July 12, 2016 / Leave a Comment
With this being my second trip to Shanghai, I knew I couldn’t depart the city again without sampling one of the local outposts of Jason Atherton’s global restaurant empire. Having attended the soft launch of Jason’s Dubai venue, Marina Social, I had pretty high expectations for what The Commune Social would be dishing up.
Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. Definitely a relaxed affair, The Commune Social feels more casual (hipster casual, mind you) eatery than fine dining restaurant. The cutlery sits in tin cans, the walls are clad in hipster-issue subway tiles and the menu comes on scraps of paper held with a peg. You get the picture.
I sampled the Saturday brunch offering – a great deal where you can try three dishes (two savoury, one sweet) for 178RMB – it’s also available on weekdays as a lunch deal, but at brunch there’s a whole selection dedicated to eggs if that’s your thing. Additional dishes are available at an extra 62RMB per dish.
What I ordered: (set menu 178RMB)
Chargrilled broccolini, herb ricotta, crisp quinoa
Pork Belly, dark beer and ginger sauce, bok choy, grilled peppers
Chocolate shortbread, mint jelly, white chocolate mousse
The meal certainly got off to a fantastic start. My first dish was a standout – so fresh and delicate, yet hearty, with a light smokiness to the broccolini. The herb ricotta was fantastically smooth and creamy, making the surprise crunch of the quinoa sprinkle the perfect foil. I must make a note to try and recreate this one at home!
The pork belly was tender with good flavour – a tad under seasoned for me and a little salt really made it pop. Also I prefer my pork crackling as crackling, not deep fried into a crisp set atop the the dish, it just loses that element of decadence for me.
A pre-dessert snack of liquid nitrogen caramel popcorn was a tasty surprise, rather sweet but I love this stuff. As a whole it was nice enough, but the gelatinous nature of the mint jelly layer in the shortbread sandwiches threw the whole texture balance off. I would have preferred the mint in a cream form or layer of icing a la a Mint Slice biscuit. It just reminded me of overly gelatinous buffet cheesecake topping.
The starter was by far the best dish of the day – I can still remember how great it tasted, but on the whole my brunch at The Commune Social was a pretty good meal – I wish I could say the same about the service however. It felt like the staff were annoyed that guests were still coming in later in the brunch service and would have rather said they were closed. No warmth at all – in fact I probably would have gotten a warmer welcome at a fast food restaurant. Given an industrial feel already established in the restaurant with the decor, the chilly staff sentiment made the venue feel sterile. I get the feeling that evenings might be a little cheerier if you’re looking for a side of ambience with your meal – let me know if it’s a little more fun when the sun goes down!
Overall Rating: 7.4/10