High Society

By Stephen Ewashkiw | December 21, 2013

8,008 km so far.

I taught my last two classes in Shanghai this afternoon at Karma Life Yoga’s Laoximen studio. It was bittersweet for me. I am really itching to get back on our bikes and travelling again, but I have also loved being on the mat every day, teaching students, and being immersed in such a busy and vibrant yoga community. I am going to miss Shanghai, but know that in 2014 I will be back, so this isn’t goodbye.

Take Five

Jane and I planned a date-night for our final Saturday in town, and it began at Jackie’s Beernest. I only discovered this gem of a pub about ten days ago, and it is right around the corner from the yoga studio. I wish I had found it three weeks earlier, but my bank account, and belly, are better for it.

As soon as I found it, Jackie’s became my favourite bar in Shanghai. It holds about 12 people, and sometimes has just as many beers on tap. The bar is finished in lacquered pine and reminds me of a 1970s basement, which, being a child of the 70s, holds a special place in my heart. The customers are always friendly and the staff are terrific.

This is the entirety of Jackie's Beernest, Shanghai.

This is the entirety of Jackie’s Beernest, Shanghai.

They specialise in Chinese microbrews, and have had several SAW beers on tap in the past few days, including a delicious bitter. Tonight I also tried the General Gao Baby IPA which was excellent. It was just the right hoppiness, just the right heaviness, and well, just right.

Skull light at Jackie's Beernest, Shanghai.

Skull light at Jackie’s Beernest, Shanghai.

Jane’s note: Dear female friends. If you think starting our date night in a Beernest doesn’t sound very romantic, you’d be right! But don’t worry, it gets better.

This Joint Is Jumpin’

Jane had found a couple of restaurants to choose from for dinner tonight, and we decided to splurge a little and head to Mercato, a fancy Italian job on The Bund. The place was swank: beautifully designed and filled with immaculately dressed staff and customers. Being cycle tourists with limited wardrobes, we felt underdressed as usual. However, the staff are so well trained that they pretended not to notice, seated us immediately, and treated us just like any other guests.

We sat in the middle of the restaurant at a long table set up around the edge of their pizza-making area. This afforded us fantastic views of the impressive work being done non-stop by the team of pizza chefs. It was a fascinating, fast moving, and drool-inducing show.

The food was top notch. Really exceptional dishes, with the finest ingredients and created with great care. We got a simple pizza of crushed tomatoes, garlic, and basil as a starter. The dough was a bit lighter and a bit spongier than most Italian crusts, but it was fresh, delicious, and had been cooked to perfection in the beautiful wood-fired oven, literally right before our eyes. My main course was the Himalayan black truffle pasta, which ran a close second to the truffle pasta I had in Gubbio way back at the beginning of our trip.

We splurged on a couple of deserts, which, while not vegan, were also exceptional.


Our plan was to have a few cocktails listening to the “oldest jazz band in the world” at the Peace Hotel.

Because of the Mountain family history associated with the Peace Hotel we wanted to spend a little time there soaking up the atmosphere and sipping old-school cocktails. However, when we got to the bar where the band plays, the atmosphere was not what we had expected. It looked more like a cafe than a cocktail bar, and there was a minimum charge to go inside. As we sat in the lobby discussing our options, we could hear the band, and they were also a bit… well… with jazz you need a band that is really feeling it.

In this wonderful world of coincidences, at the end of class today, one of my yoga students had come to me with some ongoing misalignments he wanted to talk about. During our conversation, I discovered that he’s the stand-up bass player in the jazz band at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Loungin’ At The Waldorf

So we left the Peace Hotel and headed down The Bund to the Waldorf. Here things were exactly as they should be. The staff were welcoming, the bar is dimly lit and designed to evince the feeling of an era long past. Without delay, we were seated at the famous Long Bar and sipping perfectly made cocktails. Carl and his band mates made the atmosphere complete, with their excellent renditions of a great selection of jazz standards.

The bar has an interesting, if extremely racist and sexist, history. Once upon a time the bar was the for exclusive use of the rich white men who had come to Shanghai to make, or increase, their fortunes. No women, no Chinese, and no Jews were allowed.

Jane’s note: Sounds kind of boring if you ask me.

The Long Bar seating was hierarchical; the closer you sat to the waterfront, the more important you were. Our seat was about half-way down, so we felt we were doing pretty well tonight.

The bar still oozes history. The combination of a sizzling hot jazz band, the slowly rotating fans on the ceiling pulling cigar smoke up and out, and the lights on the buildings across the river in Pudong shimmering through the windows, made it hard not to imagine ourselves in a different time, yet somehow also right here, now, in the 21st century.  

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  1. Comment by Diane

    Diane December 26, 2013 at 9:49 am

    This post contains my all time favorite aside by Jane. I agree – it sounds kind of boring to me too. On the other hand if you consider the implications of that comment life was pretty difficult for so many during that time .

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