Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Has it come to this?

Yes, alas, it has.  The quest for a place to watch English football has led us to Touch Nine, an utterly charmless Korean bar concealed within an office building adjacent to Wudaokou station.  Their "Asahi" beer appears to be brewed locally under licence by the Beijing Brewery, so the quality isn't wonderful; in fact, I fear perhaps they've got their hands on some nasty fake stuff (either that, or the chaps at the Beijing-Asahi factory are washing the bottles out with formaldehyde again: just a couple of bottles of the stuff made me feel very ill on Sunday night).  And it's gone up to 20 kuai a pop (it was 18 when I first visited this spot a year ago; and I still have fond memories of a few places where you used to be able to get the premium 'Super Dry' brand for only 10 or 12 kuai).  And we have to watch the game with Korean commentary.

But..... at least we could watch the game.

New favourite hangout in my own 'hood, Sand Pebbles, is becoming a regular spot for watching the F1; but they only have StarSports, a general sports channel which doesn't prioritise football, and only seems to show one or two games each weekend (in fact, it doesn't even seem to show F1 very reliably).  All the places around Sanlitun are stupidly expensive (except The Den, which ambushes you by surreptitiously becoming stupidly expensive at 10pm - half-way through a game).  Danger Doyle's and the (finally) revived Stumble Inn suffer also from having dreadful locations (upstairs in a mall!).  Paddy O'Shea's has spectacularly awful service and can get obnoxiously raucous (as well as being, of course, a faux Irish shitbox).  And Luga's Villa continues to be a complete shambles as a sports bar (I went in with The Chairman a few Sundays ago, just before a major Premiership fixture, and found.... no Luga, no customers, no football on the TV, and no staff who knew how to operate the satellite channels; no-one, in fact, who even knew that there was any football on; we were forced to go to The Den instead; we had very similar experiences there two or three times towards the end of last season as well - Luga's, I'm sorry to say, is now a dead option for watching sports).

Unappealing locations, shitty ambience, obnoxious clientele, lousy service, arm-and-a-leg prices, and - in many cases - no certainty that the event you want to see is going to be shown!  Beijing's sports bar scene is just unbelievably DIRE.  I think I may have to bite the bullet and pay for my own satellite dish at home.  Or goad The Chairman into getting one.

Although I hear a rumour that the nice folks at The Box may be trying to get a satellite hook-up shortly.  Western snack food, decent 10-kuai draught beer, and football on the TV..... and right on my doorstep??  Oh, please, please, please make it so.


omg said...

ESPN is occasionally showing EPL games here in HD! It makes me so happy. I was spoiled by the World Cup in HD, and despite the little HD logo on the screen, Fox Soccer Channel still has not switched over to HD for us. FSC still has the better selection of games, but I like seeing those EPL skills in HD every once in a while.

el said...

I have seriously considering finding an apartment based on proximity to decent sports bar. There's an English pub that DVRs all Premiership games that I can sweet talk into showing Everton for me, and they're high on the list. For big games (read anything involving Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea) you can usually find them being rebroadcast at a sane hour at another good soccer (football, I'm having a devil of a time knowing which word to use) pub that draws a fun crowd. I do miss the Beijing time zone, though. Such a great way to spend a Saturday night.

Froog said...

Hmm, where did you watch football here, El? Apart from the World Cup, that is.

The only half-decent sports bar in town at the moment is a place called The Irish Volunteer - but that's way out on the east side of town.

I might have to check out Souk as well - which has only recently (and, it would seem, rather half-heartedly) re-positioned itself as a sports bar.

OMG, one of our big problems here is finding a satellite and a sports channel that will reliably show the English football with English commentary. Most places have ESPN, but.... well, I don't know how this works, but it seems to be kind of 'localized', and we're probably getting a SE Asian version (HK? Thailand? Philippines?) which doesn't carry a lot of football. Currently the only place that seems to have full English Premier League coverage (in English) is a satellite station out of Hong Kong.... and only a few of the larger sports bars have managed to get hold of that yet. The smaller ones in my 'hood I used to prefer to rely on are missing that so far.