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Shunyi may have the biggest homes and the best schools, but one thing the area has never been famous for is quality dining options.

Enter Charcoal, the craft brew taproom and barbecue joint that cool dads and young parents have been waiting for. It’s not every day you hear about a new concept out in the sticks, so we packed an overnight bag and headed out to the country to see for ourselves.

Situated above a BMW motorcycle dealership and crowned with a golden marquee, the space itself is lofty and decked out in dark stained hardwood, blackened steel and exposed brick. We’ve seen this before, at every taproom, ever, but an abundance of natural light and regalia from local brewers Arrow Factory Brewing help Charcoal carve out its own identity.

The long bar and high tables that greet you at the entrance spill out over a huge terrace, sure to be a promising summer haunt for locals. Set in the centre of the dining room, huge tanks and snaking pipes make Charcoal’s intentions clear. Ever eager to get down to business, we order a round of pints and set to it.

The menu focuses on American barbecue, supplemented by a host of traditional pub grub. We start with a plate of their brisket nachos (68RMB) and an order of corn dogs (45RMB). The small mountain of chopped brisket, shredded lettuce and cheese goes down well with the light corn chips, but we would have appreciated more effective layering of the toppings. The tender beef and stringy cheese quickly vanished leaving only a sad pile of bare chips. The corn dogs are equally mammoth, but fresh from the fryer, with a golden crunch that yields to soft cornmeal and juicy hot dog – truly juvenile and delicious.

Next we tuck into the pulled pork sandwich (58RMB). Joined on the plate by sliced pickles, coleslaw and thick-cut sweet potato fries, this is the real highlight of our meal. The pork is well cooked and left dry to allow you to do your own saucing. The fries, however, are far too sweet; the addition of what can only be the house dry rub is too much. The coleslaw is also too watery for our tastes, more like cooked sauerkraut than a crunchy mix of raw cabbage. The signature steak (178RMB for 250g) fairs only slightly better, but the rib-eye is tragically overcooked for medium rare – a waste of good beef.

The overall atmosphere is warm, with the refined boisterousness of a rich man’s basement hangout. With well-priced Arrow Factory brews (25-45RMB), it’s easy to see things getting a bit rowdy. There is no question Charcoal is a worthy addition to the Shunyi dining scene, but with the growing number of craft brew and barbecue joints in town, we don’t see city dwellers making the trip any time soon.

Venue name: Charcoal
Opening hours: Open 5-11.30pm daily
English address: Qingyuan Sanjie Xikou (above the BMW dealership), Houshayu, Shunyi district
Chinese address: 顺义区后沙峪罄园三街西口
  • 4 out of 5 stars