Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Richard's Cafe & Bar, Astor House, Huangpu Road, Shanghai

Richard's Cafe & Bar, Astor House, Huangpu Road, Shanghai
Wednesday 17 May, 2006

Situated on the ground floor of Astor House, Richard's Cafe & Bar offers the only decent coffee in the hotel. The original name of Astor House was Richard's Hotel (named after a wealthy British family), which dates back to 1846. It was widely known as the first western hotel in the Far East.

Astor House experienced five generations of the Qing Dynasty and also experienced many firsts - the first electric light in China was lit here; the first telephone of China was installed here; the first stock exchange of China was declared open here; Western films were first shown here after they were introduced to China and many distinguished figures stayed here including: American President Grant in 1879; British Philosopher Russell in 1920; Scientist Albert Einstein in 1922; and film legend Charlie Chaplin in 1931 and 1936.

I've read lots of reviews on the Astor Hotel and I think it gets a raw deal - sure, there are improvements to be made and the customer service is average but there are some pretty good benefits. The hotel is located in a stunning building that is beautifully lit at night and is a one minute walk across Waibaidu Bridge to the Bund, the rooms on the Executive Floor (Level 2) have recently been renovated and offer private check in, massive rooms with all the mod-cons including a computer with free internet access, TV & DVD player and complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and drinks in the Executive Lounge.

Richard's Cafe & Bar is located in the lobby of the hotel. The staff are hilarious as they try to offer the best customer service they can (which is close to non-existent). Each coffee is served with 2 butterscotch biscuits and they can do a pretty good latte and cappucino (not by our standards, by theirs - but when you need coffee it's surprising what you can get use to).

The funniest experience we had here was ordering ice-cream. The menu offers vanilla and chocolate and I requested a scoop of both. This was not acceptable - I could have a several scoops of vanilla or several scoops of chocolate but not a combination of both. OK then, chocolate it is.

What was served to me was the biggest ice-cream sundae I have ever seen. In a massive sundae glass was a layer of fruit at the bottom, several scoops of chocolate ice-cream followed by an entire can of whipped cream over the ice-cream with a cherry on top. I could not stop laughing and did not know how on earth I could eat it. I hardly made a dint in it before admitting defeat.

Richard's Cafe & Bar, Astor House - 15 Huangpu Road, Shanghai - 86 21 6324 6388


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