Shanghai: El Willy [Moved]

15 Nov

The wildy popular and highly awarded El Willy serves contemporary tapas and paella, and was one of my must-eats in Shanghai. I love Spanish food but I haven’t found anything great in Asia, so I thought I would see what El Willy would have to offer.

El Willy is located in the first flow of a colonial bungalow in the French Concession. I chose to sit in the courtyard as it was a GLORIOUS DAY with sun and a light breeze :) I couldn’t believe I was in Shanghai as it looked and felt like Europe! Lots of expats and beautiful people.

My scratched plate (looking less scratched after photo editing). My initial thoughts were disapproving but I guess that could also mean that the restaurant’s really popular eh?

How cute are the menus? They revise their a la carte menu every season, which is a nice touch. Their set lunches were really affordable (you could get a 3 course at 78RMB) but cleverly, they didn’t have anything very Spanish or signature El Willy (it was like burgers/burritos/pasta) so I didn’t want go all the way to Shanghai for that. The a la carte menu was so extensive and enticing I had a hard time deciding what to order, especially when it was just me so I probably had to go with only three dishes.

Loved the illustrations on the menus, felt like I was reading a kid’s picturebook :)

Complimentary appetisers of pan con tomato and assorted olives. I loved the pan con tomato here as the tomatoes were sweet enough and the bread crispy, just like the ones I had in Barcelona and London. Hate it when restaurants use sourish tomatoes. Olives were too salty though, not the best of olives.

Scallop ceviche, avocado and crispy shallots (78RMB)This was under the Willy’s Tapas section, and I can never resist a ceviche dish when I see one (I have a weird fetish for Peruvian ceviche). It was excellent! The scallops were very fresh, plump and a generous portion; the avocado puree was tangy and light and went very well with the scallops. Plus the Asian-influenced crispy shallots are genius! Pretty plating too with the edible flowers too :)

Crispy suckling pig cooked 12 hours with raspberry and green tea (88RMB) – Also under Willy’s Tapas, I was deciding amongst this, beef cheeks, foie gras or the beer truffle bomb for a meat dish…choices choices!! I chose suckling pig in the end since it was after all a Spanish meal in China – if these two cultures can’t do a good suckling pig who else can? :) As expected, it was great – the skin was EXTREMELY CRISPY and the meat lean and flavourful. Plus the raspberry compote provided a nice tart contrast to a rich dish. But what I thought was clever was the layer of filo pastry at the base that completed the dish very well. It was like eating a mini suckling pig tart. Only gripe was that I couldn’t taste the green tea flakes as it was probably overpowered by the raspberry, but all is forgiven with crackling this good…

A close up…never knew that suckling pig could actually look this pretty.

Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions (48RMB) – This was from the traditional tapas section and I loved how perfectly round it was. How would you have to cook it? The inside was very juicy and it tasted okay. But to be honest I was beyond stuffed by the time this came (I expected much smaller portions) I probably didn’t need to order this.

The inside of the restaurant with matching drapes as the corridor leading to it (first picture). Oh and on my way to the washroom, I met the friendly owner and chef “Willy”. I was impressed as I didn’t expect him to actually be in the kitchen.

The envelop for the bill was so pretty too! Photographed with my lovely 40RMB OPI manicure (one reason why I love China).

I really enjoyed El Willy even though I didn’t get a chance to try many things on the menu, but most of what I had really impressed. Setting was really lovely and the place has a very fun vibe. I actually thought it was good value too, at least compared to what you could get in Singapore for the same price. Service was pretty good and eager other than the very terrifying-looking head waiter who was “patrolling” the courtyard. The only real dud was the complimentary lemon tea which tasted quite vile – they use a very weird syrup. The next time I’m back I would probably bring a a group as large as possible, stick to items under Willy’s Tapas, try the paella and skip the more traditional stuff since you can get them elsewhere but not El Willy’s wonderful brand of contemporary and fusion tapas.

Price: $$-$$$ (250RMB in total for 1 pax, with a choice of free drink)
Location: 20 Donghu Lu, near Huahuai Lu
Telephone: +86-21-5404-5747

2 Responses to “Shanghai: El Willy [Moved]”


  1. Singapore: Esquina « Chow & The City - March 15, 2012

    […] white and red radishes which I thought was quite clever. It reminded me of the scallop ceviche at El Willy in Shanghai, but that had stronger flavours and was a much bigger portion. Next time I will try the […]

  2. Shanghai: El Coctel « Chow & The City - March 19, 2012

    […] Coctel, a Japanese-inspired cocktail bar and the sister establishment of El Willy, turned out to be one of the best finds on mytrip. Finding the bar is a bit of a challenge though, […]

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