Category Archives: Frank’s Place (’06~)

Beijing’s newest pub: The Irish Volunteer


The Irish bar contingent has a new member: Backed by Frank’s Place investors Graham Forbes and George Smith, among others, The Irish Volunteer is a cozy spot near a couple of massage parlors and a nail salon on the north side of the Lido Holiday Inn (map). Decked out in woods, greens, and off-whites, the pub can fit about 30 in a narrow front area populated by stools, a larger space with chairs, tables, and bar, and a private room. Smith says The Irish Volunteer is “a place for conversation” and complements Frank’s Place, which has a strong sports focus.

Put together in a few weeks, the pub includes a bar built by Guinness, the old Hard Rock Cafe chairs, and tables from a closed restaurant, a mishmash that creates an unpretentious space to enjoy a few beers with friends. The initial food menu will include Irish breakfast, daily stews and soups, and an array of sandwiches, with plans to add fare such as burgers and fish n’ chips. Drink pieces will be similar to those at Frank’s Place, with an obvious focus – based on signage  and bar theme – on Guinness.

The pub’s name is a reference to The Rising in Ireland, a 1916 insurrection led by a volunteer army against British rule. One investor said the name “is a little bit political, but mostly historical.”

The Irish Volunteer officially opens on April 3.

TRIO: contenders in two fell swoops

Two recent moves by TRIO remind me of the overnight transformation of the Boston Celtics into contenders – sorry, the NBA is about to start and basketball is on my mind. Before I get to that, a little background:

TRIO opened in May 2006 in the Lido area and featured three components:

  • A reincarnation of the city’s oldest non-hotel bar, Frank’s Place, at ground level
  • A seventy-seat New York-style grill and piano bar, The Park Grill, up top
  • The high-end wine-centric The Cellar in, no surprise, the basement

Frank’s Place is doing fine, with regular improvements to the deck helping, but The Park Grill and The Cellar struggled. Two moves substantially shake things up.

First, The Cellar was rented to a company that operates eight wine bars in Seoul under the name Le Cave. Expect a diverse clientele as Cave aims to bring in the regulars and reach out to the large Korean and Japanese crowds patronizing the area.

Second, The Park Grill will transform into SALT, with former Alameda partner Gaby Alves and acquaintances taking over.

What does this have to do with the Boston Celtics? A few months ago, the Celtics were also-rans, with one all-star (Paul Pierce) and lots of players with potential. The team decided to win now, traded for two of the best players, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and became instant contenders.

TRIO also has its star (Frank’s Place) and now it’s teamed up with a wine bar chain with a record (Le Cave) and a former partner in an award-winning restaurant (Alameda)

There is no guarantee of success with the Celtics – one of the stars could blow out a knee, the bench might be too weak – nor is there with TRIO – maybe the location doesn’t work or maybe the new relationships will bring friction.

But shaking things up with SALT and Cave is a good move. These places stand to bring a new crowd to TRIO and give the spot a second shot.

Trouble in Tongli II, The Cellar and the Cave

Renovations were apparently done with super speed as China Doll is open again (see Tongli in Trouble). They had just enough time to change some light bulbs and buy new bottle openers for the bar.

Meanwhile, in Lido, The Cellar is now Cave or, to be less cryptic, the wine bar called the Cellar that was part of Trio,  which includes Frank’s Place and Park Grill, has been sold to a Korean company that is re-launching it as Cave. Tonight’s opening party drew a sizeable crowd and I’ll have more on this soon.

For now, it’s time for Halloween fun…

New cellar dweller at TRIO

TRIO opened in May of 2006 and included: a reincarnation of the city’s oldest non-hotel bar, Frank’s Place, at ground level; a seventy-seat New York grill and piano bar, Park Grill, up top; and the high-end wine-centric The Cellar in, no surprise, the basement.

Frank’s Place has done well, particularly with the improvements made to the deck since opening day, but both The Park Grill and The Cellar have struggled. TRIO management reports the latter has been rented to a Korean company that operates eight wine bars in Seoul under the brand Le Cave. Look for a similar deal in respect to The Park Grill.

“The result is not that different from the original concept,” says one investor. “We’ve just teamed up with strategic partners.”

What it means is that the TRIO management can focus on its bread and butter – Frank’s Place – while its new partners can provide added marketing and sales power. This might end up being one of those win-win-win situations.

Also see Frank’s 1.2

Back a-Glenn: An interview with Paddy O’Shea’s manager

He’s had management positions at The Pavillion, Browns and TRIO (Frank’s Place) during the past two years and now Gleann Phealan will soon be heading up his own place — the Irish bar Paddy O’Shea’s. Glenn took time out of his busy schedule of personally testing the new beer taps and answered a few questions.

When is the bar opening and what kind of layout can patrons expect?

The new spot is on two floors with each one approximately 190 square meters. Ground level will have the bar, covering two walls, as the main focal point. We are trying to avoid that tacky Irish Pub look that you find in so many cities around the world and to keep with the traditions of back home, to make it homey and warm where the focus is on de-stressing and having a good time. There will be plenty of sports - we’ll have four plasma screens and a digital projector.

Good advice would be to leave the business cards at home since this is a place to go after work and relax, and there is a snug for a quiet chat.

The second floor is more upbeat and has a sixties yet modern feel going on. The rest is a surprise!

The soft opening is targetted for early October.

What’ll you have on tap?

Guinness, Kilkenny, Beamish, Carlsberg, Boddingtons (the supplier tells me all the kinks are fixed, we will see) and Stella Artois . So, six in total.

You’ve worked at Pavillion, Browns and TRIO – what have you learned about Beijing bars?

How to get the best out of the staff. I have to put my hand on heart and say the Chinese crew is the best I have worked with. If you show a little care for them, you get so much in return.

Ex pats! Fickle, impatient and fussy for sure, but looking after the basic needs of good service, value for money and a friendly smile seems to keep the wide range of expats happy. Not too many bars are doing it here!

What’s been the toughest challenge in opening the bar?

Three things – the government, the government, oh, and yeah the government!

You once almost lit me on fire with a flaming Lamborghini – does the guilt still gnaw at you?

Sorry Boycey, I was never guilty to begin with. Remember, it was almost. Next birthday I will get you for sure!