Shanghai Blue 1920

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: You find the present tense and the past perfect

There are a lot of fancy restaurants in Jakarta but very few of them have what I would call “character”. These are the sorts of places set up by businesspeople with the singular goal of making money and, whilst some effort may have been made on getting the décor right, the appeal is superficial. Take a closer look and the cracks show – the plasticy and inauthentic décor, the inattentive and bored waitresses, the discernibly average food knocked up by a chef who couldn’t really care less. No sense of self-worth, no sense of tradition…

But there are exceptions. And one of them is Shanghai Blue 1920, a marvelously understated restaurant on Kebon Sirih, central Jakarta, and just a few meters away from the famous Jalan Sabang.

I first came across this place when I was looking for a decent Indonesian restaurant to impress a foreign guest coming over to visit the Big Durian. Shanghai Blue 1920 fits the bill perfectly.

Inside it’s noticeably dark – not sleazy nightclub dark – but dark enough to create a very warm and cozy environment. There’s no loud music thank God, and the décor, as you may have guessed, echoes the colonial past of that great Chinese city Shanghai.

Shanghai Blue 1920

The story goes that on one particular vessel embarking Shanghai for the old Jakarta port of Sunda Kelapa was a sailor named Nko Mo San. He liked what he saw here and married a local woman. After a while they opened a warung (roadside eatery) called Shanghai Tea House and even managed to get advertising from a local cigarette company (some things never change!).

The warung became very popular over time and at its zenith was a “meeting place for sailors, pirates, merchants, and local girls”. But time flies by and people, as they are wont to do, get old and die. The warung was closed and its artifacts put in storage. They stayed there until many years later they were rediscovered and placed in this new restaurant, a different location perhaps, but still a continuation of the original warung’s sprit.

As for the nosh – an eclectic mix of Chinese, Betawi and Peranakan dishes – it certainly lives up to expectations. Prices are in the mid-upper price bracket, with most main dishes priced between Rp50-100,000. What can really push up the bill here are the alcoholic drinks, and most of the spirits/cocktails will probably be more expensive than your main meal. Although you could always order water or tea of course!

Shanghai Blue 1920

Shanghai Blue 1920 Restaurant
Jalan Kebon Sirih 77-79

Telp: (021) 391 8690


  1. I like the ambiance of this restaurant but not for the taste of the food and the price.


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