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Paying homage to all things pink and Barbie

A posh pink palace is the new Shanghai home of Barbie, not just a clothes horse doll, but a role model and a lifestyle (Barbie goes organic). Sam Riley checks out the Barbie Cafe and B Bar.

She was an astronaut before "man" ventured to the moon and has had more than 100 careers since coming to the world's attention in a black and white bathing suit in 1959.

Barbie, the girl with every kind of accessory, now has her own chic hangout on Huaihai Road M., with the recent launch of the sleek new Barbie Cafe and B Bar. They're in the pink palace that is the brand's new flagship store in Shanghai.

On the sixth floor of the temple to all things Barbie, the cafe and bar aim to be much more than a place for ladies who meet for lunch and families who bring the kiddies for a treat.

As a walk through the store shows, the Barbie brand is setting its sights on broadening its appeal - it's not just the doll of choice for young girls.

Barbie wants to be a look and a lifestyle, with apparel and shoes, clothes, electronics and home decor all designed to capture the essence of Barbie. The doll's makers Mattel breathlessly proclaims that the Barbie concept "allows girls to be who they want to be - princess, fashionista, fairy, teacher, doctor, vet, etc."

Distilling all that is Barbie into restaurant form was the task of celebrity chef-turned-restaurant consultant David Laris.

In the Barbie Cafe, he says, his team at David Laris Creates has engineered "the look of the 1950s American diner with the chic of a Parisian cafe."

The decor of the boutique cleverly combines a touch of Barbie kitsch and the brand's heritage, borrowing from the design of Barbie's 1959 swimsuit for the color scheme with herringbone-design black-and-white flooring and walls.

"I wanted to create something that had substance, that wasn't just fairy floss," Laris says.

For Laris, this meant immersing himself in all things Barbie during a trip to the home of Mattel in Los Angeles and even channeling his own inner Barbie.

"I tried to think what a girl like Barbie would want to eat and I thought it would be really healthy, sensible food so I went down the road of having a great range of salads and sandwiches and brasserie-style food," he says.

From the menu, it also seems Barbie eats organic where possible and keeps her sleek figure with natural foods with no artificial flavors.

With the help of the American chef Tessa Thompson, the menu and restaurant have a sense of kitschy playfulness with pink frosted cupcakes and cakes.

There is also a gelato bar with special flavors: Barbie, Ken and Barbie's new friend in Shanghai Lynn.

Diners can also take on the Barbie burger complete with beetroot red sauce or the meaty Ken burger with bacon and cheese.

Thompson traces her Barbie memories back to the mid 1980s and the "Barbie and the Rockers" craze. Saying that Barbie would love seafood, Thompson has fashioned a menu with a range of seafood offerings. Highlights include an entree of seared rare tuna on crispy wonton with a red cabbage slaw and the seared scallops with corn and shitake mushrooms, which is a popular signature main.

At the B Bar, an island bar next to the cafe, Laris says he wanted to create a contemporary, stylish atmosphere where a young professional woman might go for a drink after work with her friends.

The love of everything pink continues with a range of Barbie "pink-a-licious" signature cocktails that includes the creamy strawberry puree flavors of the Barbie Tini and the glamorous gin and champagne "Diamond Barbie."

For male companions struggling to find their inner Barbie and embrace all things pink, there is the more masculine Ken Tini with ginger and lemongrass.

"The bar is a small space within a space and it is another way of saying, 'Hey, there's something here for everyone,'" Laris says. "Yes, it is unashamedly girl but it is for a girl of all ages."

Barbie Cafe and B Bar

Address: 6/F, 550 Huaihai Rd M.

Tel: 6171-6036


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