Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon
Add: 1/F Bund 18, 18 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai 中山东一路18号，外滩18号1楼
Tel: +86 (21) 6070 8888
Hours: Mon-Sun 2:00pm-7:00pm
Price: [afternoon tea set] RMB328-588 + 10%; [pastry] RMB65-88; [tea & coffee] 55-188; [viennoiserie] RMB14-28
Visited: April 2016
Will return: Yes
After an entire year of “coming soon”, the highly anticipated Joël Robuchon concepts at Bund 18 have finally opened their doors. The Salon de Thé and pastry boutique are located on the first floor, while the third floor houses L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Though technically still in soft opening, this legendary chef’s first establishment in mainland China is already attracting swarms of star-hungry Shanghai foodies. In an effort to avoid the crowd, I picked a Monday afternoon to visit the Salon de Thé.
The Salon de Thé occupies the lobby of Bund 18, which would have been absolutely fine were it not for the stores surrounding said lobby, just a narrow corridor away. I felt a bit paculiar eating under the scrutiny of the well-dressed mannequins…
Mannequins aside, Chef Robuchon’s signature red and black decor is bold and sleek, and I quite like the teaware from Porcelaine Legle and the silverware from Christofle.
The dessert stand, on the other hand, looks somewhat cheap.
On to the food. Joël Robuchon is a
chain brand, so all the Salon de Thés and Ateliers across the globe share the same menu and the same decor at, sadly, not the same price. The afternoon tea sets at the Salon de Thé, for instance, is 40-50% more expensive than at its sibling in Hong Kong. Make of that what you will.
For a tea salon, their à-la-carte menu is very extensive, with an assortment of cakes, crêpes, waffles, quiches, sandwiches, and even some salads, cold cuts, and pastas. Or you can order the Afternoon Tea Set (328 + 10%), which includes a selection of savories, scones, and sweets. Each piece dainty and delicately put together, the aesthetics certainly met my expectations.
The Scottish Salmon Graviax Roll with Ricotta Cheese was quite delicious, but was a bit too heavy-handed on the ricotta, whose creaminess slightly overpowered the freshness of the smoked salmon. I still liked it, but I would have loved it had the excellent salmon been allowed to shine.
The Foie Gras Terrine, Confit Cherries and Pistachio Bread sounded so promising, reminiscent of Jean Georges’ renowned Foie Gras Brûlée with Dried Sour Cherries and Candied Pistachio. Unfortunately, while the components were similar, the flavor was miles away. I found the overall taste too bland and lifeless to achieve the balanced complexity of Jean Georges’ rendition. It tasted fine, but it was a long way from what it could have been. Disappointing.
My favorite from the savories was the Curry Turkey Roll with Corinth Grapes and Green Apple. From the sweetness of the plump raisins and crispy apple matchsticks at the front of my palette, to the saltiness of the delicate ham and the fragrant curry at the back, this sandwich was bold but wonderfully balanced – everything the foie gras terrine wasn’t.
The French Club Burger with Mustard and Ginger was quite good but not particularly memorable. I didn’t taste the ginger, but the egg yolk was perfectly smooth and creamy.
The Plain and Raisin Scones had a lovely flavor. The center had just the right texture, but they were a bit dry around the outside. The raisin one was a touch burnt on the bottom. The Fresh Cream and Homemade Raspberry Jam were both tasty, but I still prefer clotted cream with my scones please.
Over on the sweet side, the Raspberry Mousse Cake was another study in balance. The lively acidity of the mousse was rounded out by the crumbly, buttery crust with just the right touch of saltiness.
This cake is also available individually at their boutique.
The Apple Tart Tatin was truly a magnificent construction – layers of paper-thin apple stacked together and baked until they practically melted in my mouth. The apple flavor was strong and pure – a delicate balance of sweetness and tartness, with just a tiny touch of bitterness. Think mille crêpes, but made with apples, lighter and more refreshing.
The Panna Cotta with Strawberry Jelly was rich and creamy, but a bit grainy.
The Mango Mousse was bursting with the fresh sweetness of mangoes. The silky mousse was light and airy, with just the right balance of mango and cream.
Thoroughly satisfied, I took a stroll around their boutique to burn off some calories.
A magnificent display of desserts…
I simply couldn’t resist getting an Earl Grey Cake (65), a smooth and decadent marriage of Earl Grey and milk chocolate. The Earl Grey flavor, though rather subtle, lingered on and on, while the chocolate crunch at the bottom added some texture.
I also took home a Croissant (14), which was still soft and flakey the next morning. The only croissant I’ve had in Shanghai that can contend with the ones at Farine.
Overall, I was quite satisfied with my visit. The afternoon tea set is a good starting point for experiencing different flavors, but next time I would probably order à-la-carte.