There is no denying that Beijing’s drink scene is dominated by cocktail bars and craft beer halls, but the arrival of Fu, a wine and small plates bar just off Nanluoguxiang, marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a new era in the history of the city’s relationship with wine.
A project from some experienced Beijing hospitality professionals, the three-level Ju’er Hutong digs are a striking design statement. Slate and flagstone tones prevail, with brushed copper and burnt umber accents offering glimmers of warmth throughout the space. Adjacent to the understated entrance, the ground floor houses the small bar and a handful of tables.
The second floor hosts more tables for seated sipping or full-on dining, with a high counter facing the window overlooking the street below, ideal for a solo glass of vino. The top floor sports black-leather lounge chairs and a larger table, suitable for a group of ten of more and available for private bookings. Imagine a Scandinavian architect’s Beijing living room and you wouldn’t be far off – minimalism and understated design accents prevail.
The wine programme at Fu features only biodynamic and organic wines, paying homage to the concept of sustainable viniculture without heavy-handedly favouring one region over another. Biodynamics is a subject of some debate, but the long and short of it is that all biodynamic wines are at least organic, which means no chemicals used in its production. With six wines by the glass – three white (from 45RMB) and three red (from 65RMB) – Fu is far from a tasting bar, but they do address one of the greatest failings of Beijing wine bars: a lack of guidance. By limiting the selection to less than 40 labels (bottles from 135RMB) and including concise, useful descriptions of the wines, Fu is a godsend for non-oenophiles. If you know what flavours you like, you’ll be able to pick a wine you will enjoy drinking.
The food comes by way of tapas, which in this case means loosely Mediterranean-inspired small plates of three-or-four bites that occasionally give way to more substantial dishes, on suspiciously entrée-looking plates. On a recent visit, we paired a bottle of excellent Benziger California chardonnay with a plate of fried scallops with truf e and yuzu sauce. The tender scallops are perfectly moist in their cocoon of fried pasta, but lacking enough sea freshness to stand up to the fragrant truffle and zippy Japanese citrus, not to mention the impeccably smooth Californian juice.
Oddly, a small plate of beef carpaccio on parmesan crisp pairs better, with the rich avour of the beef and sharp Dijon mustard complemented by the subtle acidity of the white wine and deeply nutty, crunchy Italian cheese. An indulgent platter of well-sliced Spanish Iberico ham and manchego is an easy win, while dishes of Kalamata olives and grilled artichoke are a lighter, but wholly satisfying, accompaniment to a few glasses of New Zealand pinot noir (130RMB a glass). For a bottle of The Hedonist cabernet sauvignon (400RMB), a bowl of blue cheese and chorizo gnocchi and a plate of seared grain-fed beef tenderloin is up to the task. The funky cheese sauce and tender potato pasta are cut with the sturdy, full-bodied red, while the lean cut of beef is propped up by a pool of béarnaise.
The atmosphere at Fu is sophisticated and mature without being needlessly rigid, and recommendations are readily given, all of which makes the a trip to Fu more relaxed and enjoyable than a typical stuffy wine bar experience. With style to spare and a strong concept, Fu is a worthy addition to Gulou’s maturing bar scene, and a new marker for Beijing’s expanding legion of wine bars.
By Nick Gollner