Chill Cafe & Bar

  • Nightlife
  • Pubs
Photo by Chen Chao
Andingmen Xi Dajie
Bar of the Month January 2013
The last person who told me to ‘chill’ prompted a stare of such intensity that I now require corrective lenses. As epithets go, it’s so ’90s it should be sat on a beanbag watching Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – unpleasant unless you enjoy that sort of thing. Thankfully, the same can’t be said of this slick converted siheyuan. Chill is something that little bit different, and in the land of identikit hutong bars (add one part vintage crap, two parts desiccated hipster and a dash of absinthe) ‘different’ equals ‘good’.

Inside, two stylish rooms flank either ends of a covered courtyard, set aglow by a roaring log fire on weekends. On one side lies the bar, all cheese plates, leather sofas, minimalism and lounge music; on the other, a cosy room of floor-chairs. It should be pretentious as hell, but actually it’s rather charming. Owner Remy Lardinois splits his time between Pyongyang and Beijing, and Chill is a sideline for him, but plans for live music and film screenings, as well as its North Korean booze connection, suggest promise.

After a few visits, however, we’ve yet to find Chill’s much-advertised Taedonggang, its rare North Korean imported beer. On past experience, even at 50RMB a pop, it’s worth a taste, so put your name on the waiting list. The more readily available ginseng and blueberry-flavoured North Korean liqueurs (25-35RMB), on the other hand, should only be drunk as a bet.

Thankfully, a massive Belgian-beer parade of Kwaks, Grimbergens, Achels (40-50RMB) et aland some rather powerful cocktails (all 45RMB) offer some variety. The only downside is the food menu’s one-ingredient war against lactose intolerance; its choice of a half-dozen ‘paninis’ (read: dry, toasted baguettes; 42-53RMB), all smothered in flavourless brie or mozzarella, is a grim one.

Food aside, this bar is a class act. Friday night’s ‘rock-paper-scissors’ deal (beat the waiter at said game and you’ll receive a second round on the house; lose and you pay) will bring in drinkers, but Chill deserves more. Whether it’ll find the regular clientele it warrants, we don’t know – it’s a little out of sight (thus out of mind) of the regular Gulou booze crawl. But it’s so good, we can even forgive its terrible name!
Venue name: Chill Cafe & Bar
Opening hours: 3pm-late daily
English address: 2, Andingmen Xi Dajie, Dongcheng district
Chinese address: 东城区安定门内大街2号院
  • 4 out of 5 stars