Rooftops and riches can often be a soulless affair, but Sanlitun’s slickest gastro-lounge manages to pull off both with flair.
Unico sits atop the Topwin Centre
, and although it’s only on the fifth floor, the south-facing CBD
views are still pretty lit, especially at night. Floor to ceiling windows make the most of the urban vista, but what’s especially smashing about this joint is that the views within the bar are stylish to a T. This bar is a bar of scale: double height ceilings, pearlescent oversized bulbs and lashings of bronze and marble could so easily be garish, but with so much space to play with it manages to teeter on the right side of tasteful.
The same goes for the menu, which is probably needlessly expansive and has no real theme other than 'luxe', but it’s luxe done well. There are more types of oyster than we knew existed on offer, available by the platter or individually – welcome to casual bar dining with the rooftop revellers. We try a Fanny Bay (39RMB), which is yes, an oyster, and a Blue Pearl (49RMB), which is also an oyster, which certainly tastes more succulent than oyster number one, but we’re not sure it’s as 'hazelnutty' as the menu describes. We could happily while the night away on oysters and cocktails, but duty calls and so we delved into the other offerings. A chorizo pizza (99RMB) is surprisingly good value and quality for such a glitzy barside offering – smoky, spicy sausage is nestled in thick cheese atop a brittle yet chewy base, with a tart rocket salad that helps to cut through the heaviness. We also liked the subtle truffle mashed potato (49RMB) and the smoked salmon salad (129RMB), which aside from its needlessly rich dressing was pleasingly heavy on the salmon and avocado, rather than being padded out with cheap leaves as so many salads often are. Our food selection perhaps sounds rather random, but truthfully there’s no other option here; 'eclectic' seems to be Unico’s modus operandi, and it executes it well.
The same can be said for the drinks: there are more cocktails and wines than you can shake an oyster at, with no clear focus on any one spirit, style or sentiment, but the beverages we tried were none the worse for it. The Wu Zetian (88RMB) – aka your favourite Zhou dynasty empress dowager back in the year 655 – is a fruity and fresh lychee affair. We also tried the fittingly titled Asian State (88RMB) (maybe the theme is in fact geopolitics), which is a smooth and refreshing sochu number, with a nutty aroma provided by a dash of Frangelico. The cocktail is served in a delightfully silly beaker and thimble set up, on a plate of ice that unsurprisingly turns to sludge before the drink is over. In fact, with all the oysters et al that feature, the whole meal is a bit of a melting experience, although clientele-wise there’s not a melt in sight.
Truth be told we were steeled to like Unico less than we did. But rather than being yet another thoughtless playground for the well-heeled and wealthy, the gastro-lounge is a high quality, high end offering. The prices aren’t outrageous, and the service, views and food and drink will make it worth your while.
By Amy Hawkins