs), a set of three long wooden sticks for bashing washing against rocks when doing laundry by the side of a stream (I know those will be useful), a couple of carved wooden molds for making mooncakes, and scores of black and white photographs of Chinese families I’ve never met. Possibly it’s an illness. I should just order the shipping container now.

Taikang Lu 泰康路 – Tianzifang 田子坊

Shanghai’s most popular art, design and cafe precinct is off Taikang Lu in the French Concession, between Ruijin Lu and Sinan Lu. Five years ago, this place was home to just a meagre handful of photographers, artists, and shops. Now, it’s a scene. Lane 210, Tianzifang, is the most well known. Come for a wander!

First stop is the photography gallery of Deke Erh, one of Tianzifang’s earliest residents, who specialises in black and white photography of Shanghai’s architecture, and also photographs city’s human side. His long term collaborations with people like historian and writer Tess Johnstone have given Shanghai an incredible legacy of books about Shanghai’s last century.
Adjacent to the gallery is an antique filled cafe, the Old China Hand Reading Room and Cafe, a quiet spot to sit and think, and read one of their many Erh/Johnstone publications.

The intertwining lanes are best explored slowly and patiently, because there are many other treasures to be found. The whole block was an old sweets factory once, and some of the original residents remain, although how they cope with the constant stream of art and design tourists I have no idea.

Further down Tianzifang is a branch of Woo scarves – whether you need a stunning cashmere wrap, a hand-embroidered silk throw or an affordable cotton sarong, it’s all here at Woo. I love the black cashmere opera scarf embroidered with peonies, and when I’ve saved a gazillion yuan I’ll buy it. 

The lanes are packed with restaurants and bars too, and on a warm evening there is nothing better than hopping from one to another for a glass of riesling or shiraz and a good sticky beak at the passing human traffic. It’s always entertaining, because Tianzifang seems to attract the most avant-garde fashion tourists in all of China, who have rightly heard that this is the place to see and be seen. While you sip there will always be a fashion shoot or wedding being photographed to keep your eyes busy.

I feel reluctant to recommend a single place to eat or drink, because restaurants come and go in this precinct just like the changing tides of fashion. As they say in Shanghai, don’t get too attached to a place, because it might be gone tomorrow. For sheer longevity and consistency though, you’d be hard pressed to find better than Kommune – it has an open air courtyard, a great barrista, an excellent breakfast menu and the friendliest waiters ever. You can find it just off to one side of Tianzifang. 

Oh! On your way out have a wander around the Taikang Lu wet market, a small but perfectly formed version of Shanghai’s bigger wet markets. That’ll bring you down to earth with a thud after all that art, design, shopping and coffee. Would you like a freshly skinned bull frog with your latte?

Suzhou Cobblers

Down Fuzhou Lu way, just off the Bund is one of Shanghai’s hidden shoe treasures, and believe me when I say there aren’t many. Unless your taste runs to vinyl flip-flops, that is. If you’re interested in having hand-made shoes, you could read about Will’s hand-made shoes, but if you need an off-the-shelf instant purchase then Suzhou Cobblers is the place.

Their shop is like an exquisite jewel box filled with rainbow coloured silk slippers, hand-embroidered in Suzhou style (Suzhou, not far from Shanghai, was once the centre of China’s silk industry). I love this chartreuse pair with peonies, but they also do gold fish, chinese vegetables, birds and lucky numbers. 

Find them at 17 Fuzhou Lu, 10am to 6.30pm every day. 

Dongtai Lu Antique Market

I could quite happily go ferretting around antique markets every weekend of my life. An ideal Sunday for me  would consist of early morning coffee at Baker and Spice on Anfu Lu, then a cycle through the old town to the Ghost Market , followed by noodles on 
FangBang Lu, then a really thorough going-over at the Dongtai Lu 
Antique Market.
Of course, there aren’t that many real bargains to be had, but the fun is in the searching, and the haggling. There are plenty of ‘new’ antiques too, easy to spot because every second stall has the exact same genuine ming dynasty celadon bowl, actually made last week in Ningbo and buried in a mixture of soil and ash for an instant lived-in look. 

You’ve got to bargain real hard, and at the same time pretend you couldn’t care less whether you walked away with that Chairman Mao teaset or not. It works best if you have two people involved in the transaction, a double act like Laurel and Hardy. Or Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. Here’s how to get the best price possible.

Kevin: (in fluent mandarin) Excuse me laoban, how much for this delightful Communist-era knick-knack?

Laoban: 6 million kuai. Very cheap! Best quality, only one in Shanghai!

Tony: He’s ripping you off mate. Walk away.

Kevin: I can see it’s well-made…..

Laoban: How much you pay? Verrrry cheaper for you. How much? How much?

Tony: Mate, there’s one over there for 50 kuai!
Laoban: OKOKOKOK, you friend, give you verry cheaper price. 5 million kuai. 

Tony: What the…..?!

Kevin: Yes, things are a bit tight this week, there hasn’t been much GST coming in since Fiona left the country….. OK, how about 3 kuai?

Laoban: OK, 3 million kuai. Very good price.

Tony: Not 3 million kuai! Three kuai! Quick, walk away! Walk away!

Kevin: How about four? Four kuai?

Tony: Mate, that was just insulting. Keep walking!
Laoban: (as they walk away) OK 2 million!……OK OK 5000!……Wait mister! 400!…….. Wait! Last price! 130! …………Friend! 20! 

Tony: (turning back) 5 kuai. Final price.

Laoban: OK OK. 5 kuai.

Kevin: Thanks, Tony. That was extremely impressive.

Tony: It’s all in the walk away, mate. It’s all in the walk away.

Soap Memories

I have lots of little everyday shopping adventures in Shanghai. I never know whether the grocery item I just bought is actually what I thought it was, until I get it home. So there are a lot of random grocery surprises to keep me on my toes, like the time I poured natural yoghurt (from what appeared to be a blue and white milk carton) into my cup of tea. 

Yesterday I stocked up on soap, but the local store had run out of Hazeline, the brand I usually get, and these brightly coloured boxes caught my eye. I’ve always been a sucker for good packaging. Even better,the brand was called Shanghai Yaozao – local! At only 2.2 yuan each (30cents) I bought four.

When I took it out of the box this morning though, two things struck me. Firstly, the rather alarming fluorescent pink colour, and secondly the unmistakeable smell of carbolic. That strong, tarry, medicinal smell took me straight back to my great-grandmother’s laundry in the tiny town of Warwick, Australia, and the big cake of yellow soap she used to wash her hands with after gardening or tending to the chickens. Or, apparently, to wash my mother’s mouth out with, after she had said something really terrible like ‘bugger’. She died many years ago at the age of 103 and I haven’t thought about that laundry in more than 20 years.

Isn’t it funny how smells can be so evocative of something so far away in time and place?