A Restaurant Apart: Why Shangri-La Group Stepped Out of Its Core Hotel Base

Renowned globally for its luxury-hotel properties, the Shangri-La Group stepped into a whole new market earlier this year, opening its first standalone restaurant.

Located in the opulent Jewel Changi Airport shopping centre at Singapore, Shang Social is effectively three destinations rolled into one: a restaurant serving Cantonese, Huaiyang and Sichuan forms of Chinese cuisine; a marketplace selling food for people to take home, called MRKT, and a bar serving cocktails and tapas.

With more than 100 hotels worldwide operating under the Shangri-La, Kerry, Hotel Jen and Traders brands, the company opened Shang Social in April as somewhere the group could showcase its fine-dining credentials to an international audience. Each week, some 7400 flights land or depart from Changi, bringing more than 65.6 million passengers through the airport every year. Jewel Changi is a 135,700sqm multistorey destination featuring retailing, food and recreational attractions built in the centre of the airport’s terminals. Located landside (outside the airport area restricted to passengers), it targets travellers as well as local Singaporeans and even has a hotel in its upper floors.

“Jewel’s strategic location at one of the world’s busiest airports offers us an ideal opportunity to showcase our many Chinese specialities to a global audience,” says Lim Beng Chee, Shangri-La Group’s CEO. “With Shang Social, we are taking our first steps to bring our collective culinary heritage to a wider community outside of the hotel setting.”
At the opening of Shang Social, from left: Chef Rick Du, Chef Mok Kit Keung, Hung Jean, Tan Aik Peng and Chef Joe Hou.

Thus, the concept is expanding Shangri-La beyond its food & hospitality roots into the food & beverage sector.

Shang Social’s menu features more than 100 traditional and contemporary interpretations of classic Chinese cuisine while staying true to authentic flavours and roots.

One obvious influence from Shang Social’s hotel-operator heritage is its approach to serving multiple customer needs in one place, rather than open an eatery with a single core as a more traditional F&B operator might. It targets those seeking a formal sit-down communal meal as well as travellers looking for a quick bite or drink while in transit. Between the formal dining space, the casual MRKT and its bar, Shang Social is designed to “cater to everyone and for every dining occasion”.

The restaurant’s menu was curated by three of Shangri-La’s highly acclaimed master chefs, each a specialist in either Cantonese, Huaiyang or Sichuan cuisine.

Michelin-starred Cantonese chef Mok Kit Keung, who is also the executive Chinese chef at Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, contributed two of his signature dishes – Bamboo Noodles with Dark Soya Sauce and Lard and Deep-fried Free-range Chicken Stuffed with Fried Glutinous Rice – featured in the Cantonese selection.

Chef Joe Hou, a protege of Huaiyang master Zhou Xiaoyan and recognised as China’s Huaiyang cuisine global ambassador, brought his personal Huaiyang favourites to the table. Chef Hou is also the area Chinese executive chef of Jiangnan Wok at Shangri-La Hotel in Nanjing.

And chef Rick Du, executive Chinese chef at Summer Palace at Shenyang’s Shangri-La Hotel completes the culinary journey with his Sichuan specialties.

Three Spaces, One Destination
At the heart of Shang Social is the Shang Social Bar, an 18-seat space bridging East and West flavours and pairing cocktails with modern Chinese tapas.
The 88-seat full-service dining space serves authentic Chinese dishes, re-imagined in what the company describes as “vibrant and modern expressions”. The dining space includes private-dining rooms among them The Chef’s Table, which allows 12 diners to view the kitchen crew preparing meals at close quarters. In another part of the restaurant, The Courtyard lets guests dine ‘al fresco’-style in Jewel Changi’s Forest Valley, sheltered from the weather by the building’s towering glass dome.
The third part of Shang Social is MRKT, designed as “a contemporary Chinese-style marketplace” where diners can enjoy casual communal dining, selecting from seasonal foods from around the region. A retail space within the marketplace offers guests the opportunity to browse a collection of exclusive delicacies and take home a taste of Shang Social, including a selection of exclusive in-house sauces.

Designed by Takenouchi Webb, Shang Social features a modern take on traditional elements fusing both Chinese and local cultural elements via a creative mixed use of colours, textures, and patterns.

Materials such as hand-painted silk panels, light oak timber, marble, and polished plaster are combined with subtle Chinese motifs to provide depth and layering in the different areas to enhance the overall ambience of the space – and reinforce the local cultural appeal.

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