I used to try to keep a mental register of the Gulou Dong Dajie storefront turnover, but I gave up about a year ago. Besides Mao Livehouse, a handful of too-big-to-fail jiachangcai restaurants, and Pool Bar (how the hell has that dive managed to stay open all these years?!), pretty much the entire street has been a revolving door of cookie cutter cafes, knickknack distributors, tchotchke factories, "streetwear stores", stuff-on-a-stick vendors, and other fly-by-night operations trying (and most often, failing) to turn a quick profit on the fickle Nanluoguxiang overflow crowd. It's rare to see a newcomer actually put some effort into its appearance and overall aesthetic, which is why I've had my head turned more than once recently when passing Furnace, the newest newcomer ('til like, next week) to the Gulou Dong fray. Here's what it's all about:
So, Furnace is a fairly upscale-looking cocktail bar / lounge kind of thing, located just east of the north entrance of Nanluoguxiang, directly across from Mao Livehouse / that Cyovape store. (Cyovape is really becoming a thing, by the way. I always see hordes of baseball-capped youth in there when I pass by, just vaping the day away. Kids!)
The focus at Furnace is ostensibly on cocktails: the bar's fucking stacked. So many whiskeys. That said, though, the actual cocktail menu is pretty limited. Your 1+1 mixers are setting you back 35rmb a pop, and the slightly more involved ones (Moscow Mule, Manhattan, Coooosmo, Margies, Mojito, Old Fashioned, etc), are all between 40-45rmb. Pretty reasonable for the area. Doesn't really matter what you order, but you have to CHILL THE FUCK OUT and remain calm while drinking it:
When are we gonna retire the "Keep Calm and ______" thing? This "meme" is from the 1930s and it's British. These posters and the fact that all of the bar staff are wearing Supreme shirts are the most "nanluo" touches to Furnace, which otherwise maintains a rather cool, almost elegant aura, especially when juxtaposed against the griminess of its surrounds.
Anyway, back to the drinks. The only thing on the cocktail list that I hadn't heard of is the Jasmine (gin, lemon juice, Campari, Cointreau; 40rmb), so my drinking partner ordered up one of those:
Hmm. Yeah. Fruity. Floral? I am not a professional. Had a few sips, I think it was good. I don't go in for the sweet drinks really. So I said what I always say when I hit a new cocktail bar and SmartBeijing's buying: "Give me your most expensive beer."
Our Supreme Waitress straightaway recommended this one, a collabo between Catalonian beer brand Estrella Damm and Ferran Adrià, "the world's most award-winning chef." My companion, who actually knows stuff about food, told me that this dude is the grandfather of molecular gastronomy. And hey, he makes a nice beer. This bad boy was 70rmb for one of the big bottles; they also have Dos Equis Amber (40rmb), if you're more of a New World type. The drinks menu continues on to non-alcoholics, the aforementioned deep whiskey archives, and wines, which come from Chile, Australia, France, Italy, and New Zealand, running from 200-300rmb by the bottle. Not bad.
On to the food menu, which is even more all over the place. There are a few stock openers, pub grub bench hitters like chicken wings, thick-cut fries, calamari, et al, priced between 35-45rmb. We got the nachos, and hey, what can I say? They were nachos. I've had worse nachos in China. I've had better nachos in Texas. Recommended for people who like nachos.
The mains are pretty hearty fare, including an Australian rib-eye steak, a chicken roast, some pasta joint, a burger, and this one, the pan-seared salmon (98rmb). Was surprisingly good! It came with a few spears of asparagus and some kind of dried out potato chunks, and was drizzled with something I'm gonna call a balsamic reduction because I saw that on Food Network once. Anyway, yeah, it was really good. Filling portion to justify the price tag, a fine gustatorial backstop to all of the nachos and molecular gastronomical beer that came before.
Furnace has a sizable upstairs area as well, which on this evening was packed to the rafters with raging Chinese BROS. Seriously no clue what was going on here, but at some point a real drunk guy came down and gave us a piece of this cake, which was covered with smiley faces and contained at least five different food dyes. Also it was so big he couldn't even fit it on one plate. What do you even celebrate with a cake like this? Was this like a "I beat cancer, let's tempt fate" party? One of the even drunker bros at one point was standing on top of the bar, screaming at the top of his lungs, and about fifteen minutes later had to be carried out by four of his friends, who dutifully held him aloft, doubled over but aloft, until some woman in a white sedan drove by and picked him up. Then all of the other bros went back in, back to the second floor, and continued to rage. Furnace.
Furnace is located on Gulou Dong Dajie, east of the north entrance of Nanluoguxiang, directly across from Mao Livehouse and Cyovape. It's open from 6pm til 1am or so.