South goes north: Huxley upgrades Nanjie bar

The new bar area at Nanjie...

If I defined ‘getting sloppy‘ in Beijing, I might include a reference or two to various all-nighters at Nanjie, one of the city’s best-known down-and-dirty dens of drinking. But that might soon change given this two-floor Sanlitun South bar, near Salsa Caribe, Kro’s Nest and Banana Leaf, recently went through an upgrade and is aiming higher.

The physical changes include a new paint job out front, more intimate design and furnishings inside, and a newly opened space between the two floors (see photo above) that sacrificed some seating to make the bar more prominent and the venue airier. Rest assured, those excellent people-watching perches out front and on the balcony remain.

Owner Huxley is well aware of talk of booze quality in Beijing, especially when it comes to cheaper drinks. One way to emphasize what one is drinking is to open and display the booze bottles in full view. That rmb10 Gin Tonic? Made with the Harpoon Gin on the counter. Yes, it is imported, although it might not tickle the taste buds of the Tanqueray No. 10 crowd. Want No. 10 or perhaps Bombay Sapphire or Hendrick’s? Expect to pay accordingly. It is a reasonable move and Huxley says he intends to stock up to ten brands of each spirit to give greater choice to customers.

Thus, those who worry that the familiar drinks list will disappear need not worry. You can still order the “Nanjie Old Times” special, which includes five drinks for rmb50 — mix and match from among Gin Tonic, Rum Coke, Whiskey Coke, Vodka Orange and Tequila Sunrise. Also still on the menu: those wooden paddles loaded with a dozen shooters for rmb100.

But you can also get something a few steps up the drinks ladder. Sitting on that balcony and watching the world pass sounds like a good idea when a large bottle of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is only rmb50 (also available at his Houhai area bar). Nanjie also stocks beers such as Vedett (draft for rmb40), Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (rmb40), Moosehead (rmb35) and Brooklyn IPA (rmb30) as well as a dozen or so single malts from rmb40 for a 1.5 ounce pour. He is also hoping to get more wine drinkers by stocking decent reasonably priced options.

By the way, the daily happy hour(s) is from noon to 6 PM…

View from the second floor