Situated in one of the most picturesque spots in the city, Haven was supposed to answer the long unanswered prayer for a good bar overlooking Houhai. The area has long been the domain of the worst sort of overpriced, neon-clad monstrosities.
Haven is a patchwork of a bar-cum-café, serving contemporary cocktails alongside pizzas and assorted bar bites. The space is divided in two. A first-floor balcony extends from the main bar area and there’s a rooftop terrace that can only be entered through an external entrance two shops down. This floor plan is Haven’s main problem. It’s a good thing it has one of the most spectacular views of Houhai – you’ll have plenty of time to take it in. That sunset is worth the long wait times and chaotic service, but it’s much less tolerable afterhours when you’re just waiting for a drink on what might as well be any other rooftop.
The drinks themselves need work – the Mai Tai (60RMB) is cloyingly sweet and the Coffee and Cigarettes (50RMB) may have taken the name a bit too literally. We recommend draught beer (30RMB) and wine (40-60RMB) at Haven to avoid the spiral staircase bottleneck – it makes for a much faster turnaround. The same goes for the food, which is a shame as the pizzas (60- 90RMB) and snacks are really quite good, but hardly worth the wait. An upstairs bar and limited menu would do much to change these problems. In the end, we’re still going back to Haven to grab as many warm sunsets as we can, just don’t expect us to linger very long after.