Back a-Glenn: An interview with Paddy O’Shea’s manager

He’s had management positions at The Pavillion, Browns and TRIO (Frank’s Place) during the past two years and now Gleann Phealan will soon be heading up his own place — the Irish bar Paddy O’Shea’s. Glenn took time out of his busy schedule of personally testing the new beer taps and answered a few questions.

When is the bar opening and what kind of layout can patrons expect?

The new spot is on two floors with each one approximately 190 square meters. Ground level will have the bar, covering two walls, as the main focal point. We are trying to avoid that tacky Irish Pub look that you find in so many cities around the world and to keep with the traditions of back home, to make it homey and warm where the focus is on de-stressing and having a good time. There will be plenty of sports - we’ll have four plasma screens and a digital projector.

Good advice would be to leave the business cards at home since this is a place to go after work and relax, and there is a snug for a quiet chat.

The second floor is more upbeat and has a sixties yet modern feel going on. The rest is a surprise!

The soft opening is targetted for early October.

What’ll you have on tap?

Guinness, Kilkenny, Beamish, Carlsberg, Boddingtons (the supplier tells me all the kinks are fixed, we will see) and Stella Artois . So, six in total.

You’ve worked at Pavillion, Browns and TRIO – what have you learned about Beijing bars?

How to get the best out of the staff. I have to put my hand on heart and say the Chinese crew is the best I have worked with. If you show a little care for them, you get so much in return.

Ex pats! Fickle, impatient and fussy for sure, but looking after the basic needs of good service, value for money and a friendly smile seems to keep the wide range of expats happy. Not too many bars are doing it here!

What’s been the toughest challenge in opening the bar?

Three things – the government, the government, oh, and yeah the government!

You once almost lit me on fire with a flaming Lamborghini – does the guilt still gnaw at you?

Sorry Boycey, I was never guilty to begin with. Remember, it was almost. Next birthday I will get you for sure!

Wine Weekend V: Grapes and Greek gods

I owed myself a weekend of fun for ages and cashed in last Friday, Saturday and Sunday by attending five wine events. Here’s number five:

Sometimes you need to cut your losses. After four fun wine events, I pushed Lady Luck when Sir Campbell T called last Sunday afternoon about a wine auction being held at a new store – Dionysus – in Jianwai Soho. I made a hasty retreat from The Rickshaw, met Sir C, and headed for Soho where, with the help of Cafe Europa‘s Joseph, gained entrance to an open-air event being held in the middle of the complex.

The themes were eclectic - a company named after a Greek god, a backdrop that was a tribute to jazz, an entertainment lineup of classical music acts, a virtual ceiling of traditional Chinese lanterns, and a hint of trailer park America (the plastic lawn furniture). The free wine was… um… not a tribute to Dionysus, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, I’m not sure if the auction ever happened, as I was more interested in the wine shop, which unfortunately wasn’t quite ready, though I was able to sneak in there with a wine lover named Vic, who bought the first bottle the night before as he watched the inventory being moved in (yes, that was a very long sentence). It was one of those, “I would like a bottle”, “Sorry, not for sale yet”, “[Grabbing one] Oops, I accidentally opened the screw top“, “Um, okay, I guess we have to sell it to you now” deals.

I’ll have more on Dionysus soon, especially since Sir Campbell T says they are bringing in some very nice wine.

Previous wine weekend stories:
A grape-stomping time
One year for wine bar
Cabs, quizzes and sauerkraut
Reds, whites and you

Fall fun: Rock on at the Stone Boat

“Comrades, this is likely to be our last full weekend of tunes this year,” says the Stone Boat in its most recent invite. Yikes – we are in that part of year, I suppose. Here’s the musical lineup:

Thursday, 9 PM – Michael Hussmann

“French whippersnapper belts out the cabaret classiques from Jacques Brel and company.” (I saw him at Le Baie des Anges last Saturday night - don’t leave your wine glass unattended around this guy.)

Friday, 9:30 PM – Hanggai

“Mongol roots mavens return from a summer sojurn to strum and khoomei (throat-sing). Look out for a cameo from a special visitor.” (Cameo? Did they mean “camel“?)

Saturday – Cancao da Felicidade

“Guitarist/vocalist Geraldo Lucio (Brasil) and percussionist Jimmy Biala (San Fran) are the most electrifying new show in town. The jocular Lucio relocated from Japan this year, while straight-man Biala from San Francisco via Taipei. Here the two renowned musicians have combined to form a skillful duet who do Brazilian style jazz and bossa as well as Lucio’s original compositions.” (First San Francisco loses Biala and now they’re losing Barry Bonds, who’s next?)

Wine Weekend IV: A grape-stomping time

I owed myself a weekend of fun for ages and cashed in Friday, Saturday and Sunday by attending five wine events. Here’s number four:

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We be jammin’

A winery-touring, grape-stomping, bottle-uncorking day lay ahead as ten of us boarded a bus in Guomao on Sunday morning and headed to Chateau Bolongbao, outside the city, for a harvest festival. Just over an hour later we disembarked and walked past row upon row of grape-heavy vines as we headed toward the well-kept facilities, set amid the mountains. The stroll alone justified the trip out of typically smoggy Beijing.

The festival kicked off with (a thankfully short) firecracker display followed by a dozen attendees - including several from our group – climbing into a vat of grapes and learning what it felt like to have fruit squish between their toes. We then headed inside to see how the grapes are processed and to view the winery’s equipment, before getting to the important part – trying some Bolongbao wine.

This day’s menu featured the 2005 blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which I thought had a bit of woodiness on the nose, but was more balanced and fruity than the 2004. The accompanying food was an eccentric mix of peanut butter and ham sandwiches, chocolate cookies, cucumbers and bean paste, and cherry tomato - this was wine tasting Chinese-style!

A few notes about Chateau Bolongbao:
- Re the 2005 vintage, besides the blend we tried, the winery is releasing a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Cabernet Franc. Some Syrah was bottled, but is being used only for testing purposes and media tastings.
- The wine is available in the VIP lounges of three Chinese airlines, in duty free shops, and in about a dozen Parisian restaurants, but in only one public restaurant in Beijing. I asked Tony Chenof Bolongbao why and he said it was because restaurants were asking for an “opening fee” of 10 to 20 kuai per bottle and the winery was against this practice. He noted that Bolongbao wines may soon be available in Metro.
- Chateau Bolongbao plans to experiment with numerous whites, including Semillon, Chardonnay and Viognier.
- The leader of the tour, conducted in Mandarin, had an eager audience as people seemed highly interested in learning about wine.

Thanks to Tony for his hard work, including securing transportation for our group, and to the folks at Bolongbao for creating a fun itinerary. I bought two bottles of the 2005 blend and will be entering them in one of my upcoming blind tastings.

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More vines than you can shake a bottle at…

Note: Thanks to Sparkle P Productions for the photos.

Closing time for 5:19

Sad news for 5:19 Bar & Grill fans - the landlord is selling the building and thus the gig appears to be up. Catch a last drink at the bar’s 24-hour goodbye party,  this Saturday at 12 PM to Sunday at 12 PM. Actually, given the length of that party, there will be time for a few last drinks.