Yu Zhi Lan is located in a modest house in a side-street in Shanghai’s former French Concession. There is no sign outside to tell you that you have arrived. Instead, as I step out of the car, a hostess in a pink tunic and wearing a headset is hovering on the pavement. She sweeps me across a small courtyard, up some stairs, along a corridor that is painted black and dimly lit, and into a room at the back marked VIP. A long table has been laid for two.

I have arrived early, so pass the time looking out at the back garden — where a ginger cat is doing some stretching exercises. Its portly figure makes me wonder if it has access to the kitchen bins.

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