The economic crisis seems to have hit the Lotus Lane lady bar touts in Houhai. How else to explain that as I walked from Starbuck’s to La Baie des Anges a mere 14 people approached me with the “Sir, lady bar. Looka looka. Beautiful girls” spiel. On an annoyance scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being highly annoying, this place has dropped from a 14 to a 12.
Anyway, despite upbeat Latin bands, patrons were few and far between both at Buffalo and Alpha Omega, while Sex and Da City featured a pole dancer, on a mission against rhythm, as about a dozen patrons crowded around the bar and slurped their bars. On to the places visited:
La Baie des Anges: A cozy spot with comfortable bench seating, room for a half-dozen patrons at the bar, music at a volume that makes conversation easy, and some decent wines by the glass (divided on this night into “balanced and silky” and “fresh and fruity”). Rare are wine bars in Beijing that have survived two years and draw a crowd, and I will soon post a talk with co-owner Olivier Six about how he has managed to do this.
Shut Up, Just Drink (Huxley’s): After circling the entire lake in search of Obiwan, we ended up here. This place is smokier than the lungs of a two-pack-a-day Zhongnanhai puffer who has just taken a massive drag. But you feel it (stinging eyes) rather than see it because the combined strength of the half-dozen or so lights is about 100 watts (rough estimate). Still, I like the earthy atmosphere, that white-plastered sloped ceiling, the cheap beer, and the likelihood of running into a character or two.
Obiwan: With directions obtained at Huxley’s, we took a taxi here. It reminded me a bit of the old 5:19 bar: three stories, a grungy feel, a bare cement rooftop with a view of the water (though the pond behind Super Bar Street was an eyesore), and a few cheesy touches (tinsel on the staircases), though it is much larger and thus lacked that Wayne’s World recreation room feel. This night featured a German party downstairs, so we headed upstairs for a drink and found Tsingtao at RMB15, other beers at RMB25 and up, soup of the day at RMB20, and one woman violently heaving in the toilet. That rooftop will be nice in the summer and Obiwan seems like a good event space, though a map is essential.
The Boat: The DJ to patron ratio stood at about 2.5 to 1 when we arrived at 3 AM, but a stream of late night party people, incluing a strong Russian contingent, came in as the hours whiled away. One of the co-owners seemed annoyed that the draw of me was the buy two, get one free Stella, rather than the DJs. What can I say, I didn’t have a cultured upbringing. Nevertheless, this is a creative space, which includes the men’s toilet and its view of the river through the portholes.