Mavis, a Neo-Bistro French Wine Bar with UK Flare

By Sophie Steiner, January 13, 2021

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The Place 

Mavis rounds out the new French wine bars hitting Shanghai in 2020. This 30-seater 'neo bistro' features natural wines, French culinary techniques and a hip unpaved cement wall surfaced with graffiti by local artists.

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Located on Wuding Lu in the space that used to be Tribeca, the long bar running down the side of the venue has been removed to make more table room in this already cozy spot. Compared with the – some may say – excessive number of French wine bars Shanghai has seen open in the last year, Mavis houses a noticeably roomier layout. The tables and positioning between them are quite spacious so you don’t feel like you’re being bumped or jostled every time a server tries to squeeze past. 

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This all boils down to Mavis’ strong emphasis placed on high quality service that ensures guests inside have the best possible and most tailored experience, even if that means turning away extra revenue to pack more people in.

The Food

The tight menu of 10-12 items plus three to four desserts is written on a blackboard instead of printed, as it changes almost daily, allowing servers the opportunity to engage with customers, describing dishes and potential wine pairings in detail to make that personal connection. The goal is not to be a Dianping store where KOLs come in with their finger already on the picture they want to take for their next Instagram snap or Douyin video. The menu will always change, not just with seasonality but also to offer repeat guests something new. 

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Starting off a meal with warm carbs in any form is always a win, and the Sourdough Bread (RMB30) served with homemade salted butter is no exception. Every day, the chefs put a different spin on this in-house baked bread – from sundried tomatoes to raisins to sesame to potatoes, you never know what surprise you’ll find inside.

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Unlike traditional pâté or terrine, the Duck Liver Mousse (RMB98) looks more like a layered dessert rather than a savory appetizer. Trembly light layers alternate between duck liver and passion fruit purée. Flecks of crispy duck ‘crackling’ skin and chopped garlic add both salt and textural contrast, pickled vegetables on the side add a sour crunch and sweet fig jam brings the entire dish together into a mouthful reminiscent of Christmas dinner. 

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Like something out of the stone age, the Beef Bone Marrow (RMB98) comes with two, brûléed dinosaur-sized bones. The glass-like crust on top, when cracked, reveals a thick layer of the naughtiest marrow. To contrast the inherit savory-ness, the marrow is drizzled with a homemade XO sauce for a hit of sugar, spice, and umami richness. For seafood lovers, this marriage is one written in the stars, but if crustaceans aren’t your jam, the shrimp paste does somewhat overpower the marrow’s natural nutty unctuousness. 

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The Pork Tenderloin Tonnato (RMB88) is a French nod to the Italian vitello tonnato. Thinly sliced pieces of marinated pork tenderloin are topped with a rich anchovy’s sauce, shaved purple and orange carrots from Chongming Island and a spicy splash of chili oil.

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Instead of delicately thin layers of soft squash, zucchini and eggplant, the Ratatouille (RMB78) at Mavis is pleasantly chunky. Bathed in a light tomato sauce, this plate is also spiced with a hint of capsicum. 

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As one of Mavis’ signature dishes, the Roast Chicken (RMB398) is brined for four days using a secret recipe that not even the owner knows. After being dried and then brined again, the bird is cooked to reveal a crispy skin outside with the juiciest meat inside.

No fighting over the dark meat is necessary, since all of it is fall-of-the-bone tender – what you would expect out of a high-end rotisserie. One bird feeds 3-4 people and arrives at the table whole, before being returned to the kitchen for carving. It makes a tableside appearance again, but this time with a side of creamy mash.

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If you order one dish at Mavis, it should be the Fish Pie (RMB228). Not French in any way, this actually pays homage to Chef Jeremy’s time working in London, where he learned the recipe from his landlord. Stuffed to the gills – pun intended – with salmon, eel, shrimp, prawns, turbot and scallops, the pie is swaddled in a velvety mix of béchamel, mashed potatoes and, of course, cheese. 

The crispy bread crumb and cheese mixture on top acts as the perfect counterpoint to the luscious mash that, despite its ultra-creaminess, comes in second to the high-quality seafood that fills out every bite. Just when we thought it could get any more British, the fish pie comes with a side of mustardy cabbage. 

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"In culinary school, I learned to throw just about anything into a wagon wheel," says chef Jeremy. And that he does with the Pigeon Pithivier (RMB228) – a beef wellington-esque flaky pastry roll stuffed to the brim with pigeon breast, foie gras, and – get this – eel. 

By building an outer layer of forcemeat insulation, made up of ground pigeon breast, liver and heart, the most important and delicate pieces of meat stay extra juicy. The buttery foie gras just melts into the pigeon flesh for the ultimate carnivore's delight.

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Dessert options range from classically French, like the Chestnut Mille Feuille (RMB78) – a more savory version of a traditional mille feuille with shatteringly crisp layers of pasty interlaced with dollops of grainy chestnut cream – to the unmistakably British Eton Mess (RMB68) – a treacly, unrestrained bite loaded with raspberry sorbet from Gelato Dal Cuore, vanilla ice cream from Gracie’s, homemade whipped cream, jellies, macaroons and fresh seasonal fruits. 

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The by the glass wine menu changes monthly, with 80% of the wines coming from France and the rest being predominantly Italian and Spanish. Although the owner is Australian, you’ll be lucky to find a cheeky Aussie or Kiwi wine on the shelves, hidden near the back.

The wine classification system is unique – instead of the typical categorization, with wines broken down by region or kind, the wine room at Mavis is separated into Classic (wines that are true to their varietal), Funky (small vineyard, higher acidity or funky tasting notes) and Easy (wines that can be enjoyed by anyone at any time with any food pairing). 

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While most direct competitors, like SOiF, Bar À Vin or Blaz, focus on the Funky category, Mavis puts a strong emphasis on traditional wines to pair with some of their more traditionally French dishes. That being said, they don’t actively sport any big-name wine brands; niche is still the key to a well curated and interesting list. 

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If your wine knowledge is minimal, all of the waitstaff are well trained to make a suggestion for you based on your budget. Bottles fall within the range of RMB400-1,200 with the most common price coming in at roughly RMB500-600 each. Wines by the glass range from RMB60-100.  

The Vibe 

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The restaurant’s name Mavis comes from the owner’s grandma, and that welcoming, homelike atmosphere pervades the entire restaurant. From the blackboard menu that allows servers to engage with customers and explain each item; to the approachable wine categorization system and welcoming wine room; to the personable chef Jeremy Liu and owner Ben Evans, who engage with each table, the dedication to creating a memorable experience is at the forefront. 

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Price: RMB250-450 per person
Who’s going: Anyone and everyone who works in the wine industry, wine lovers, French food addicts
Good for: Date nights, wine explorations, foodie catch-up sessions


See a listing for Mavis. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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