The upper reaches of Taikoo Li North have never been particularly kind to restaurants. For whatever reason, the swanky address has proved a difficult environment for garnering following or foot traffic, but the newly opened Cinker Pictures, with its arthouse film screenings and modern dining room and bar, is taking a different approach – and looks poised to defy the trend that precious few seem capable of rebuffing.
The new digs are plush to say the least, with a façade kitted out with enough polished brass accents and mahogany veneer to belie its youth and origins. Cinker Pictures aspires to transport guests to the land of the mid-century cinema: a time when men were men and women were women and, uh, we all went to the movies in Stetsons and suits.
Glancing past the irony of pining for a time when surely none of the films screening behind Cinker’s velvet ropes could have been made, much less tolerated on the silver screen, the affect of the impressive attention to detail and devotion to aesthetic is undeniable. This fancy cinema-cum-eatery has us charmed.
The mid-century theme stops at the entrance, where beyond awaits a tastefully indulgent amount of overstuffed armchairs, Instagram-friendly lighting and a modern drinks programme with plenty of cheeky nods
to the tipples favoured by Hollywood.
The concept is divided into two distinct hemispheres – restaurant and cinema – that don’t necessarily overlap, but for the full effect certainly should. Like the diehard cinema buff who arrives early for the trailers, we planned for an extra half hour to 'preview' a few drinks at the sleek bar past the ticket kiosk. The signature cocktails, all tried and true classics and all with ties to significant flicks, feature lead actors of the small-batch and craft spirit world – top-shelf Cocchi Americano, Four Pillars Gin and Pierre Ferrand vintage curacao all make appearances in the likes of Vesper martinis and French 75s.
The drinks clock in a tick above average on their own but go down extra smooth when delivered to your side table just as the opening credits begin to roll. The screening experience is enough to warrant a return visit; there is something oddly indulgent about watching a movie you have already seen from the indecent luxury of a leather armchair, nibbling on an assortment of olives marinated in chilli and anchovies, stuffed salmon rillettes and some spicy peanut-laden popcorn.
After the credits roll it’s time for a bite – and the menu in the understated dining room doesn’t disappoint. A full raw bar boasts some well-priced bivalves by the half-dozen (258RMB), with over-the-top platters combining
Boston lobster, oysters and prawns (388RMB) to soothe the salt-crazy after a particularly rousing oceanic film we imagine.
The rest of the menu is made up of bar snacks, small plates and larger dishes to share. A cute 'DIY' steak tartare from the small plates makes for a nice photo, but the presentation makes it difficult to season the beef adequately with the accompanying sides; tartare lovers will not appreciate the novelty. The grilled 'romaine' with anchovy and Parmesan goes down a treat – the crunchy leaves yielding only slightly to the char from the grill and blending well with the pungent salty dressing.
The grilled veal short rib and suckling pig are the hits from the plates to share. In contrast with the grilled rib eye with artichoke (238RMB), which is meagre and lean, the luscious short rib delivers on its beefy promises. Although the pig has a distinct smack of barnyard tang, the crispy skin and pistachio vinaigrette are enough to overwhelm the mature taste of the 'suckling'. Paired with sides of browned butter-mashed potatoes and grilled corn with goat’s cheese, it’s a high-flying American barbecue fête. From the sweets, a chocolate cake with caramel ice cream and peanuts is enough to render one useless on date night – but a decadent finale to be sure.
Cinker Pictures delivers something that is truly a first in Beijing and does it with style. Films worth watching, tipples worth tipping and some quality dining to round out this impressive trilogy of a venue.
By Nick Gollner