Thursday, April 14, 2011

Return of 'The Nominator'

Despite roundly trashing the shambolic organisation of the poll last year, I have once again been invited to contribute suggestions in the nominations phase of this year's The Beijinger Bar & Club Awards.

As last year, it seems they're using this preliminary stage to run a few potential new categories up the flagpole. They are again contemplating a Best Cheap Drinks award, for example (an oxymoronic concept in my view; Best Value Drinks would be a better idea for an award), and Best Background Music (which Amilal ought to win hands-down, of course); I don't recall if they included these categories in the readers' poll last time - I think not. 

This year, they're also considering a Best Bar Outside of Sanlitun (which is a sorry indication of the predominance of Eastsiders in the readership these days; are there actually any good bars in Sanlitun???) and Best Hutong Bar category. This is, I suppose, a commendable effort to spread the goodies around a little more, to give some recognition to bars that receive a significant amount of support but are unable to generate the volume of business of Fubar or Paddy O'Shea's or The Den. However, the latter in particular gives rise to all kinds of definitional problems; I don't think anything on Nanluoguxiang or Wudaoying or Houhai should be eligible, since they are now developed into trendy tourism centres and are hutongs in name only. I reckon the concept of a 'hutong bar' ought to imply being based in a siheyuan property, and relatively hidden away on a quiet street - not in an established bar strip. If those criteria were to be strictly applied, there'd probably only be half a dozen eligible bars - which perhaps isn't quite enough to justify an award. (And if they do introduce this category, you can bet there will be a fair number of twats who will vote for one of those godawful places on Lotus Lane!)

There might also be a Worst Bar Award (that could actually be the most hotly contested category of all; though I imagine the dismal Danger Doyle's would surely win - however, it seems ungallant to kick a lame dog; and there is something of a problem here in that, since presumably no-one frequents bad bars, people would be voting on the basis of hearsay, or of one or two unhappy experiences of their own... not the most reliable grounds for deciding such a thing) and a Most Over-hyped Bar (a rather politically sensitive notion for The Beijinger, surely, since it is expat rags like them which are the principal conduits of such hype). I suspect that neither of these will make it into the final poll.

Also mooted is a 'Charlie Sheen' Award for the bar with the rowdiest crowd of regulars. I don't like the ephemeral gimmickry of attaching Charlie's name to it, but if there is to be recognition for a good crowd, I'd think this ought to be the niche where Shuangjing's The Brick could nip in for a prize. Their bar food deserves a mention as well.

Alack and alas - the dreaded Sexiest Bar Staff category appears once more; something which strikes me above all else as pointless (not to mention, of course, being puerile and offensive; although they're trying to insulate themselves against the deserved allegations of sexism this year by dividing it into two awards, for female and male staff).

The one positive development is that this year - in the wake of last year's furore about Paddy O'Shea's Karl Long winning the Best Barman gong, despite, as he himself admitted, not being able "to pour a pint of water" - a Bar Personality of the Year is to be introduced for Karl and Chad Lager to contest (although I nominated El Nido's Xiao Shuai for this), leaving the Best Barman category for people who actually mix and serve drinks. 

There's also to be a Hall of Fame award for a bar that's made a major impact on the scene for a number of years (I figure The Den will have to win that first time out; love it or hate it, it's the only major city centre bar to have survived more than a decade in the same location... Maggie's, The Tree, and The Bookworm should follow over the next few years).

If they have a Best Hutong Bar, it should be Amilal - although I suspect El Nido might pip it this year (but, frankly, I hope neither of them win anything, because they've got too much custom for my comfort already!). Perhaps Sand Pebbles might get a nod as well, although it's not - to my mind - a classic 'hutong' bar (and Wudaoying doesn't count!). I gave it a nom for its bar food; but I doubt if it yet has enough of a following to force its way into the nominations.

As last year, they've got a rather daft cut-off point for Best New Bar (but at least this time it's opening after the middle of 2010, instead of since the end of the year): if that were to be strictly applied, most of the likely nominees wouldn't in fact be eligible - including El Nido, which I predict is going to win. There isn't much competition: there haven't been that many new openings, apart from 1st Floor which is very so-so, and The Stumble Inn which is SHITE; Grinders and The Loop, I think, are too new, and too limited in their exposure way down there in Shuangjing. George's might be up there, I suppose; but it doesn't seem to have made many waves since its first few months; and I don't like including cocktail lounges in the 'bar' categories, anyway.

I think MaoMaoChong's got a very good chance in the Hidden Gem category this year - although I'd like to see bars like Fu and Tree House and Tao Yao and Zui Yuefang get nominated, just to make it a proper competition. I suppose the Great Leap Brewery might be in the running here as well - although from what I've heard, it's not exactly a 'gem', and it's so well hidden that not many people have been able to find it yet (I certainly haven't).

Best Music Bar, I say, has to be Jianghu on last year's showing. Yugong Yishan and MAO Livehouse both had very disappointing years; and the usually excellent 2 Kolegas was arguably even worse - mainly thanks to those ridiculous 6-foot-high speaker stacks they installed, which almost completely destroyed the view of their tiny stage (they have at last - after more than a year - got rid of the bloody things, I'm happy to say). Newcomer VA Bar was in contention for its music, but is fairly unlovely as a bar.

Best Cocktails I would give to Flamme and Paul Mathew - who should, logically, scoop Best Barman as well. I suppose he might get a nomination for Bar Personality too, although he's quite a dry fellow, not so flamboyant as the rambunctious Chad and Karl.

Best Bar, for me, would have to be Salud again. Yes, there are many bars that I like better (12 Square Metres, Amilal, El Nido, The Pool Bar), but Salud has broader appeal, has been around much longer, and has the space to accommodate fair-sized crowds. I imagine Fubar will win, again. And that wouldn't be wildly out of order.  But Salud's failure even to get a nomination last year was just scandalous; I hope that oversight is not going to be repeated.  And if the top prize has to go to a Sanlitun bar (and I suppose it does), I think The Tree probably deserves it (though I'm certainly not a big fan of the place myself, I have to acknowledge that it does a lot of things right, and consistently pleases a lot of customers - something which it's really not possible to say for very many other bars in this town).

Well, those are my prognostications. I wonder what bizarre picks 'the voters' will come up with this year??


The Weeble said...

Don't nominate Amilal. If it's already nominated, don't vote for it. With any luck the plague of Eurotrash, architects, semi-beautiful people, and other jackoff artists will abate once they get distracted by some other, sparklier place. Same for Nido. Why can't good places stay secret in this town?

Froog said...

I blame Twitter.