Lonely Planet Writer

Japanese retail chain MUJI opens a diner in its Shanghai flagship store

Right when we thought MUJI had it all covered – from must-have stationery essentials to a ‘natural water’ skincare range – they’ve taken their design ethos of simplicity and minimalism one step further and applied it to fine dining. This week, Shanghai’s flagship store (the world’s largest) reinvented its Cafe & Meal MUJI as MUJI Diner, offering consumers a full experience: shopping and dining all under one roof.

MUJI has opened a diner in Shanghai.
MUJI has opened a diner in Shanghai. Image by Rosie Draffin

With over 700 stores worldwide MUJI (無印良品), which in Japanese denotes ‘no brand, quality goods’, prides itself on its simple, no-frills philosophy. In 2015 its largest flagship store in the world opened up in Shanghai – and it’s pretty awesome. Spread over four floors is MUJI books, MUJI yourself – where you can customise your own products – MUJI luggage and a host of other sleek products including MUJI bikes. Who even knew MUJI did bikes? And now this mega store has added a fancy diner to its repertoire.

People wait to enter the world's largest MUJI flagship store on December 12, 2015 in Shanghai, China.
People wait to enter the world’s largest MUJI flagship store on December 12, 2015 in Shanghai, China. Image by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

MUJI Diner is distinctly relaxed and unpretentious. True to the brand’s ‘minimalist’ spirit, the chefs and waiters sport simple navy blue and white linen uniforms and the decor mixes white walls, wooden tables and beams with artistically displayed cookery books and wine bottles. The dining area and kitchen are open plan, allowing diners to watch the culinary masters at work.

The Japanese brand's flagship store is in Shanghai.
The Japanese brand’s flagship store is in Shanghai. Image by Rosie Draffin

On the menu is a colourful blend of cuisines including Chinese, Italian and Spanish. The focus is very much on using fresh ingredients and, in case you need to be reminded, there’s a giant fridge choc-full of fruit and vegetables plonked at the entrance. Chef Lu Long, considers this to be what makes this diner unique: ‘all ingredients are natural, we care about food safety and don’t add additional preservatives. The menu is inspired by mothers’ cooking from around the world, it’s home cooking’. This ‘natural’ theme continues through to the food presentation: on simple wooden planks and white plates. If the banana and chocolate pancake takes your fancy (it’s delicious), it comes in a cast-iron pan directly off the hob. About as simple as it gets.

MUJI Diner on Huaihai Road looks set to be an exciting addition to the brand’s mini Shanghai empire. And, let’s be honest, that’s the perfect excuse (if you really need one) to spend a whole afternoon there.

By Rosie Draffin