Shanghai Bar Review: A Tompson Hotel

By Cristina Ng, February 6, 2020

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Four years after opening their first speakeasy, the minds behind Barber Shop, Laundry Co. and Liquor Store are back with A Tompson Hotel. Just as with their previous ‘businesses,’ the group’s latest entrant is not a real hotel. If there’s one thing these folks have learned, the devil is in the details, as this ‘faux-tel’ is their most elaborate deception to date.

Located in Fengsheng Li, finding the entrance is a bit of a challenge. Stop when you discover a spot-on replica of a 1920s hotel entrance with an authentically kitted out doorman, including a pillbox hat. The illusion is so real that we nearly expected the elevator to open onto a fully functioning hotel lobby. Look for a ‘guest room’ sign on the walls, and pull back the curtains to find a comfy day bed with plenty of pillows for relaxing with friends.  

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

If you like Boardwalk Empire, you might connect the bar’s name to Nucky Thompson. We are not sure why they omitted the ‘h’ in Tompson but can certainly imagine the corrupt politician enjoying the prohibition-era decor, Jazz Age playlist and 12-page whiskey selection. The cocktail list is also on-brand, featuring art deco motifs and an ‘all-day dining’ structure befitting the retro hotel theme.

For ‘breakfast,’ why not try Why Nut (RMB100)? It’s an interesting blend of gin, milk, soybean powder premix and PX Sherry that honors Shanghai’s favorite morning beverage dou jiang. You can even pair that with some tasty Black Truffle Glutinous Rice Cake (RMB58).

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Next up, we tried Buffet’s Lunch (USD15), and that price isn’t a typo. The actual charge is in RMB according to the daily conversion rate, so file that info away in the ‘places to rush when the US dollar crashes’ mental folder. Lemon peel, thyme-infused Jim Beam, double cask bourbon, maraschino liqueur, Pama pomegranate liqueur, lemon juice, rosemary syrup and Cherry Coke is an insane amount of ingredients – yet the resulting tipple is surprisingly well balanced.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

We couldn’t pass up the tempting Pineapple Cake (RMB120) on the ‘afternoon tea’ menu. The mixture of rum, coconut puree, pineapple juice, lime juice and simple syrup makes sense. While tasty, we prefer to spend this kind of money on a higher ABV option. 

Luckily, they do stronger options on the ‘dinner’ menu from a Laphroaig 10 year based Suit & Tie (RMB100) cocktail with lemon juice and cinnamon, to a no-frills Boulevardier (RMB95) that is simply bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari. They mix classics deftly, so if you prefer old school beverages, you can request them off-menu.

Taking a page from the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London’s recipe book, the Hanky Panky (RMB95) is a pleasing merger of gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca botanicals. Also in the ‘Midnight Cocktail’ section is a tiki cocktail called Give Him a Bullet (RMB110) featuring Havana Club 3-year-old rum, Plantation Pineapple dark rum, pineapple juice, banana puree, coconut milk, lime juice, salt and red wine. Understandably, it tastes like a tropical escape.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

If whiskey straight up is more your speed, take advantage of the Toffee Set (RMB260). This flight of three varieties includes mini bottles of Glengoyne 12yrs, Glenfiddich 15yrs and Aberlour 12 years. For RMB120 extra, you can add on Glen Garioch 16 years. That smooth malty whiskey – with hints of citrus and spice – ended up being our favorite.

As this place gets popular and drinks are complicated, we suggest sitting at the bar. From that vantage point, you can watch the bartender mix things up elegantly as you wait for your next drink. On our visit, the bar was slammed.

The bottom line: it’s a seriously cool place to hang out that is quite popular with the hip local crowd. Drinks are faultless in design and execution, but the prices fall on the high end. If you don’t mind paying top dollar for neat experiences, this is your place. Otherwise, the gorgeously designed spot is worthy of an occasional indulgence.

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[Cover image by Cristina Ng/That's]

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