It started unpromising. Despite the strategically lit metal pipe signage and bright, rainbow LED blackboard price list outside, the black velour shades were drawn. Peeking inside, I noticed laoban was sleeping on the couch. I rapped on the window, he eventually noticed, sprung up, rubbed his eyes, unlocked the door, and semi-enthusiastically set to work.
“Yes, we're open.”
Let's not go into what steampunk is, because that's what Wikipedia is for. Google image search floods your screen with pudgy, goatee-d men in Lincoln top hats, sultry ladies in clock gear corsets and impractical looking eye-wear. From the interior, I gather the owner was inspired by the visuals of steampunk without being forced into a corner. Think playful uses of industrial materials that are quite creative in a “Gulou kawaii” hutong style. It neatly fits what it's designed for, like some esty hundred dollar iPhone 6 case with fake wood grain and multiple superfluous design elements.
The space is great despite it's shoebox size. Extremely cozy but not claustrophobic. Probably fits a baker's dozen. Great place to bring a small group because you'll completely own the place.
I dig the lighting and décor. Up front and center, flanking the bar, is this wonderful Calder circus inspired kinetic art display that is worth checking out. Comprised of a Ferris wheel, a steel angel-like figure and other moving parts, it's pretty lovingly constructed. It's a WeChat Sight waiting to be sent.
The usual cavalcade of Belgium and other euro-centric brews make up the bottled beer list. Nothing on tap. Prices start at 15rmb for Stella and Hoegaarden. I had a few Delirium Tremens (25rmb). Prices are astoundingly cheap. Not sure if this is a tactic to draw in first-time customers, but beer is similarly priced at many supermarkets. Maybe selling beer at cost is their business strategy? The cocktail menu is uninspired, but seems fine.
Very low prices on straight liquors, so if pounding back 25rmb shots of Grey Goose vodka is your thing, voilà! I longed for bar peanuts, which would have soaked up the alcohol nicely.
So yes, make it over some night if you're in the neighborhood. It could use ironing out, but whatever. In a district littered with unexceptional, vanity hutong bars, this one has a few ounces of effort. Let's promise to patronize neighborhood bars with character. And Steampunk is all character.
Steampunk is right off on Jiaodoukou nan on Xiang'er Hutong. Walking down Xiang'er Hutong from Jiaodoukou, it's on your right, just before Keanu Reeve's favorite Korean restaurant.