There’s something oddly familiar about walking into RAC, a new café and wine bar on Anfu Lu – almost like we’ve been there before. In some ways, we have. The project is run by Simon Briens, formerly of Far West, Grains, Rachel's and WIYF – the Franck Pécol-owned business that regretfully went under in the aftermath of the Farine expired flour scandal that virtually eradicated his footprint from the former French Concession.
Out of a job and keen to start afresh, Briens has picked up the pieces from those businesses and incorporated them into RAC. Most notably, Far West’s menu lives on in the form of its signature Breton-style galettes (savory buckwheat pancakes) and sweet crêpes, along with the handsome oak communal tables that contribute to the carefully curated retro ambiance – already working an a treat on social media savvy diners.
Galettes are clearly the pride of the menu, and with their robust crispy edges, they are as good as they used to be at Far West. Though at RMB98, the ‘Far West’ galette with pancetta, cheese, cream, mushrooms and an egg, feels expensive. It is, after all, just one pancake, though it would be filling enough to constitute a meal.
Significantly better value is the eggs en cocotte with potato purée, crème fraiche and a hint of tomato (RMB45), a delicious swirling maelstrom of carbs, fat and protein delivered via crunchy batons of toast.
The ‘Breakfast in a Bun’ sandwich (RMB45) has potential thanks to high quality bread (very reminiscent of that at Pécol's former burger concept, Rachel's) but the firm scrambled egg patty and bland caramelized onions felt loveless. Sriracha, or even Tobasco, might have been able to salvage it, but there was none.
As was the case with Far West, it’s certainly worth saving space for a dessert crêpe at the end of your meal at RAC. Soft but not flabby, they are an excellent backdrop to lashings of Nutella and crumbled nut brittle (RMB55). Next time we’ll order the brunch crêpe (RMB60), which gets you two pancakes plus butter, salted caramel, jam and Nutella.
Food Verdict: 2/3
Built for wanghong (internet famous) status, RAC is a time warp of mid-century Breton chic that attracts a snap happy crowd of locals and homesick French expats.
During peak lunch and brunch hours it’s hectic and slightly noisy, but after 2pm it empties out and becomes a beautifully serene place to drink coffee that's as good as it used to be at Grains – try the RMB30 cortado. With an extensively stocked bar at the back of the venue, you could switch caffeine to wine as the evening sets in.
Vibe verdict: 1.5/2
Total Verdict: 3.5/5
Price: RMB80-150 per person
Who’s going: young Chinese people, French expats
Good for: breakfast, lunch, brunch, dessert, wine
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