The Bull & Claw recently won Thats Shanghai’s Best Brunch of 2016. I actually visited them a month before they received the coveted award. It’s quite a feat, considering they only started doing brunch less than a year ago.
The Bull & Claw specialises in steak and lobster, as their name suggests. Due to the distance and mixed reviews I’ve heard, I had not visited until now, for brunch.
The space at The Bull & Claw is quite large, offering I estimate 80 seats, in a modern diner style environment. Red leather seats and booths provide a striking contrast against the wooden floors and white tiled walls. In cooler months, their large glass foldable doors would open out, giving the restaurant a natural, refreshing breeze. 8/10
There were eight of us that day, and manager, Michael helped made our lives easier by simply ordering what we wanted to eat, and then helped us structure the best set value together. (though there was an error , which we later rectified)
Food was served promptly, and in general, service, while nothing outstanding, was fast and efficient. 8/10
The brunch offering comes in 3 sets, advertising that you can have any one, two or three courses for the prices of RMB85, RMB145 and RMB165. In reality, you are only allowed to choose one item from each course category on the menu, and the first course category is comprised of only drinks. This means that with the third set, you basically get a drink along with 2 courses.
Shiitake Mushroom & Feta Fritters
Two pieces of deep fried fritters, rested on a chickpea, peppers and tomato salsa.
The fritters were quite flavourful, but unfortunately, soft and limp. The accompanied chickpeas salsa was bright and appetising. A difficult one to score, because while it wasn’t crispy as required, it tasted good. 7.5/10
Pan-fried salmon potato cakes with poached eggs, rocket salad and hollandaise sauce.
Essentially, a salmon cake benedict, with two large breaded patties beautifully presented.
Upon tasting, one would find the salmon cakes to be crispy on the outside, while soft and flavourful within. I thought they tasted similar to crab cakes, of which I’m sure were inspired from.
The poached eggs were well done, holding their form very well while still runny within.
The Hollandaise sauce was also spot on with the right amount of tang. This dish hit all the right brunch spots! 9/10
Smashed Avocado & Feta
Smashed avocado and feta with poached eggs on toasted ciabatta, served with rocket and blistered cherry tomatoes. One of our companions requested for this dish as she had fond memories of it on her previous visit.
In reality, it was nothing outstanding. Nice, consistently poached eggs with a generous spread of avocado mash. Big American portions, but even my friend mentioned it wasn’t as memorable as she had remembered. 7/10
Bull & Claw Breakfast (Add RMB35)
Two eggs, cured bacon, gourmet breakfast sausage, bioche toast, potato hash, balsamic toasted vine tomato and caramelised shiitake mushrooms.
This was my choice. What a massive plate, I would’ve thought we were in some western country.
Bacon had the right smokey flavours, albeit it being back bacon and not streaky. Sausage was wholesome and flavourful. Scrambled eggs were well fried with the right amount of wetness and form. Colour me impressed. The hash and the mushrooms on the other hand were quite bland, and could’ve used more seasoning. I was hoping for hashbrowns instead of a boring hash. With the RMB35 extra charge, the cheapest you can get this dish is RMB115, which is a little bit expensive. 8.5/10
A one-pan middle eastern breakfast dish of eggs, peppers, onions, tomatoes, sumac, yoghurt and spices. This appeared like a Shakshuka type of dish. It was quite lovely with its tomatoes and cumin laced spices hitting the nose, but unfortunately was not as pleasant to eat because underneath the baked crust, the dish was far too watery. I expected this to be of a thicker consistency, where you could dip bread in and scoop out ample amounts of sauce. In this case, it was so soupy the sauce would simply dribble away from the bread. 6/10
Bubble & Squeak
Poached egg nesting on sautéed onion, bacon, cabbage and potatoes, topped with crispy sautéed beef and béarnaise sauce.
Bubble & squeak is a traditional english dish, cooked with leftovers from a roast dish, which often contains vegetables like potatoes, cabbages, onions, etc. These left over caramelised vegetables would then be pan fried together with potatoes, in fact, very similar to the American hash.
The version at The Bull & Claw was slightly more refined, with perfectly poached egg, on top of a thin piece of pan-fried beef, on top of the vegetable hash.
I thought the beef slice, while purposely overcooked, was flavourful with crusty edges. The hash was flavourful and paired very well with the perfectly poached egg. Interesting, out of the norm, lovely. 9/10
Adding to my quest for the best French Toast, a title currently held by Mr & Mrs Bund, I had to order the one at The Bull & Claw.
Upon serving, I realised it was a more American-styled french toast, as opposed to the french artisanal french toasts that we’ve been having.
The bread was thick and dense. The egg-washed crust was dry. That said, when paired with the maple cream, banana and caramel, it was more edible. Ice cream would have made this better. Ice cream makes anything better. 6/10
A stack of pancakes with layers of salted caramel and candied walnuts. Topped with a choice of caramelised banana or a sweet blueberry compote to crown this creation. Served with a side of maple syrup.
We opted for the banana, and was pleased to find a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the pancake. I felt the pancakes could be fluffier and softer; Again, a little dry and dense. As mentioned before, the ice cream is a nice touch. I felt an extra step to caramelise the banana would have boosted this dessert beyond just okay. 7/10
All in all, I thought the offerings were quite interesting at The Bull & Claw, if only execution could be better. Definitely try the Salmon cakes, big breakfast and bubble & squeak. Its a shame, because most of the faults that I saw were largely technical, and if ironed out, would surely earn those dishes a higher score.