Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Reef reborn!

I had been rather alarmed to notice around Christmas time that long-time Nanluoguxiang favourite Reef had abruptly closed and was being completely gutted by builders.

After a couple of weeks, as a new interior began to take shape, I began to recover my hopes that the place was still going to be a bar - instead of a naff boutique, like almost everything else on that strip these days - and, indeed, was perhaps still going to be our beloved Reef.

The place reopened at the start of the Chunjie holiday, and The Choirboy and I embarked on a first joint reconnaissance last week. Thank heavens - it is still Reef! Having exhausted the possibilities of expansion into neighbouring properties, Chen had the bright idea of digging up his floor to create a semi-basement; with the addition of a new mezzanine balcony, this means that he has very nearly doubled his effective seating space within the confines of his original bar. 

I'd been a little sceptical as to how this would turn out, but I have to say the renovation has been done, for the most part, very tastefully. The extravagant chandeliers above the narrow stairway down into the sunken area I could do without; but otherwise the effect is quite classy - dark wood, subdued lighting, decent quality furnishings. The bar itself is a little bigger as well, allowing for the installation of some draught beer taps. It's going to take him a little while to master how to work them, but it is good to have some Stella available in the neighbourhood again - albeit at the somewhat prohibitive price of 40rmb. (We'll have to see how long that lasts. Alba and the Bell & Drum in my locale both tried it for a short while, but gave up again. Over in Sanlitun, Luga's Villa and Fubar gave up on it [although Luga seems to have gone back to it, after a while]. I gather the Stella boys are particularly unreliable in their deliveries.)

The prices remain as keen as ever. And the photographs of the 'Yacht Club', my group of friends who were Chen's hardcore laowai fans in his very early days, have been retained in the rear of the lower section. However, I haven't noticed anything having been done to improve ventilation in there, which, given that the clientele has become almost exclusively Chinese in the last few years (and hence very heavy smoking), is likely to be an even greater problem after this expansion. And the music selection, alas, just keeps getting worse and worse: I suppose it's what the young people like - 'dance music' and rap, at eardrum-popping volumes - but it renders the place insufferable for me. Despite these failings, it remains one of only three bars on NLGX that are worthy of attention - the others, of course, being Salud and 12 Square Metres

And I hope we oldtimers will still be able to enjoy a quiet late afternoon or early evening rendezvous once in a while, before it gets too raucous in there.

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