Having been behind the Great Firewall of China all last week, blogging et al proved tricky. But, now we’re back in the free world – yes, Bahrain, you can choke on that irony – we’re back online and here’s what you missed in Shanghai…
Shanghai Fashion Week kicked off on the eve of the grand prix weekend with a bikini show from swimsuit label Aimer. It just so happened that a Brazilian model chum of mine, Larissa Thome, was on the catwalk that night and invited me along. But rather than get a ticket through the Will Call I decided to chance it, because that’s more fun, walked straight through security at the back door and into the ladies dressing room with no troubles at all. Chalk that up as the blag of the week.
The show was attended by A-list Chinese actress Gong Li, who is perhaps best known in the west for Memoirs of a Geisha, and as Colin Farrell’s drug-lording bit of fluff in Miami Vice. She got a standing ovation from the fashionistas. I thought I was the only one that liked that movie.
After the show, I ended up hitting clubs M1NT and Hollywood with Larissa and a few European models.
I dined at one of my favourite restaurants, TMSK in hip Xintinadi. The letters stand for Tou Ming Si Kao – which means Transparent Thinking. Inside you’ll discover the bar is made entirely from coloured glass. The décor of this high-concept fusion restaurant, from lily-pad pools to the black lacquered walls and the incredible glasswork, is brimming with ambiance. Upstairs, in the main dining room, musicians perform a modern take on traditional Chinese opera.
Afterwards, we headed to the basement of The Peninsula Hotel, to the Salon de Ning. This decadent and eclectic 1930s-style bar’s showstopper is the upside-down room, an annex off the main bar that has a fireplace, bookcases and other décor attached to the ceiling.
I was meant to meet up with another friend of mine, but he was complaining of illness and could I do him a huge favour and squire a houseguest of his instead. Who just happened to be Miss World Chile.
We visited the Long Bar at the Waldorf Astoria. Back in 1910, when this bar opened its doors, it was called the Shanghai Club and was the most debonair venue in town. Its 12-metre bar was the longest in the world. Later, it was bulldozed to make was for a KFC! But, thankfully, it has now been lovingly restored to its former glory, based on photos of the original. Its martinis are famous, and its Bloody Mary the best I have found east of Harry’s Bar.
Back in the day, there was a strict social code to the bar. The closer along the bar you sat to the Bund, the more important you were. I positioned myself at the far end of the posh bit, and I like to think Miss Chile understood the significance.
Afterwards we went to see Felix da Housecat DJ at Bar Rouge, the popular bar-club on the Bund that looks out across to Pudong’s Oriental Pearl Tower.
After a lavish dinner at Mr & Mrs Bund, generously laid on by a man who owns a private jet company (I need to sort my travel for the remainder of the season), I met up with F1 chums at Vue Bar, on the 33rd floor of the Hyatt On The Bund. This venue, which carries a wine theme – stocked to the gills that it is – also has some of the best views of Pudong and the amber-lit Bund strip. It also has a Jacuzzi in the middle of the bar, and you’re invited you have a soak!
Despite being quite keen on an early night, it was a mate’s 30th birthday and therefore quitting wasn’t an option. We carried on to No.88, Shanghai’s craziest Chinese club venue which looks just like a galleon inside and has dice games on every table.
We finished up in Shelter, which is a former bomb hideout and reminded me almost exactly of my student union bar, right down to the Music For The Jilted Generation soundtrack.
A birthday double-header is a hangover marathon at the best of times, and Shanghai outdid itself for it was my birthday on race day. The Code 20 party was the one to be at, at perennial hangout M1NT. Most of the paddock was there, at least those who hadn’t already taken off for the Middle East.
Despite saying after the race that he was already booked on a flight, Fernando Alonso obviously tore up his ticket to join Lewis Hamilton and others. Red Bull’s tune man DJ Erok was at the decks, while a trapeze artists and girls with pythons wrapped around them added an element of danger. I could make a reference to Adrian Sutil’s 2011 appearance here, but I think we’re all ready to move on.
It was a stellar night, and well done to organizer Elena Chatzikonstantinou for pulling off another great party. The next one is scheduled for Montreal.