Part seven in a series on where Beijing residents enjoy a beverage (or two). This round is with Diane Fermin, who is director of communications of China World Hotel and does her fair share of getting out and about in the city’s bar scene.
Although my favourite watering holes in Beijing vary, all do have one thing in common: some kind of outdoor seating, whether it is a rooftop terrace or a courtyard patio. Of course, it is a given that I only like to hang out in these places during that half of the year when Beijing is not one gigantic ice cube.
5. The Beach (Block 8)
When The Beach made its debut a couple of years ago, it reminded me of one of my favourite bars in all of Asia: the legendary Ku De Ta in Bali (minus the Indian Ocean’s waves and sunsets, of course). Somehow they were able to get that Southeast Asian beach chic vibe right: the pseudo-Dedon sleek day beds, flowing champagne and sexy cocktails, the music reminiscent of Ibiza, the elusive “beautiful people” nonchalantly lounging around – right down to the dusky-skinned, smiling, oh-so-friendly mostly Filipina waitresses in cute little beach shorts. To dial down the glam a bit, those occasional “shower scenes” by bikini-clad Eastern European girls added just a hint of sleazy fun. When they re-opened in the spring of 2008 with a new Mediterranean look, I missed the Bali vibe but pretty much almost all the elements which hooked a beach bunny like me are still there – which is why The Beach still makes the list.
4. Yin Bar (Emperor Hotel)
A place to bring out-of-towners so they can gasp at that Forbidden City view over some excellent frozen Mojitos and marvel at how hip and chic Beijing really has become. The “Raise the Red Lantern”-like ritual they do with the lamps at dusk is enough to get the Canons (or iPhones) out and clicking away. It was while sitting here with our drinks once on a lovely late summer afternoon, that my husband and I concluded we were indeed lucky as hell to be living the kind of life that we are living in one of the world’s most fascinating cities (the Yin induces these types of musings.) Also, this is my secret little hideaway on those Sunday afternoons when my husband is at work and I’ve got a great new book or magazine to huddle over.
3. Q Bar
It reminds me of a pair of Uggs – not the greatest looking, but somehow endearing, because you totally know what to expect: solid nourishing cocktails (especially those Caipirinhas, Caipiroskas, and Mojitos) and a comfortable, reliable, and unpretentious vibe. No-nonsense service and bar food of surprisingly good quality, unlike a lot of Sanlitun bars. Cool music wafting through to the terrace, but not blasting your ears off. Always makes for great hanging out with your best friends.
How sleek and fashionable is this new little place? We loves it! (As gossip blogger Perez Hilton would say.) Yet unlike most places which come with the requisite designer furniture and place a premium on style, Domus doesn’t feel cold. A charming, cozy bar and lounge upstairs, with an adjoining little courtyard patio. Good service, with smiles. Attracts a good-looking crowd, but not overtly so. This place doesn’t try too hard and doesn’t need to. Yes, you can sit and sip your martini or a glass of your favourite wine and be a relaxed sophisticate for an evening.
1. PURE VIP Room & The Terrace (both at Suzie Wong’s)
After five years of living in Beijing and seeing so many bars and clubs crash and burn – there is still no place like Suzie Wong’s. Suzie’s has not only endured but has – like our favourite 50-year-old (Madonna) – constantly re-invented itself. Yes, it sometimes reeks of skank but, hey, let’s face it, this only adds colour and edge to Beijing’s multidimensional nightlife. Suzie Wong’s is always guaranteed to serve up an intoxicating mix of extremely watchable people, from Beijing’s regular weekend party set to glam models and visiting celebs, still-superb music from its resident DJs, and Champagne that seems to be on tap – it never seems to run out. I like that in the new PURE VIP Room, you can listen and dance to great live music. Lastly, given the notoriously high turnover in Beijing’s bar and club scene, the people at Suzie Wong’s must be doing something right, with the always-in-demand Anson and Frankie still running operations very well behind those velvet ropes.
Runners up: Stone Boat (Ritan Park), Aria Bar (China World Hotel) and Red Moon (Grand Hyatt)
You have to love the Stone Boat for its cuteness factor and the refreshing trees and lake of Ritan Park surrounding it. Along with its no-frills drinks, the serene company of amateur anglers at the lake and the occasional live music night – this is really one of the rare places in Beijing’s CBD where you can just dress down, have a drink, kick off the flip flops, and simply hang out. Translation: bliss.
Aria & Red Moon
I wasn’t going to include any five-star hotel bars, but these two places are like my “neighborhood bars“, if you define that as places clustered around where you work and live. I derive a tremendous degree of comfort at both places. The Aria and Red Moon staff tend to recognise me, so there’s always a bit of nice familliar chit chat and I’m always taken care of very well (at Aria, they know my favourite drink: my Kir Royal). Both serve superb drinks (I love that sparkling shiraz at Red Moon) and excellent bar food (I love eating dinner, while tucked into a corner, at both bars). Both play good, unobtrusive music in the background, provide great vantage points for fascinating people-watching, and I’m always bound to run into friends!