Initially we really didn't like The Bar. First impressions: the bare, cream walls and dark wood motif are as nondescript and pretentious as the name. Sure, it offers sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of nearby Bar Street, but so do 99°C Ninety-Nine Degrees
and By the Tree
, which are located one floor above and one below The Bar, respectively.
Beers are chosen – from a decent selection of the usual imports – and supped as we try to eke out a few positives. Mostly, we decide, this place is comfortable enough and the staff friendly enough to make a nice local. Premiership football’s on the TV, free peanuts come with drinks, a decent rock ’n’ roll soundtrack is being played at a conversation-friendly level, the bar has a large lip for you to properly tuck your feet under... While this is an important part of a good local, we were undoubtedly clutching at straws.
That was until we ordered a cocktail. The bourbon peach smash (45RMB; most cocktails 40-55RMB) – mint leaves, bourbon, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon and peach juice – is a head-turning blend that sticks out as the best cocktail we've had in a while: strong in alcohol content yet with deftly balanced flavours. It's the drinks behind the bar – and the way they’re mixed – that distinguish this place as a destination in its own right.
A comprehensive selection of 30 rums and 35 whiskies is lined up on shelves. The mixologist – formerly of 2F
– has put together a solid menu of old staples and fun variations thereon: the ‘John Collins’, with bourbon instead of gin, is a particular favourite. All of a sudden, the pleasant-enough-yet-dull surroundings don’t matter as the drinks take centre stage.
If Bar Street had more places like The Bar and fewer tacky dives like the odious Pure Girl Bar
, Sanlitun would be the better for it.