The only thing we can really fault about Scandal is its name. Rather than sounding enticing or illicit, the word more brings to mind a seedy joint frequented by a hostel bar crawl where you pay through the nose for a watered down shot of ‘absinthe’ that somehow makes you both not drunk and very sick.
Stepping past the black velvet curtain bedecked by a neon pink ‘Scandal’ sign, however, it becomes immediately apparent that you have never been a greasy, sweaty, broke teenager, and in fact have existed in effortlessly graceful linen tailoring since the dawn of time. Any memories counter to that fact can be ascribed to hazy, youthful chemical experiments that were conducted from right here in this oasis of sophistication.
The vibe at Scandal is Miami Vice meets ritzy Riviera, with a dash of prohibition glamour for good measure. Double height ceilings are interrupted only by languid palm trees that reach up from their potted spots around the monochrome marble floor. A central bar is overlooked by a mezzanine level, behind which quirky silent films are projected onto the blank wall. Thatched wicker chairs call to mind relaxed European bistros.
Charming interiors aside, the drinks here are also excellent. Each is named simply for its dominant flavour; all are 90RMB, which is a little steep, but borne out by the quality of drinks and service on offer. We start with the Almond, which somehow successfully melds Chinese orgeat, chocolate bitters, lime juice and a Kalamata olive. It sounds bizarre but it works in a subtle, complex, balanced way. We also rate the Osmanthus, which makes a pleasantly simple contrast, and the Rosemary, which boasts no less than seven competing components ranging from mustard to almond, but all are in perfect harmony.
Scandal is hardly your casual local joint, but for cocktails that feel special and are actually worth the price tag, it’s the new one to beat in Sanlitun.
By Amy Hawkins