June 2nd, 2020

Health Café on Nanking Road (1926)

Among the handful of excellent old photographs of Shanghai at the Philippine Photographs Digital Archive, there is an image of the corner of Nanking Road, showing the Health Café 一天香欧西菜社, which opened in 1913.

What was healthy nutrition back then? Better oil used for frying? Less meat on the menu? More meat on the menu? No alcohol served? The press was suspicious: "One might have been excused for imagining that this was a faddist restaurant, one for instance devoted to vegetarianism, the cult of nuts or something of the sort." In spite of being one of the "most up-to-date establishments yet seen under the Chinese management," the Health Café was just "a tea room, with the usual adjuncts, and the faddist diet has never entered into consideration."

Turned out, it was cleanliness that was put to the forefront of the program. But seeing that Health Café survived until at least 1926 (the date on this photograph), we hope the tea and snacks were not just tidily prepared, but also good.



Click to be taken to the location.