Shanghai Bar Review: The Water Margin

By Betty Richardson, April 2, 2018

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Navigating our way through the minefield and goldmine that is eating and drinking in Shanghai, it’s often true that we stumble upon places by accident. In this instance, our intended target was a different bar (Madara, in case you were wondering, which has already closed after three months of operation due to a licensing blunder).

Shanghai Bar Review: The Water Margin

We wander over to The Water Margin instead, which is hidden inside an old lane house complex in the former French Concession, accessible only by prior knowledge of the gate code: *2580#. Having finally tracked the place down, we’re led through a patio garden flanked by tall bamboo – and make a mental note to remember its verdant qualities for al fresco drinking opportunities.

Shanghai Bar Review: The Water Margin

Split over two, moodily-lit floors, The Water Margin doesn’t emphasize pomp and concept. There are no eye-catching design gimmicks or old time, Southside speakeasy affectations – in fact its most remarkable aspect is its complete lack of an accent. Upstairs, laughter rings out from a group of friends, for whom prior to our arrival The Water Margin was essentially a personal bar. 

The Water Margin bar Shanghai

If there is a drawback, it’s that the drinks are too expensive: most are RMB98, and are by and large not special enough to warrant a crisp RMB100 note. The best is the stealthily delicious Shallow Dive with Campari, gin, Sipsmith London Cup, Cynar (a herbal Italian amaro liqueur) and tea bitters. It lands as a more delicate version of a Negroni. The Orgeat Punch with Oahkeart Spice rum, fresh pineapple, orgeat syrup and lemon juice is overbearingly sweet, like a long-winded whisky sour rather than the highball the menu says it is. 

In sum, The Water Margin doesn’t set out to make waves with its decent drinks or ambiance. But it is a good place to know about if you’re in the neighborhood and in urgent need of a secret place in which to imbibe with a group of friends that won’t fit into the more popular bars nearby. 

Price: RMB98
Who’s going: people in the know
Good for: groups, cocktails, al fresco drinks


See a listing for The Water Margin
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