With mounting British complaints over Shanghai’s lack of their native fare, something had to give. And it did. Restaurateur Harry Spencer’s eponymous restaurant Mr. Harry almost overcompensates for Shanghai’s British food drought by serving classic upon classic from bangers and mash to toad in the hole to fish and chips – almost all of which are warming and delicious.
Don’t go expecting the dim, woody bar setting where many of these dishes are traditionally eaten. The rustic charm is swapped for a spiffier feel with eggshell walls, mirrors, and campy British trinkets galore – think the upperclass eating quarters of an early 1900s cruise liner. Plenty of two-seater tables and an awesome view of Jing’an’s Nanjing West Road area make it ideal for couples.
Staff seem confused and surly, which kind’ve breaks the mood, despite them wearing natty tartan trews.
Now as a longtime expat, I’m used to the clunky service at foreign establishments, which is to be expected when a Chinese-speaking staff is forced to attend to a lot of non-Chinese-speaking expats. But at most of these places there’s still an eagerness to please that seemed absent at Mr. Harry. Staff would bungle our order without being the least bit apologetic about it.
Maybe they were going for the stereotypically snippy attitude of British servers.
So many classic eats the menu almost reads like an American parody of a British menu, but almost everything hits the spot.
Starters include Scottish smoked salmon (58RMB) and a shrimp and crab trifle (68RMB), while sides entail steamed cabbage (36RMB) and bubble and squeak (28RMB) – that’s shallow-fried leftover veg for laymen.
But it’s all about the mains. Naturally hit up the fish and chips, which is one of the better renditions in the city; wonderfully flaky with a crispy and moist, and thankfully non-soggy beer-batter crust (98RMB). Unfortunately, the mushy and grease-logged fries don’t follow suit. Overall, a solid version.
Also go for the Ploughman’s (98RMB), essentially a ham and cheese sandwich before you put it together, here with sharp Stilton and mild Red Leicester, and a scatch-made pork pie. Usually a lunch staple, at Mr. Harry it’s offered at dinner.
And of course you can’t go wrong with the banger’s and mash with onion gravy (88RMB) or the pie and mash; both of which fill you with hearth-like warmth as you devour them.
We felt slightly disappointed that such a British locale didn’t serve pints on draft, but their bottle selection is decent with Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, Schieballion, and Old Engine Oil.
On the next go-around we’re looking forward to sampling the English Breakfast (98RMB), desserts, and Toad in the Hole (16RMB), two mini-Yorkshire puddings with sausage and gravy.
As I’ve never been to the UK, I can’t say how Mr. Harry stacks up to its UK counterparts. However, it stacks up well enough in Shanghai to earn its self-proclaimed title of “Shanghai’s first authentic British restaurant”, and proves one of the better foreign arrivals in recent months. If you’re looking for a hearty, stick-to-your ribs grub-fest, look no further than Mr. Harry.
Mr. Harry – Fifth Floor, 819 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu, Jingan district (南京西路819号开欣商厦5楼，近石门一路). Tel: (0)21-6203-6511. Hours: 10am-10pm daily.
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].