Harauld "Ox" Sextus is the best kind of late person: one who turns up bearing cheese and béchamel-laden sandwiches. We're here to meet him at the latest iteration of his homegrown brand, the Shanghai Bakery, which has just opened inside The Gatehouse, a small but tidy shop in front of La Maison's garden patio on Jinxian Liu.
Initially run as a one-expat operation from a cupboard-sized shop and kitchen on Yanping Lu, the Shanghai Bakery, which specializes in artisanal handmade breads and vegan/gluten-friendly bakes with equal prowess, seemed like a concept too fragile to withstand the witheringly harsh climate of F&B in Shanghai.
Indeed, the original shop fell to licensing issues (as countless others have also done over the last two years), though Sextus kept the brand alive by working the pop-up circuit and exploring a knack for creating made-to-order birthday cakes based on his customers' likes, dislikes and personality traits.
The persistence paid off, and the Shanghai Bakery has progressed from yeasty phantom to a physical presence once more, something Sextus plans to exploit as a means to purvey proper French sandwiches.
His croque monsieur is easily the best we've had in Shanghai. Two thick, toothsome wedges of the bakery's signature sourdough, dense enough to withstand being smothered in creamy bechamel sauce. Melted grilled cheese sits on top, and inside, Paris-style ham and a wafer thin slice of tomato, "to break up the fattiness," Sextus explains.
He's brought a vegetarian version for himself (having gone completely meat free and "virtually vegan" some time ago), which we eye ruefully. In this one, pesto alla genovese replaces the ham.
Next up, an introduction to the Shanghai Bakery's viennoiserie, which come with traditional flavors like almond cream or raisins. Each bite splinters and cracks, giving way to layers and layers of lamination inside that beg to be dipped in coffee.
Finally, Sextus reveals a pair of house made yoghurt pots, each with a layer or hazelnut cream on the bottom. Cookie cream sandwiches (sesame, peanut butter and coconut) will have to wait for tomorrow's breakfast.
Find the Shanghai Bakery at 210 Jinxian Lu, open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-10pm, and you can still order those custom-made birthday cakes via their online shop. Prepare to sit al fresco, or take out.
See a listing for the Shanghai Bakery
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