Friday, July 16, 2010

So, farewell then....?

I hear Ginkgo has finally gone under....

Well, except that..... it appears to be still there, still open, still operating under the same name, and ostensibly offering the same kind of fare at the same prices.

But now, it's under completely new ownership (all Chinese, by the looks of it), and with an all-new staff (who probably haven't got the foggiest idea how to make any of the dishes or drinks on the menu).

I'm relieved - and amazed! - for the original investors that they managed to extricate themselves at last from that money-pit; but the place itself will not be much missed.

It was astonishing that this slow-motion train-wreck of a business limped on for as long as it did - producing one of the most spectacular and protracted failures in my recollection of the Beijing bar/restaurant scene. Even in the modestly promising opening few months of its original more-a-bar-than-a-restaurant incarnation as Room 101, it always looked like a doomed venture to me; and a stench of death has been hanging over it for more than two years now, since well before its ill-advised rebranding as the aspiring-to-be more-a-restaurant-than-a-bar Ginkgo around 20 months ago.

I may have a longer post in me some time on just why it was so much of a flop. But for now, I simply note its passing - and allow myself a little sigh of nostalgia for that brief spell in the first half of 2008 when, as Room 101, it was managing to be a welcome addition to my neighbourhood's bar offerings.


Man in Black said...

We had some good times there though. My favorite was drinking till sun up and having the old ladies staring in the giant picture windows at the Lao Wai zoo inside.

Haven't been by in months (years?) but those old 101 days will always (Crazy Chris, anyone?) have a special place in my liver.

The Weeble said...

I used to go there to work pretty regularly after it assumed the guise of 'Ginkgo,' and while it was a decent cafe venue -- relatively reasonably priced and well-made western cafe food, good coffee, and wi-fi that was quite zippy when it was working -- there was a feeling of resignation in the air there, as if everyone involved knew that it wouldn't be long now. I liked the people involved, and I hope they give it another try elsewhere -- maybe somewhere better suited to bar/cafe custom, this time -- but it is probably a mercy that Ginkgo has finally shut down.

Froog said...

Ah, MIB, I haven't really seen you in two years, have I? I hope your masterwork is going to be worth it.

Weebs, you are a slave to the wi-fi.

Also, for such a Sinophiliac, I find your dependence on "Western cafe food" rather surprising. The food at Ginkgo didn't convince me: the burgers were never up to much (and seemed to drift in and out of existence/menu inclusion in the manner of Schrodinger's Cat), the pannini took a big nosedive in quality after the name change, the pizzas were decent but a bit expensive for the size, and the mains were generally compromised by niggardly or erratic portion sizes.

I don't think Andingmennei is ever going to make it as a laowai zone: even with the development of Beiluogu, Wudaoying, and Fangjia in the last year or two, that strip in the middle of it all is still A DESERT.
It didn't help Ginkgo's feeble prospects that places like Zarah, Alba and Amigo were opening up a few hundred yards away around the corner on Gulou Dong and making a go of things.

T said...

The bagels that Ginkgo started offering relatively recently were the big draw for me, but even before then, they had a couple of nice dishes. I never sampled the burgers or the pizzas (two dishes I'm fairly particular about; ordering them can rarely come to good) -- mostly I was just looking for something to eat while I worked. Zarah and Alba are also very fine cafes, but I could hardly spend every day there -- and when I needed to mix it up a bit, Ginkgo was always there for me.

I can't see Andingmennei turning into a laowai strip either, and even Bei Luogu Xiang is kind of a stretch (unless miraculous changes have taken place since the last time I was there). Indeed, I suspect that Nan Luogu Xiang will probably burn itself out with the gringos some time soonish too, thus completing its reprisal of the fate of Houhai: quiet and pleasant -> increasingly busy and pleasant -> original owners put out of business -> godawful carbon-copy Buddha Bar bars as far as the eye can see. Sic transit gloria etc.