With the recent explosion in popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous books on the small screen with BBC’s Sherlock as well as Blockbuster Hollywood hits it was only a matter of time before the frenzy spilled over into other sectors. One hit landed here in Shanghai in the form of a coffee shop called 221B Baker St., the address of the renowned detective&’s residence in foggy London town. Inside lies a menagerie of artifacts and paraphernalia from the Sherlock universe, turning it into something more like a museum experience than a normal coffee shop.
The outside of the shop is simple with white cement façade brass lights flanking the archway. Above is a placard bearing the name 221B Baker St. The look outside and in is reminiscent of London in the sense of how it would be depicted in a movie, fitting given that the café is modeled after the television phenomenon. Inside there are three separate rooms from which to choose from. The room nearest to the entrance is decorated with pictures of modern London from street view set above plain tables. On the opposite wall are shelves full of knick-knacks and memorabilia from BBC’s Sherlock as well as other installments of the franchise. It’s fun to see all of the kooky things they managed to find that include wallets, figurines, or even face masks sporting the Sherlock logo. Walk through to the next room and you will find a replica of living quarters of the detective himself. And no Sherlock Holmes-inspired dig would be complete without a human skull resting on the fireplace and a yellow smiley face, an infamous symbol from the show’s main villain, the shadowy Mortiarty. This room feels more spacious than the former with high ceilings and cushy armchairs to relax in. The last room is where the actual coffee shop resides; it looks the most like an actual business instead of someone’s apartment. Along with a good-sized bar there are a few tables and couches to sip coffee from. The walls in this room are the most obvious with its connection to the series, there are quotes taken from characters printed in huge letters as well as evidence collected from different episodes. Overall, it is cozy yet airy and unless you truly hate themed cafes and restaurants with no exceptions, this one is a pleasant reminder that the idea can work sometimes.
Food and drink
The menu reads easily and there is something for everyone. Not an overwhelming amount of options but they do offer some interesting choices. They have normal coffee options like Americano (25RMB small 28RMB large) or Cappuccino (32RMB small 35RMB large) as well as fancy imports like Blue Mountain (145RMB!). They also offer Ice Drip Coffee (65RMB) which is a nice touch. They have a variety of specialty drinks some including ice cream and coffee (35RMB) and tea infusions like honey citron (32RMB). Fresh fruit juices and hot tea pots round out the drinks menu with colorful names from the characters of the show. Sherlock is an English Breakfast and Watson is Earl Grey (both 60RMB). The food options include standbys like New York Cheese Cake (35RMB) and Chocolate Brownies (35RMB) but they also sell several waffles, with interesting alternatives like Matcha green tea and Mango (both 45RMB). Obviously the prices are a bit on the steep side but for a coffee shop in a country where coffee culture is a relatively new trend it seems somewhat more acceptable. Also keep in mind that with any kind of themed entertainment it is probably going to be a little more costly than a run-of-the-mill place. Just to keep that in mind. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the coffee was very good. I normally order espresso whenever I get coffee and usually it is so burnt it no longer resembles coffee. Here it was rich and tasty and the desserts were flavorful and fun.
So we have gathered the evidence and made our deductions. We have found respectable coffee in a fun, zany setting that is fun to look at but also nice to enjoy their wares. The prices aren’t the cheapest around but they won’t empty the bank. So what’s the verdict? 221B Baker St. is a hybrid quality coffee shop/amusement park that will delight all, fans of the show or not. It’s elementary, my dear reader.
221B Baker St. – 50 Ruijin Er Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu (瑞金二路50号, 近复兴中路). (0)21-6481-0900. 10:30 am to 12 midnight daily.
See a complete list of our cafe reviews here.
By Noelle Albert
Noelle Albert is a contributor for Shanghaiist’s Food Desk. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates to [email protected]!