And Finally

Taking top billing

How a Shanghai feast fanned media interest


The bill (from Sina Weibo)

Back in 2001, six bankers from Barclays Capital made headlines when they guzzled down £44,000 ($62,700) of food and fine wine at Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus, one of the most expensive restaurants in London.

They opened a bottle of 1947 Château Pétrus for £12,300, followed by the 1945 and 1946 vintages from the same vineyard for £11,600 and £9,400, respectively. To finish, they chugged down a 100-year-old bottle of Château d’Yquem for £9,200.

Five of the bankers were later fired for trying to pass off their part of the bill as client expenses.

Last week, an astronomically high bill from a Shanghai restaurant went viral in China after it was posted online.

Along with photos of the dinner, a receipt from Maggie’s Restaurant, otherwise known as ‘Maggie’s 5’, shows an extravagant meal for eight diners that cost a whopping Rmb418,245 ($67,000, or about $8,400 per person). The proprietor was so delighted that he rounded down the final total to Rmb400,000.

The post on Sina Weibo has since been deleted but it is alleged that Jiang Xin, the son of an entrepreneur called Jiang Quanlong, shared the photos of the dinner.

So what was on the menu? Some of the dishes were exotic. Wild Yellow Croaker weighing about 7.4 catty (4.5kg) cost Rmb116,920. The “crocodile tail soup” set them back Rmb16,800. But top billing probably goes to the “half-head abalone cooked in sake”, that came in at Rmb12,800 per person. Restaurants traditionally grade dried abalone in ‘heads’, and a ‘half-head’ grading (or about 1.2 kg each) is pretty rare. The abalone must have been huge.

Aside from the food, the group brought their own alcohol which was worth an additional Rmb480,000.

Asked by the media to identify his guests, the owner and chef Sun Zhaoguo, a restaurateur who has appeared on TV cooking competitions, demurred. He confirmed that he had served a Rmb400,000 dinner, but said that he had cooked it for a customer from Dubai and his friends. “That’s nothing at all in Dubai,” he added nonchalantly of the final bill.

It certainly wasn’t considered as nothing by netizens, many of whom were excited by the extravagance. “The most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten in my life is a Rmb6 luxury instant noodle,” one joked.

The media went into overdrive, trying to decipher why Jiang would be invited to such an extravagant feast. Some speculated that there must be a link to his father, the chairman of China Rare Earth Holdings, one of the largest rare earth miners in the country. And it seems that the local government was curious too, because officials from Changning district showed up at the restaurant later to investigate.

Netizens wondered why they bothered. “These people weren’t spending the country’s money or taxpayer money, and they didn’t infringe on the public interest: so what does their dinner have anything to do with us?” one commentator opined.

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.