Beijing Bar Review: B.B. Queen

By Flynn Murphy, June 14, 2019

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New Wangjing jazz bar B.B. Queen is a study in how lighting can make or break a mood. 

They've got plenty of old jazz LPs — crucified records and covers of the likes of Chaka Khan, James Brown, Ray Charles and more are scattered around the livehouse, noble sacrifices in pursuit of a feature wall. There are black-and-white posters of jazz legends and even a Game of Thrones-esque shrine to the eponymous Mississippi bluesman B.B. King behind the bar, where the swords are swapped for the necks of six mutilated guitars. 

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But on the Thursday night we attend, overly bright downlights create the sense it's perpetually closing time. Rinky-dink colored mover lights don’t improve the mood, and while one of the large plasma TVs plays a loop of old B.B. King concerts (it sits under a large framed poster of Mao Zedong), the other is tuned to CCTV-5 – the sports channel – screening reruns of Olympic luge. 

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The result is more Planet Hollywood than Hollywood Bowl, sitting somewhere between jazz club and sports bar and doing neither justice. The food is solid though. We start with a serving of B-52 chicken (RMB65) — a plate of crispy fried chicken which the waiter pours a shot of Bacardi 151 on and sets aflame. It's unclear whether this dish is named after the 70s new wave band or the feared long-range US bomber plane, but the plate of charcoal-black tenders are surprisingly tender inside and very tasty. 

The beef fajitas deserve a mention as well. The beef, peppers and onions come in a skillet with warm fajitas and all the traditional condiments, including an excellent chunky pepper paste. The menu includes seafood, Australian steak and New Zealand lamb chops, share plates, pasta — the typical sports bar fare. The drinks menu covers all bases too (Asahi draft and Scotch). 

The night we go, an energetic live band covers a grab-bag of artists from Justin Bieber and Tracy Chapman to Wanting Qu. They seem wasted on a crowd that peaks at seven people. But summer is nearing, and the adjacent beer garden is a well-used space peppered with sweating patrons drinking beer from mini-kegs. 

In its current incarnation, B.B. Queen lacks soul, though with a few tweaks, it could really cook. And still, it's reliable place to take a group of friends for dinner and a show.

[Images via Flynn Murphy/That's]


See a listing for B.B. Queen and read more Beijing Bar Reviews

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