Hong Kong Madame - English

The Merchants: an ode to Belle Époque Shanghai

Where traditional Shanghainese fare are elevated with modern flair and dazzling Victoria Harbour views

June 25th 2024

The Merchants: an ode to Belle Époque Shanghai
Words by Aude Camus
Having opened its doors in 2023 atop LANDMARK’s Gloucester Tower, Forty-Five is a lifestyle and culinary destination setting Central abuzz with new concepts. Among them is The Merchants, a refined Shanghainese restaurant.
After weeks of rain and gloomy weather, the sky finally cleared on a beautiful third Monday of June – an auspicious sign for my first visit to The Merchants. As I entered the dining room, I wasn’t sure whether to first admire the floor-to-ceiling windows offering jaw-dropping views of Victoria Harbour from the 45th floor, or the elegant design, including the beautifully embroidered wallpaper handcrafted by artisans in Wuxi, a city in Eastern China.

The Merchants: an ode to Belle Époque Shanghai
The Merchants takes its name from the Cantonese merchants, who were once the main force of the bourgeoisie under the Canton system (1760-1842) when the city was the only port open to foreign commerce. The Qing dynasty appointed merchant firms, granting them a monopoly on all trade coming into the country in exchange for a large fee. These merchants were powerful, wealthy businessmen at the time.
The menu features contemporary Shanghainese cuisine influenced by the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Jiangsu cuisine, also known as Su cuisine, is famous for its umami, mild, and lightly sweet taste, focusing on dishes that are braised or simmered. Zhejiang cuisine spotlights fresh seafood and river food. To say I knew what to expect would be an overstatement, so I visited with an open mind and indulged in some signature dishes and seasonal creations.

The Merchants: an ode to Belle Époque Shanghai
Highlights of the meal included:
Drunken crab with 25-year Hua Diao wine
The fresh crab, packed with roe, was wonderfully infused with the subtle sweetness and nuttiness of Hua Diao wine, made from glutinous rice.
Traditional deep-fried pomfret in sweet soy sauce

A sweet yet refreshing treat.

Steamed yellow croaker with preserved potherb mustard

This new dish on the menu tasted as if the fish was caught just minutes before being served. The fresh and fleshy croaker balanced nicely with the sweeter dishes tasted earlier.

Hand-shredded chicken with scallion soy sauce

Another new addition to the menu and a highlight for me. The farm-fresh chicken was tender and delicately flavoured with scallion sauce. The addition of Sichuan pepper added a mouth-numbing sensation that left me craving more of this seemingly simple yet addictive dish.

Glutinous pearl in osmanthus sweet soup with rice wine 

To my surprise, this dessert was served hot (I had expected it to be cold), providing a comforting end to the meal.

The verdict: I’ll be back, especially if I have family or friends visiting Hong Kong whom I want to treat to a memorable meal featuring a cuisine they’ve probably never tried before, all while enjoying prime views of the city.

The Merchants
Forty-Five, Gloucester Tower, LANDMARK, Central

This article is based on a complimentary lunch tasting hosted by The Merchants. No money has been paid to publish this review which is entirely based on the genuine opinion of its author. 


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