Mimi e Coco (CLOSED)

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64 Fangjia Hutong

This venue has closed.

Paca Lee has already proved that style and comfort in the hutongs can be fun and cheap with her Fangjia Hutong pizza bar Ramo. Now the backstreet restaurateur is trying her hand at an original bar concept. Ever-thirsty Nick Gollner investigates.

With the arrival of a handful of swanky new cocktail bars, one of Beijing’s best cheap burger bars, new sandwich shops and fancy Italian fried food served in bags, 2016 has been the year of Fangjia Hutong. The maligned dingy bottle shops and abandoned construction sites are a thing of the past; in their place we find a hutong with personality and a community invested in developing it further. Mimi e Coco, a techno-coloured, Italian-inspired bar slinging original-recipe bottled cocktails and simple, satisfying grub sums up the strides made in the area and the trajectory of the neighbourhood.

Developed by a team captained by chef and owner Paca Lee of Ramo, the entrance to the new bar is hidden along a small alley just behind the pizzeria. A heavy steel door leads to a Kubrick-ian vestibule decked out in glazed white tiles, high-polished chrome and sea-foam green; the contrast between inside and out is shocking, and primes you for the unique experience of the bar itself.

Vaulted ceilings, tropically floral motifs and soothing shades of green give the space a vaguely aquatic vibe, and as we sink into sleek Italian moulded plastic chairs a shift in time and space is palpable. The hutong outside is a world away – we are somewhere in a disjointed future, and it’s time to make a drink order.

The hooch comes in bottles, but not in the same way as a bottle of Chivas in a Gongti club does. No, these bottled cocktails are mixed up daily and bottled in-house. They include handmade cordials, syrups, juices and shrubs (a vinegar-based fruit maceration that imparts a strong tang atop a fruity base).

A sip of an Arancia Rossa (55RMB) reveals a pleasantly sweet and subtly herbal flavour, with the citrus and sour pineapple shrub balancing the bitter splash of Campari. It’s easily our favourite. With a few other tipples, like The Stranger (60RMB), strong flavours – in this case anise, thanks to a hefty portion of Jagermeister – make it too much to merit a second round. (Although with 5 percent of The Stranger’s sales going to the Beijing LGBT Centre, it’s worth a taste).

Novel as the drinks may be, the prices are a bit hard to swallow considering the quality tipples available at other bars in the area such as The Tiki Bungalow and Fang. A selection of craft beers from Scottish Brewdog and Italian Baladin, as well as a selection of house wines (from 38RMB per glass), give an out for those who will find the cocktails too sweet – or too experimental. Eats are simple and take advantage of some of Ramo’s strengths. A Mediterranean dip platter (35RMB) comes with twists of freshly baked pizza dough, while the flatbread sandwiches sport grilled beef patties or German sausages and crunchy fries (from 40RMB). It’s booze-cutting chow to be sure, if a bit crass for such a well-designed and beautiful space. Although not without its shortcomings, Mimi e Coco continues the impressive strides food and drink has made in the area. It’s a worthy addition to the hutong and well worth a look.

Venue name: Mimi e Coco (CLOSED)
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 6pm-1am; Fri-Sat 6pm-late; Sun 3pm-10pm
English address: Behind Ramo Pizza, 64 Fangjia Hutong, Dongcheng district
Chinese address: 东城区方家胡同64号