After the wine tasting at Sequoia, I met Eddie O to discuss the nuances of that esteemed organization known as BRAWL – The Bourbon, Rye and Whiskey League. We decided to hold our confab at Cheers, which continues to offer an interesting combination of live Xinjiang music, cheap booze, a pool table, and about a dozen oil paintings of nudes (the owner went to art school).
This gave me a chance to check out China Doll, a new three-floor club with an entrance abutting Cheers. Former Moet man Joop Shen, now working at the club, gave us a tour and my initial impression was good. China Doll has skipped the large open spaces, excessive neon and annoying light displays of other places and gone for intimacy – cozy seating, subtle lighting and clever use of mirrors and space (though the bathroom has some problems). I’ve been back twice and my next newsletter will have a full report on the drinks, service and ambience (to join the mailing list, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” in the subject line).
We returned to Cheers and after a long and confusing discussion with Eddie O about Jagermeister – does the mascot we see around town look more like a reindeer or a moose? – headed for Browns to see if the owner, Philip, received the bottle of Bourbon that Eddie O left him as a wedding present.
On the way, we popped into Swing, a bar I have passed a hundred times, but never entered, given my aversion to establishments on the main Sanlitun North strip. I had heard that this place has a great band from the Philippines and they were indeed fun if eclectic, with the last four songs covering Suzanne Vega, Nirvana, what sounded like Joan Jett, and Pink Floyd (the guitarist really got into the last one, though the bassist looked in pain and possibly in need of prunes). After the set, the band members circulated and talked to the patrons, while the DJ played his own eclectic set, ranging from Queen to The Proclaimers.
Swing is small and packed tight with seats, but the layout works, and the atmosphere is cozy, the crowd diverse and the place a cut above the average bar on this strip (the band helps). Eddie O thought the beer was too pricey (Heineken: 35 kuai) and the bathroom facilities too limited (one person at a time). “They want you to buy the beer here and process it somewhere else,” he said. But if I were to regularly stop on this strip, and that’s purely hypothetical, Swing would likely be my place.
We headed for Browns. About a dozen people there looked like bit players from The Dukes of Hazzard or Talladega Nights. What a joy to have someone wearing a tank top, in January, brush by after working up a massive sweat dancing on the bar top. That fashion statement is hard to top unless that same person is WEARING A BACKWARDS BASEBALL CAP! Okay, Ill stop making fun now and just say that Eddie O, Philip and I enjoyed a few drops of Bourbon, watched the crowd, thanked to the Prime Mover that we had decided against wearing tank tops and shortly thereafter called it a night.