Beijing’s glamorous trio of bars
Hotel bars in Beijing are in the thrall of revival. Where once they were shoehorned into a corner of the building only because a hotel should have a bar, lately they are moving front and center as the city’s nightlife evolves. Rosewood Beijing has taken this a step further, devoting almost the entire fifth floor to Mei, and tacking on its own private outdoor elevator.
With all that space to play with, Mei has three distinct areas for wining (and a bit of dining) — a large cocktail bar with table service, a more suave and subdued whiskey bar, and a small wine bar. Each space flows into the other gracefully, with cozy cigar-lounge-style corners beside open fireplaces blending into hip New York-loft-like areas for drinking and dancing.
The dancing comes courtesy of a resident band (Toronto’s Freddie James Project), pumping out high-tempo soul and R&B nightly (except Mondays) with DJs filling the sonic gaps in between.
Signature cocktails are the specialty of the main bar, with a leaning toward classic styles updated with innovative mixology and a few clever twists and shakes. A bold starting point is the Mango Hemingway Daiquiri, mixing Clément white rum with cherry liqueur, lemon, passion fruit, vanilla syrup and a finish of mango puree foam. Less showy but effortlessly elegant is Mei’s Sloe Gin & Tonic, bursting with tart fruit flavors courtesy of the Hayman’s Sloe Gin, a family distiller about 40 miles outside of London.
But scenester Beijingers are just as likely to order their drinks by the bottle, and Mei is happy to oblige, with regular offers on the house bubbly, Veuve Clicquot (coming in magnum size as standard, naturally), or more rare and valuable vintages such as Dom Perignon P3 1971, probably the only place you’ll find it in China.
The whiskey bar area boasts a worthy roll call of single malts, blends and bourbons, helpfully delineated in the menu by geography (right down to islands or highlands) and best enjoyed on the clubby leather armchairs, or for the ultimate tailored suit executive vibe, overlooking the iconic CCTV Tower opposite the hotel.
The amusingly titled “Big Bubbles and Bites” menu is as just as it sounds, combining magnums (or bigger) of top-notch champagne with small plates. It’s all very showy and fabulous, and the food is good: simple dishes of cheese and charcuterie, sliders, fried chicken and more eclectic offerings with nods to local taste such as duck nuggets or char siu (Hong Kong-style barbecued pork) tortillas.
Interior design at the Beijing bar is the work of Melbourne-based Bar Studio, responsible for the much-acclaimed Park Hyatt Sydney. A contemporary update on the Executive Lounge, it combines wooden floors and fireplaces with tall ceilings, underlit nooks and corners, and enormous sofas, threaded with a sense of playful luxury.
A large outdoor terrace is available for smokers and those wanting to soak up the city vistas; though the elevation is a little low, the views of the CCTV Tower are second to none.