Phoebe Wong, former manager of Red Capital Residence and RBL, is founder of Sense Beijing, a travel and event consultancy. These are her top five watering holes:
To be honest, it was difficult to come up with a top five, just because it’s difficult to find consistency with respect to the quality of drinks and service. My picks tend to be about atmosphere and vibe, and in Beijing, that tends to change pretty quickly. But of recent days, here are my top watering holes, which I would introduce to any visitor or newcomer to Beijing.
I’ve always had a great time going to Song, and this would have been my top pick last winter. This is where I was introduced to Manuka Honey 42 Below Vodka, which is great on its own with lime juice and soda water, or in a few of the Song cocktails. I typically like the music here and the nostalgic Canto movies they show on the wall, but the best part of this place is running into half the town on a Friday night.
Just the experience of going up to Q-bar is so much fun. I always get a kick out of going in the elevator all decked up with my girlfriends and having a Chinese guy from Inner Mongolia coming in with his paper hotel slippers and pajamas. Peach Party is my favourite drink here, and they usually make them strong. Another bar where everybody knows your name, as this is a regular place for many of my friends. But at the same time, it’s also easy to be inconspicuous, as it’s so dark. I can easily hide off in the far corner, or in the summer on the patio.
Walking into the Opposite House reminds me of walking into the W Hotel in Sydney or somewhere I’d been in San Francisco, and I really like that vibe. This lobby bar resonates that international feel. I’ve had a great Mojito here, and they have a few other interesting (mostly girly) cocktails, so for happy hour on Thursday, this is my choice.
1949: The Hidden City
This complex is a great hangout, ironically one of my favourites BEFORE their actual bar 1/5 Lounge opened. I like Sugar Bar in the day, and 1/5 Taverna has always served up good food and drinks, although Duck de Chine apparently has a more extensive wine list. I only discovered 1/5 Lounge last month, but I liked the outside patio, and on Thursday nights, they were playing 80s music!
I really like that old China feel, but in a non-tacky and non-grungy way. Probably the classiest place one could find a pool table. As I recall, they have many house cocktails, and a pretty extensive wine list.
- Blue Frog: I love their do-it-yourself Bloody Mary kit
- Aria: For consistently made drinks, happy hour, and a comfortable, well-lit place to chat.
- Yin Bar: For the view from the deck on a clear summer day at dusk!
- 2nd Floor: For reasonably priced drinks. I’ve had a couple of great girls’ nights out here, hanging out with Jian, the owner/bartender. They also serve samosa!