Thursday, January 12, 2012


In recent ambles down Andingmennei (now becoming a fairly regular event, as it is the most convenient route into the city centre for me since moving to my new apartment) I have been looking out for the site of the old Room 101 - which had been a favourite stomping ground of mine (and of a number of my other drinking companions: The Man In Black, The Weeble, Crazy Chris, Mr Sex), very nearly my 'bar of the year' back in 2008. Unfortunately the bar's too numerous investors had bickered endlessly over how to make the best of the venue, eventually opting for a daft rebranding as restaurant/bar Ginkgo - a characterless and directionless venture that died on its feet. It staggered on for 18 months or so, before finally finding some Chinese businessmen to take it over; they kept the Ginkgo 'concept' for a number of months more, without doing anything to advertise or otherwise trying to drum up custom. That may have set some kind of record for the least profitable business in the city: I really think it might have gone a week or more at a time without a single customer, and I doubt if it ever turned over 1,000 rmb in a month.

But then, this lame-ass Ginkgo Mk. II abruptly disappeared, some time around the beginning of last year - disappeared so completely that I struggled to remember where it had been.

But now I've realised it is here - this cookie-cutter Chinese restaurant.

The thing that makes it so difficult to recognise is that the new owners have tackled the thorny problem of the otiose second storey... by demolishing it. I suppose their plan was to create a roof terrace that they can use in the summer; but I didn't notice it being put into service last summer, and it's bugger-all use to them during the long months of winter here. Still, they got rid of the second floor entirely!!  That's a pretty radical re-design. I wish I'd thought to suggest it to the original Room 101 people; I'd always said the upstairs was one of the biggest problems with the place... but I couldn't get 'outside the box' enough to conceive of simply taking a sledgehammer to it.

Bravo to the new proprietors, I say. I must go and give this place a try sometime, to see if their cuisine is as innovative as their remodelling of the space.

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