Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Froog 2007 Bar Awards

Some year-end recommendations for you (and a few brickbats too) from my year of intense bar-hopping around Beijing.....

Best Live Music Venue

Winner: MAO Live House

Runners-up: Er, there are really no runners-up in this category, I don't think. MAO is just head-and-shoulders above the competition for small-to-medium-sized venues now. Star Live is too big, Wuming Gaodi is too hard to find, 13 Club has too limited a roster of bands, and the new Yugong Yishan has an awkward layout and poor acoustics. No, MAO has achieved a near-monopolistic domination of the scene in the last 6 months or so. But I will have a separate category for the smaller venues that are really more bars-with-music...

Best Music Bar

Winner: Jianghu

Joint (very close) Runners-up: Jiangjinjiu, 2 Kolegas, Salud

Worst Music Bar

Winner: New Get Lucky

Runners-up: D-22, Guitar Bar

Best Gig Of The Year

Joint Winners: The Glorious Pharmacy reunion at Obi-wan in October, and the Xiao He solo show at the Dayaolu Workshop in May.

Runners-up: SUBS at the Midi Festival in May, and the "Let's Girl With Rocks" (sic!) show at MAO earlier this month (culminating in a coruscating performance from Helen and Ziyo).

Worst Gig Of The Year

Winner: Probably almost any gig at D-22 (down to the space and the sound system rather than the bands)..... but especially this complete shitfest from early October (not even redeemed by having the fabulous SUBS headlining!). No other Runners-up..... D-22 takes the 'honours' in this category all on its own.

Best Bar Food

Winner: Saddle
(Saddle isn't much good for anything else, but those burritos are fantastic!)

Runner-up: The Den
(There's a paucity of competition in this category, I fear. I admit the food at The Rickshaw isn't bad - but it's such a craphole of a bar in every other way that I refuse to nominate it. And this is why we are so often forced to do our drinking in proper restaurants - see later category.)

Most Overrated Bar Food

Winner: The Tree

Runner-up: There are no runners-up in this category. The Tree is the only place I can think of that has built up such a ridiculously overblown, undeserved reputation for its food.

Best Place To Drink While Eating

Winner: White Nights
(Best of the cheap Russian joints these days, I think [though how I miss the old Traktirr!]: the food is hearty; they have an accepting attitude towards people who want to drink more than eat; the draft beer is usually pretty good and not too expensive; the bottled Baltika beer is exellent; and then there's the vodka....)

(Very close) Runner-up: BiteAPitta
(I love the food here - but the draft beer is also pretty good, and I often seem to find myself having 3 or 4 pints with a meal.)

[Note: The new Kro's Nest at Gongti Beimen is looking a very promising contender in this category, but is still unproven, having only been open a month or two.]

Best Place To Go For A Cocktail

Winner: Reef
(Especially if Jesse or The Choirboy have been allowed behind the bar - where else are you going to get such a killer martini for only 20 kuai?? But in general, you can always rely on Reef for friendly service, decent measures, and reasonable prices. I have just discovered that their White Russian is pretty damn good, and only half the price of anywhere else in town. And it is very nearly the only bar here [Salud is the only other one I know of] where you can get a hot toddy.)

Runner-up: Cafe Sambal
(They still do the best Mojito in town [even better than at sister establishment, Bed], and most of their other mixed drinks are pretty good too, I think. And it's quite OK to just go and hang at the bar for an hour or two without ordering food.)

Best Place For Sitting Outside

Winners: Bell & Drum (rooftop), The Stone Boat (terrace)

Runners-up: Reef (on the street), Fish Nation (Nanluoguxiang, rooftop), Jianghu (mini courtyard)

Most Disappointing New Bar

Winner: New Nanjie

Runner-up: Room 101
(Well, it was either this, or I'd have to create a category specially for it - Smelliest New Bar.)

Worst New Bar

Winner: Paddy O'Shea's

Runner-up: Rickshaw
(The recent opening of Paddy O'Shea's has reminded me that Rickshaw does in fact have several redeeming features - not enough to redeem it, obviously, but some.... rather than none.)

[Note: The utterly loathsome Block8 is really more of a nightclub than a bar, so doesn't even merit consideration here.]

Worst Bar

Winner: D-22

Runner-up: Centro

Additional Dishonourable Mention: The Tree

Most Overrated Bar

Winner: Rickshaw

Runners-up: The Tree, Centro, Q

Most Sadly Missed Departures

Winners: Yugong Yishan, "The Kebab Queen"

Runners-up: Nanjie, Bus Bar, Kebab Republic (the one on Sanlitun - formerly one of my favourite spots for drinking while eating)

Best Barman/Bar Owner

Winner: Luke, of the Pool Bar

Runner-up: Chen, of Reef

Best New Bar

Winner: The Pool Bar

Runner-up: Jianghu

Best Bar

Winner: The Pool Bar

Runner-up: Huxley's
(Though, it is, sadly, not at all what it once was, since Jackson Bai's departure.)

Those are my picks. Any comments, complaints, additions, suggestions?


Froog said...

I was thinking I could have a whole separate post on awards just for The Pool Bar - but, for once, I restrained myself.

You can imagine the kind of thing, though.

Coolest Barman's Dad
Luke's dad

Most Formidable Pool Opponent
Luke's dad

Most Formidable Bar Football Opponent
Luke's dad

Bar Where You Are Most Likely To Run Into Old Friends, Unplanned
The Pool Bar

Bar Where You Are Mostly Likely To Make New Friends
The Pool Bar

Bar Most Likely To Be Still Open At 4am On The Weekend
The Pool Bar

And so on, and so on....

It really is a great place.

Froog said...

Looking back on this now, I wonder if Wuming Gaodi (Nameless Highland) might already have disappeared at some point in '06. It never achieved any kind of profile among the expat community, and I'd only made a handful of visits in '04 and '05. Its closure appeared to have been fairly sudden and unheralded; and it may not have been until some months later that I discovered it wasn't there any more.