Last week China celebrated Qingming Festival, giving my husband a precious weekday off work and, just like last year, we took advantage of the opportunity by enjoying a leisurely lunch on the Bund. Our restaurant of choice, el Willy, is owned by Spanish chef Willy Moreno and considered one of the hottest spots in town. After trying unsuccessfully to snag a seat during Shanghai’s bi-annual Restaurant Week, we decided to see what the fuss was about. Like many high-end restaurants in this part of town, el Willy offers a special lunch menu at a reduced price. But we passed up the terrific value set because we hadn’t come for squid-ink pasta and burgers. We were there for tapas.
Willy got us started with a small dish of mixed olives and two slices of crusty bread soaked in olive oil and tomatoes which we enjoyed with glasses of Spanish wine. Next to arrive at our table was the cheese plate and it blew us away. Cheese is a luxury here in China and plates we’ve ordered elsewhere have skimped on the portion sizes. Not here! There were five huge wedges of Spanish cheeses ranging from a pungent blue to a buttery-smooth Manchego plus quince paste, raw honey, a large handful of nuts and a bowl of bread. We were in expat heaven!
As for the tapas, they were divine. The croquetas de jamon were steaming hot, with a crispy crust surrounding creamy bechamel sauce flecked with bits of aged Iberian ham. The patatas bravas featured thick-cut steak fries drenched with a spicy sauce and house-made mayonnaise. We added a palate-cleansing salad to round out the meal, though with sauteed mushrooms, shaved Iberian ham and a poached egg it was hardly light. By the time the Canelones a la Barcelonesa arrived we were almost too full to appreciate it. The beef and chicken cannelloni had a nice flavor, but the black truffle got a bit lost in all the cheese and the dish could have used a little more texture. Of course, had we not consumed a kilo of cheese beforehand we might have been singing its praises!
The whimsical restaurant is located on the fifth floor of one of the Bund’s historic old buildings, 22 South Bund. Built in 1906, the large space has recently undergone an elegant renovation, and many restaurants and bars are moving in. 22 South Bund is on its way to becoming one of Shanghai’s premier addresses!
I love tapas (remembering Spain fondly). Shanghai has the best ham
I think I’ve ever tasted. These tapas look great. Glad you enjoyed them.
We should have taken you for some Spanish food while you were here! Didn’t even occur to me. Guess we’ll just have to go back to Spain 🙂
Mindy and Ligeia says
Wow! Never would have expected that in China. What a great find! When we were there, we had a day that we were just sick of Chinese food and craved something Western so we ate pizza and wow, I never knew pizza could be so bad. I could have made that with nothing but a piece of cardboard, ketchup and those Styrofoam bits that come in carefully packed packages. Guess we’ll have to check out Shanghai on our next visit to China.
Great pics btw. 🙂
Where were you in China, and when? In the last few years, Shanghai has become super cosmopolitan and has a great food scene. Venture out to the smaller cities and villages, though, and it’s a whole other story. But when in doubt, order dumplings 🙂
Jessica of HolaYessica says
That all looks so amazing! Manchego and quince paste is such a delicious combination.
I couldn’t agree more!
Mmmm, these dishes look delicious!! And the pig ~ I’m sure you knew I’d love that!
Yumm, that looks like a great restaurant! I love the crusty bread drenched in olive oil and crushed tomatoes they make in Spain, sooo delicious.
I always think I could manage to live without cheese, but when I’ve been away from it for 6 months (like in Asia) I really miss it – I was recently told that cheese has addictive properties so that might explain why!
I must admit – there is nothing better than authentic Spanish tapas at a local restaurant! I was craving it every single day when I was in Spain, so delicious.Mixed olives and crusty bread soaked in olive oil and tomatoes were my favourite one. And yes, Spanish wines rock! My mouth’s watering right now!!! 🙂
It’s really amazing that we can get such authentic Spanish food in Shanghai! I guess that’s what happens when a Spanish chef falls in love with the city 🙂