Formerly Petit Saleya, La Petanque is the latest venture from the Le Cafe Des Stagiaires crew, serving Mediterranean-style bites in an atmosphere evocative of a French clubhouse. Too much like a French club house. The owners profess they wanted it to be ‘a restaurant before being a bar,” but it evokes neither. I felt like an American at an all-French house party I wasn’t invited to.
Ever walk into a party where you don’t know anyone? You ask if it’s okay to grab a beer from the fridge upon which people shrug and resume talking to each other. You wait forever to play beer pong because the four twits at the table are playing multiple games in a row, but eventually give up when they invite their friends to cut in front of you. That’s what La Petanque feels like.
My friend and I waited 15 minutes to be noticed before becoming fed up and asking a staffer (who was chatting at the bar) where we should sit. I would have asked earlier but I couldn’t tell who actually worked there, as some were carousing with regulars while others played Boules on the Boules terrain crisscrossing the entrance (quite a hairy location for one if you ask me). Tipsy patrons winding up with heavy metal balls while equally tipsy patrons stagger past to exit? What could go wrong? Fortunately we didn’t get brained by a drunkenly-lobbed steel cannonball, but every few minutes our conversation would be shattered by a boule thudding into wood followed by French cursing. It was like having dinner on a lane divider at a Parisian bowling alley.
When staff finally attended to us, they were amicable enough, but it was too little too late.
Tapas-like Chinese meatballs (35RMB), sauteed clams (45RMB), and croquettes, and mains such as cod confit on squid ink rice (120RMB) and cote de bouef (350RMB). The cod confit was undersalted and fishy, and not in a good way. I can’t really remember the other mains I tried, which seems like shoddy journalism but it should tell you all you need to know. Stick with the clams and a maybe a La Chouffe (40-60RMB) or Vedett (25-50RMB) on draft.
Shanghai can be a big and scary place for expats, so it’s nice to have a hangout that recreates home for a specific group of foreigners. At the same time, these places need to remember they aren’t members-only clubs but eating/drinking establishments open to all customers, whether they’re the striker on the owner’s soccer team or a Native American chief on holiday. And so their service should reflect this. Unfortunately, La Petanque’s does not, and the food’s not worth suffering it.
La Petanque – 139 Tai’an Lu, near Huashan Lu, Xuhui district (徐汇区泰安路139号, 近华山路). Tel: (0)21-6281-4891. Hours: 11am-1.30am Tue-Sun.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].