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Festivities in Shanghai

By Xu Junqian | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-25 11:37

Festivities in Shanghai

Hotels are offering value-for-money packages for discerning and sophisticated customers. Photos Provided to China Daily

Private individuals are benefiting from the frugality campaign aimed at government officials, as major Shanghai hotels offer affordable Lunar New Year menus. Xu Junqian gives a round-up.

The ban on publicly funded banquets or "any form of extravagant spending" by the central government was ruthless but effective and the numbers are showing it. According to the Ministry of Commerce, revenue growth chalked up by the country's food and beverage industry in 2013 has been the slowest since 1991, except for 2003, the year SARS hit China.

In Shanghai, supposedly the "hotbed and greenhouse of extravagant spending", the buzzwords in the hotels are "value-for-money", practical "earthy" packages and "affordable" meals during the Lunar New Year about to gallop in.

Even for those who do not celebrate the traditional Chinese holiday, now is a good time for bargain-hunting and zooming in on value packages that will pamper the stomach without hurting the wallet.

You will have to hurry. Shrewd Shanghainese gourmets are snapping up the offers and according to industry sources, hotel dinners, lunches, brunches and room packages are already 60 percent booked.

There are still a few choice picks left for the last-minute planners.

Yilong Court, the Chinese restaurant at the Peninsula Shanghai, has "yee sang", a shredded vegetable and salmon salad, and three variations of pencai, the savory one-pot winter wonder that is layered with festive ingredients.

Rare in Shanghai, both dishes are typical seasonal favorites among the ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Even if you don't buy into the luck that these auspiciously named dishes are believed to bring, the variety of ingredients like pork belly, mushrooms and prawns will still light up the faces around the table.

Executive chef Gao Xiaosheng from Shangri-La Pudong's Gui Hua Lou, on the other hand, is sticking to tradition, and serving Huaiyang cuisine from East China.

A seasoned veteran in regional cuisines, Gao has created eight exquisite 10-course menus to usher in the New Year from Jan 30 to Feb 2, all promising good value for money.

At the Westin Bund Center Shanghai, where the Sunday brunch has clinched the reputation of being the best in the country for years, the highlight is still on the mid-morning feast.

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