If you add a bar to a restaurant, is it still just a bar? This isn’t existential angst, you understand, it’s basic drinking mechanics. In a bar, everyone is complicit in the act of drinking; it’s a sort of mutual damnation. The last thing you need when downing your third ‘Insa Dong scandal’ is some loner stuffing down a bibimbap
and gazing up at you resentfully from behind his Kindle. It just kills the vibe. So which side of the fence does Bamboo Bar fall?
Well, at the very least, it’s not a Korean mini-mart. That was the former incarnation of this slick, soju
-soaked addition to the Ju’er Hutong branch of Saveurs de Corée. You can’t argue with the transformation either.
The white-washed walls, wood and grey-slate look always worked well in the restaurant; in a small bar, it looks even better. The positives are plenty: a dividing wall serves to hide drinker from diner, and as snacks go, its Korean-style ‘chicken wings’ (fried drumsticks in a sweet, sticky garlic sauce; 49RMB) is a delight.
The big pull, however, is the alcohol. Beers including South Korean imports Cass and Hite (both 29RMB) are backed up by some authentic Korean liquors, but it’s the dozen-strong list of soju-based cocktails that intrigues. The ‘Pear Garden’, a whisper-sweet blend of pear, pomegranate vinegar, chilli and soju, serves up a devilish kick, while the ‘yellow fever’ feels like an alcoholic banana milkshake. At 39RMB each, they’re cheap and well-made – albeit not very strong. But heavy booze isn’t Bamboo’s shtick. It’s never going to be the place to go – service is sluggish and it’ll struggle to shake off that pre-dinner vibe – but it’s no ‘restaurant bar’. Give it a chance and we think this one will grow on you.
By Gareth Clark