Not sure what to say about Houhai. I guess there's lots of bars there that are… real awesome?
I don't have a lot of experience with Houhai. I always thought of Houhai as the night time afterparty of Nanluoguxiang. Like right after you've had a full day of bonkers snacks and novelty lighters on Nanluoguxiang, you move a couple blocks up to Houhai for drinks and to maybe touch the bottom of someone's tit while a brutal cover band plays Bon Jovi "It's My Life" out over the lake, into oblivion.
Is that what Houhai is? I don't know, honestly, that's my guess. I've only been like three or four times. Every time, it's like the lake is kinda nice and then within 10 minutes you get cornered by some transient German-types who force you to meet them, talk about rock climbing, and do shots. And the next thing, it's like 3am and you're waiting for some guy to finish barfing in the lake so you can exchange WeChats. Because if you're ever in Stuttgart you have to see his band.
Houhai: It's probably the 9th or 11th worst place in the world. Something like that.
So, yeah. That's a pretty big and daft segue into talking about this new cocktail bar called Haven that just opened up in Houhai. It's a cocktail bar.
It's… a really quite a decent cocktail bar.
Haven's opened up right next to Beijing's only classic jazz club, East Shore Jazz. (Skiddle-dee-dap-doop-dap! Jazz!) The main section is two rooms, a modest patio overlooking the lake, and lounge seating throughout. It's sort of sparse, minimal, modern, chic... which is another way of saying they just opened last week and are still settling in. It's got a nice look and it's warm, but it still feels a bit like settling in to a new apartment.
So Haven is a bit of a change of pace for Houhai. It's shattering the mold for Houhai bars in that it doesn't instantly make you want to kill yourself when you walk into it. Game changer. Total game changer. The order of the day is cocktails and pizza. That's what they do. Cocktails and pizza. It sort of feels like a straight-up cocktail bar, but they're talking big game about this pizza, as well as are working towards dining events and community events and such.
Listen, I'll just give it to you the bottom line right now so you don't have to continue reading my blah-blah-blah if you don't want to: The drinks are excellent. Really very excellent, especially against the larger backdrop what's being shaken up in Houhai. They've got a pretty talented bartender working the bottles. Cocktails are like playful variations on standards and lots of seasonal ingredients. Lots of experimenting and such. Tilts towards the tiki very slightly, but mostly it's pretty straightforward.
Prices: Every week, they've got three house cocktails on special, which are only 30rmb. The rest of the list is 50rmb.
But yeah, they're only charging 30rmb for proper drinks, rotating those every week.
This is a very, very good deal and should be enough to get you out to Houhai to take advantage.
This is the other reason:
They've also got a really fantastic rooftop space overlooking the lake.
It's really pretty wonderful! As it turns out, Houhai is actually really quite picturesque and charming at night time when you're watching it from a safe height and sipping on a good drink. It's beautiful. Mental note: this would be a great place to take out-of-town guests... 30rmb house specials on cocktails and a great view.
Anyway, more about the booze.
They have a lot of whiskey. Like a lot. This is the wall of it.
And they've got a real great bitters game.
Fuck, I don't remember. It was like passion fruit, coconut, and something. Sweet and frothy.
Damn, thought we had more drinks than this. Think I forgot to take pictures. BLAH.
Anyway. The Old Fashioned was my fav. The drinks were really excellent. Looking forward to seeing their cocktail menu come together. Thumbs up.
The Take-Away: Yes. Like it. Houhai definitely needs this. It's a great way to enjoy the lake at night. And Gulou needs this as well. Just because it's always nice having more adult options out there in this neighborhood if you feel like pretending that you're trying to grow up.
Haven is at 1/F, 2 Qianhai Nanyan. They're open every day besides Tuesday, from 6pm till whenever people are there.