The Tuesday night brain teaser of Beijing, Julian Fisher has presided over the longest running weekly quiz in the city, first at Schindler’s and now at Tim’s Texas BBQ. It turns out he also likes a drink of two. Here are his top five watering holes in Beijing.
“Since I’m British and my formative years were spent in five-hundred year old pubs in Devon my list is full of fairly well-known drinkeries that make me feel at home:
“Schillers aka The German Office. Beijing is a city of 13 million people with less than thirteen pubs. In fact it is probably only has three. Pubs in northern Europe are always dark, wooden and warm, lending themselves to drinking long into rainy winter nights. Schillers has plenty of wood, gas-leaking furnaces for heat and dim lights that fry mosquitoes. It also has Germans and African embassy staff who have frequented the place every day since it opened, a great happy hour (buy one get one free until eight), excellent bangers and mash and mid-nineties house music. I once met a North Korean electrician there. From Germany .
“White Nights aka The Russian Office. OK, this place is not strictly a bar, but it does have beer for 5RMB a pint which certainly makes it a drinking spot. The food is cheap and hearty but they cook mayonnaise with cheese which tastes revolting. The service is also very authentic, meaning no one ever smiles. It’s great to sit out on the quiet tree-lined street in the summer (opposite is a little Russian grocery called ‘The One’ which stocks some interesting food) but it isn’t near any other places, and closes early, which can either send you to bed or on to late-night Rasputian mischief.
“Ichikura. This place is simply one of the best places to drink in Beijing. It might not appear to have much in common with medieval British taverns but there are similarities. Firstly, the dark lighting lends itself to late nights and contemplation. Secondly, you can happily sit at the bar and watch someone take deserved pride in their work. Finally, and maybe most importantly, no one bats an eyelid when you are drinking alone in a place which is designed for nothing else but drinking.
“Tori Tei. This place is also not strictly a bar but I always end up drinking more in there then anywhere else in Beijing . It has benches that you can share with friends or strangers, hot sake for 25RMB a bottle and an open fire. Ok, it’s a BBQ. Which is better than a log fire because it can supply you with the best chuan’r in Beijing. Like Ichikura, you can also keep a bottle behind the bar. This is always useful when you run out of money and need to drink somewhere for free.
“I am going to cheat a little now because I have run out of numbers without reaching my two most visited watering holes (both within walking distance of my home as all good locals should be). Number 4.5 is The Den. Little more can be said about this place than when nuclear Armageddon strikes, all that will remain will be cockroaches, communism and The Den. Number 5 is The Tree. Sitting in the philosophers corner (as my recently departed friend Steve always called it) opposite the bar on high stools under the framed image of an unknown man is a great place to peruse their extensive beer list before buying a 15RMB Tsingdao. Newly born 1F is also looking good but now I’m just pushing it…