At the height of Empire, the Shanghai Club took pride of place along the Bund, not far from the old headquarters of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the most imposing stone edifice along the prestigious waterfront strip.
Constructed by the British, it was an “old boys’ club” (as the British would say), and the most exclusive facility of its type in town. It was most famous for its bar, known as the Long Bar, which was reputedly the longest bar in the world.
Michael Taylor remembers reading about the Shanghai Club and its Long Bar in novels and history books, and he has been dying to see how the restored Long Bar turned out, following a complete renovation of the Shanghai Club, which reopened as the old wing of the exclusive new Waldorf-Astoria late last year.
According to legend, one’s place along the bar was determined by status – the closer to the riverfront, the better.
Michael got his chance to check out the Long Bar last week, spending one night in a suite in the old wing of the Waldorf-Astoria.
With a handful of suites, the old wing is housed in the old Shanghai Club, which has been renovated to a very high standard. The new wing rises inconspicuously to the rear of the old wing, and the two wings are seamlessly connected by a concourse.
This piece was originally published in November 2010.
When Richard Nixon visited the Great Wall during his historic visit to China in 1972, he famously commented, “This is a great wall!”
You cannot help but wonder what he would have said if he been shown the Long Bar in the Shanghai Club on the Bund in Shanghai.
I’m not sure what exactly became of the Long Bar following the communist conquest of China in 1949, but I do know that the Shanghai Club became the Dongfang Hotel in the 1950s.
And just to show how low the grand dame of Shanghai could go, from 1990 to 1996 she housed a KFC outlet. But that was then …
The Long Bar
The Shanghai Club was a British men’s club on Shanghai’s celebrated Bund. It was originally built in 1861. It was rebuilt in 1910.
The Long Bar was located on the second floor, a mahogany L-shaped masterpiece that was 110.7 feet by 39 feet. It was reputedly the longest bar in the Far East – if not the world.
I once read a book on pre-war Shanghai written by a British historian, whose name escapes me. She said that she had tried her best to ascertain if the bar was in fact the longest in the world (or at least in the Far East), but she couldn’t find any proof that it was.
“But it definitely had a bar, and it definitely was long,” she concluded.