Shanghai's Bund, which runs along the river and divides the city's former international section (with its old world architecture) from Pudong, with its intergalactic hyper-futuristic architecture, isn't a place for subtlety. This divide makes it a place for big statements, particularly of the fashionable variety, which is why this is where you find the city's big name restaurants (Jean Georges, M on the Bund), major international designers and so on. And it made it an entirely logical neighborhood for Chinese restaurateurs South Beauty Group to select for the Shanghai edition of the LAN Club, following on the 2006 success of its Beijing launch, which was designed by Phillipe Starck.
LAN Shanghai, designed by Patrick Gilles and Dorothee Boissier. opened in a historic building just off the Bund last summer, and it's not about subtlety, no, not even a little bit. Its four floors that put me in mind of the clubs that I used to encounter as a teenager in 1980s New York: an adult version of a theme park. There's a dance club, and several bars, and each floor is home to a different restaurants or, if you will, dining concepts, and they've changed a bit since opening. What was once a Chinese restaurant on the first floor has become O-Supper Club, which is doing a Chinese/Tapas fusion. (This sounds more interesting than it tastes); the French restaurant on the fourth floor had a new name, Papillion, named for the 400 butterfly specimens displayed on its walls. And that's not to forget a seafood restaurant, adorned with an aquarium of living jelly fish, an atrium-like space with a wall of plants, and a full floor of VIP private dining rooms, because in a crowded country, it's luxurious to go to a restaurant to be seen and then have total privacy.
One of these rooms, the Art and Banquet Hall, is meant to accommodate a group, and it is genuinely, no-gimmicks impressive: it was designed around the Liu Ziaodong painting, Migrants of the Three Gorges. It's some 30 feet in width, and was, for a time, the most costly work by a contemporary Chinese artist sold at auction. But favorite space was "La Terrace", the lounge on the roof, which opened this past July. It's view of Pudong and the Bund isn't unobstructed, but I rather liked the Shanghai peep show effect, which was enhanced by the pimp-my-ride lit tables.
Gallery: LAN Club Shanghai