Remote bistro worth seeking out

By Yang Di (shanghai daily)
Updated: 2007-01-05 09:13

More and more people are drinking coffee instead of tea these days. Coffee chains are opening all over Shanghai, and locals are beginning to enjoy the joys of a good cuppa.            

Not all of these shops make good coffee, however, and the money spent is not usually worth it. The big chains also try to rely on their brand names instead of a quality drink.

Not all coffee shops are out to make a quick buck though. Over in the wilderness that is the Zhangjiang High-tech Zone is one of the city's best-known secrets - House of Flour.

Having already become a household name for its bread, pastries and sweet desserts, the bakery cum cafe is now looking for exposure as a bistro too.

"As more IT firms are setting up in the area and more Westerners are moving out here, more people want to eat out after work," said Brian Tan, the owner and operator of the Pudong store. "We offer good food at reasonable prices that are 10 to 15 percent cheaper than our competitors."

The food and dessert at House of Flour is so good that people apparently make the trip all the way from downtown Puxi. "It sounds far, but it's actually quite convenient," the Malaysian said.

"We're just in the compound that is right next to the Metro Line No. 2 train station. Making a trip from downtown only takes about 20, 30 minutes or so."

The small cafe has come a long way since its 2005 opening. Diners were quickly impressed by its cozy environment, amiable service and delightful sweet treats such as the signature blueberry cheesecake (23 yuan/US$2.92).

Tan, who recently left his job as pastry chef at the St Regis Shanghai, previously worked in other top hotels around the world and has brought with him a wealth of experience in international dessert.

The place is usually packed during lunchtime, with nearby office workers enjoying the many hot and cold sandwiches made with the homemade European breads. Ranging from 30 yuan to 40 yuan, and set menus priced at less than 40 yuan, the lunch deals are a real bargain for a quick lunch.

House of Flour also serves thin-crust pizzas and pastas, including beef and vegetable lasagna (39 yuan) and fusilli with tuna, cherry tomato and parsley (40 yuan). The pastas are simple and tasty and are just filling enough for a mid-day meal.

Of course, a cafe cannot forget about its coffee. House of Flour offers a bottomless cup and dessert deal from 1pm to 4:30pm (42 yuan), or 2pm to 4:30pm at 36 yuan. With the wireless Internet operating, there is no reason to leave.

After 5pm, the store prepares dinner dishes such as oven-roasted herb chicken (68 yuan) and seafood stew (88 yuan), among others. Every main dish ordered entitles patrons to a choice of dessert at half price. These mains are not fancy, but are indicative of the cafe's premise - good food that you would eat at home.

The store has also recently established a central kitchen, and can provide custom-tailored catering solutions. Tan's chocolates are as good as any other, and have been enjoyed at such events as the Dolce and Gabbana boutique opening.

Tan also spoke of Pudong's emphasis on community, as opposed to Puxi's perceived colder, business-like demeanor. His store reflects this outlook and contributes to many activities benefiting various groups such as AIDS victims.

Also, in addition to supplying local art events, the store also displays works from emerging local artists.

Address: Unit 2, 1/F, 635 Bibo Road
Tel: 021-5080-6230


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