With an original location in Bangkok and a second in Hong Kong, celebrated cocktail bar J.Boroski is opening its third iteration on Shanghai's very own Fumin Lu.
Founded by Joseph Borowski first as a hospitality school which morphed into a watering hole, the bar – which has previously billed itself as 'invitation-only' with hard-to-find, unlisted addresses – is set above new restaurant Bistro 11. In Shanghai, walk-ins are welcomed (just find the unmarked black door), though reservations will ensure that you nab one of the 17 bar seats, which if the other incarnations are any indication, will be highly sought after. The twist? There's no menu at this 'cocktail concierge service'.
Heading up the Shanghai project is wry British bartender Mark Lloyd, who's hot off running J.Boroski's Bangkok location and the company's consulting projects around the region. A chemist in training, Lloyd is a staunch advocate of zero waste and doesn't seem like one to shy away from the unorthodox and slightly weird – he once concocted a (unwittingly controversial) martini inspired by Myanmar's national breakfast dish mohinga
, which by all accounts was delicious.
With its official opening to the public planned for mid-February, we swung by last week for a preview. Designed in keeping with J.Boroski's other outposts, meticulously arranged rows of preserved beetles line the wall and ceiling behind the main bar. There are two small rooms to the side – The Chamber, a private room with its own small bar and a variety of chemistry equipment for mixology like a rotovap, and The Butterfly Room, which is decorated fully with butterflies.
Sipsmith gin, popcorn calvados, vermouth and toasted butterfly pea meringue
No menu isn't an entirely new concept to Shanghai (RIP, Tailor Bar
), and we'll be curious to see how J.Boroski's approach fares over time. Drinks start at 120RMB for a cocktail created with 45ml of base spirit or 140RMB for 60ml, going upwards from there based on requests. Unless you want to get whacky and really make them work ('A drink inspired by the sheer joy I feel on seeing my Eleme delivery', for your consideration), the choices are whether you'd like your drink 'spirit-forward or fresh' and then 'sweet, sour, bitter, savoury' or any range of flavours. Then the bartender takes it from there. This might mean an intriguing blend of beetroot juice with a Thai mango sticky rice gin and cranberry bitter or a riff on an unusual martini made with Tribute gin, olive syrup, rose water and Orinoco bitters.
Juices are cold pressed daily and syrups, infusions and other house creations rotate regularly, meaning that you shouldn't encounter the same thing twice. Lloyd's embracing a no-waste philosophy that extends beyond just the bar itself – leftover fruit from a vendor on Fumin Lu is turned into syrups and shrubs, and coffee grounds collected from a neighbouring café are put to many uses behind the bar; avocado stones are used for infusions and the peels for garnishes while the flesh is turned into guacamole in the bistro downstairs. In short, an ambitious and admirable project to watch.