Style | Diary of a Somebody

Yann Debelle de Montby

Shanghai’s luxury maven on bettering the Bund

Yann Debelle de Montby

Image: Derrick Santini

October 27 2010
Yann Debelle de Montby

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

After a rather busy weekend, I started my 234th week in Shanghai (four years, six months!) with a very hectic agenda; the World Expo is closing on October 31 and many people, Chinese and foreigners alike, are coming to spend a few days in this fascinating city with the idea to see some interesting pavilions (I actually found most of them disappointing) and to catch up with the latest happenings in ever-changing Shanghai.

Yesterday’s first meeting was on the legendary Bund, which has been recently totally restored to its former glory. To be honest, I am not a great fan of the Bund – it’s overrated to me in the same way that the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris is: too big, too crowded, too much of a cliché. I think a lot of talented CEOs of luxury brands are making a mistake by opening big and expensive stores along the Huangpu River, thinking that the new Chinese customers are going to shop in their flagships. Bars and restaurants are very popular on the Bund – totally understandable, as the view of the river and over Pudong is amazing – but it will take many more years to bring quality customers to this part of Shanghai; they still prefer shopping in Nanjing Road or the new fast-growing Huai Hai Road.

I’ve recently worked on several projects on the Bund: a private club, a very large wine bar, and some preliminary high-end boutique and hotel plans. I think I’ve recently gained a reputation as the “Bund Specialist” which, actually, I am not really.

Anyway, the meeting was on a building site of a beautiful old building, one of the older on the Bund (1906). I was, of course, wearing my trademark suit and boots, as well as a raincoat and a hat as the weather was still very stormy. After a short but interesting (and challenging) tour of the building with my customers, I headed up to the ex-French Concession, on Hengshan Road, where I had a meeting with a wonderful Chinese friend, David Lo, the chief representative of the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee. Lo is a true – and rare – gentleman who last year asked me to build his dream office and dream private club (only 13 members!). I’ve just finished the interior design, and we were talking about the first dinner he wants to host, which will officially inaugurate the club.

My friend is truly an extraordinary man, a real wine connoisseur and a collector of some of the best wines in the world. He organises sumptuous dinners every three months or so, for 13 people each time. The dinners are the most fascinating meals I’ve ever attended – truly, none of the best dinners in Paris or London that I’ve had can compare to these Shanghai feasts. The food is always wonderful, but, more importantly, the wines are the best ones that one could possibly expect to drink.

The wine lists at the few last dinners have read like all-star line-ups: Château Margaux 1er Cru Classé 1960, Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 1964, Petrus Pomerol 1979, Château d’Yquem Lur Saluces Sauternes 1er Cru Classé Supérieur 1966, Château Haut-Brion 1982 among the Bordeaux. And also the most incredible and delightful wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: La Tache 2005, Echezeaux 1986, Richebourg Grand Cru 1986… needless to say I’m hugely looking forward to our next dinner, in my newly designed private club (its base a 1930s house). It will be one of the moments in which how lucky I am to live in China, and to have true Chinese friends, becomes completely clear.

See also

the Bund, People, China