Yes, Portofino.

We’re quite happy to put this on the list of musts, especially on a sunny autumn day.

Upper end real estate development in China isn’t like elsewhere. The developer seems to conceive of his customer as being akin to the Las Vegas gambler. There’s no such thing as straight gambling in Vegas. You have to add in the fun and fantasy element.

Equally there’s no such thing as a straight apartment building in Shenzhen. Every estate with even minor pretensions to class is surrounded by beautifully designed, realised and maintained gardens and recreation facilities. And nowhere is this truer than in the acme of Shenzhen real estate developments, Portofino. High-rise super luxury blocks rise above it all. One, which we inspected, had six bedrooms, six bathrooms, two kitchens one western, one Chinese and two gardens on two levels.

Beneath it along tree-lined streets behind hedges trimmed to within an inch of their lives are rows of low-rise apartments and discreet villas. And in the middle

Portofino, perhaps inappropriately like every Tuscan hill town you’ve ever saw, a piazzetta surrounded by five storey apartments with Florentine balconies, small restaurants, wine shops and a campanile with automata which sound the hour. Then a narrow defile and it all spills out onto a lake surrounded by al fresco restaurants, the perfect place for an autumn afternoon. Any misgivings you might have about the essential naffness of the concept rapidly disappears with the second glass of champagne and you just let it all flow over you.

Portofino is one of the favorite haunts of the Shenzhen upper classes because, apart from the physical setting, Portofino has food. Along the lake is one of Shenzhen’s finest restaurants, the local branch of the Laurel Restaurant chain. This restaurant is unusual for two reasons. Firstly, it is authentically Cantonese in the Hong Kong style i.e. it has a liberal smattering of Chaozhou dishes. Despite the fact that Shenzhen is in Guangdong, its immigrant population doesn’t do Cantonese food much. Secondly, it is an outdoor restaurant stretched out along the lake. For much of the year it’s just too hot to enjoy this but in autumn when the weather is a little cooler and drier this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Address: Portofino, Xiang Shan Middle Rd. OCT, Nanshan

Metro: Qiao Cheng Bei line 2

Website: http://www.octclub.cn/huisuo/gongyu.htm


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