Shanghai: El Coctel

6 Jul

El Coctel, a Japanese-inspired Spanish cocktail bar owned by Chef Willy Trullas Moreno of popular tapas restaurant El Willy, is one of my favourite cocktail bars in Shanghai. It’s just about the prettiest bar that I’ve been to, but lest you think it’s all style and no substance, I’ll have you know that they serve great cocktails and gourmet sandwiches (from Chef Willy’s hot dog and sandwich shop Bikini one floor below the bar).

It’s hard to not feel relaxed here and let all your troubles slip away here. I love its eclectic apartment style decor; complete with mismatched chairs, plush leather sofas, quirky art pieces and watercolour wallpaper. In the day, floor to ceiling windows fill the room with gorgeous light and at night, a dim orange glow makes it really conducive for a date. Lovely is an understatement.

It would be nice to one day sit at the bar one day and watch their (hipster) bartenders make my drinks/converse with them since that’s a huge part of the cocktail bar experience, but that day we were contented to have our own little quiet spot in the corner for girl talk.

How cute is the flamingo coaster? Its watercolour animal and floral themed brand identity is just adorable.

We were served a complimentary bar snack of popcorn and excellent nuts that were both sweet and savoury. Really good!

To start, we both had something light and fruity. I thought the Harvard Cooler (Calvados Fizz) (8oRMB) was a witty take on cider. It actually tastes like a cider, though it was made using Calvados (apple liquor from Normandy), lemon juice and powdered sugar and then aerated and shaken. Great concept and I liked the slight fizz.

The Sakura Caprioska (80RMB) is a must order IMO, as sakura (cherry blossoms) liquor doesn’t often feature on cocktails menus. With the addition of gin, orange and lemon, this was a uniquely floral yet well-balanced cocktail. The choice of citrus fruits complemented the sakura flavour well.

If you’re feeling peckish, you should order from the sandwich menu here, as they are not your average bar food standard. This was the warm salmon, walnuts, apple, spinach and goat cheese panini (55RMB). What an interesting combination that really works! The salmon went really well with the sweet apple slices and goat cheese. And the bread was nicely toasted. Sure it’s not that cheap for a sandwich in China, but I think it’s good enough for a light meal. On a previous trip, I had the ham, emmental and mustard panini (55RMB) which was also amazing and totally elevated my ham and cheese sarnie experience to a new high. The melted cheese was a dream, and good quality ham was actually used (a treat in China).

The Snow Ball (80RMB) was a Japanese interpretation that had Advocat, lime juice, and ginger ale. I tend to shy away from eggs in my cocktails, but the Advocat liquor (egg based brandy) was actually quite comforting, and was nicely balanced with the citrus and the fizzy ginger ale.

For the last cocktail for the road, I went for the Islay Old Fashioned (80RMB), which was a usual old fashioned (spirit, sugar, orange, bitters) with an additional 5ml shot of Islay single malt. This was extremely smooth and had a nice tint of smokiness. Felt very manly gulping this down as we were running late for dinner, angsty Don Draper would approve.

This is definitely one of my go to bars in Shanghai even though it’s a tad pricier. I like the classy ambiance and their house cocktails are all quite unique. They also seem to refresh their menu seasonally as I spotted a few new/missing drinks since my previous trip. Finding the bar is a bit of a challenge though, as there isn’t a signboard bearing its name anywhere. So do the folks at The Apartment (a neighbouring bar that always get asked where El Coctel is) a favour and look out for a discreet entrance with a cocktail shaker and walk up the stairs.

Price: $-$$ (~80 RMB per cocktail, ~55RMB for sandwich)
Location: 2/F, 47 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu
Opening Hours: Daily 5pm till late
Tel: +86 21 6433 6511
Website: http://el-coctel.com/

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