There are people who love drinking in hotels, and those who just don't see the appeal. Yours truly falls into the latter category. See, at hotel bars, the pressure's off to be cool. The patrons here don't give a shit about whether it's hip or not, they're transient beings and looking to forget about their 'China day' with an expensed Macallan 12 straight up. A sparsely populated hotel bar has an enigmatic, Lost in Translation cool, but by contrast, an empty cocktail bar just seems passé.
Hu Bar and Lounge at the top of Le Royal Meridien Hotel is going for a triple threat, with old Shanghai glamor in the jazz lounge, a private 'atelier' on another floor, and a futuristic nightclub on the top floor. Quite whether they'll be able to pull in a large enough crowd to constitute an actual nightclub remains to be seen, and ironically, it's the lounge that is possessed of the most vibrant atmosphere.
With interiors reminiscent of a Ralph Lauren store, comfy armchairs and couches fill Hu Bar's expanses. There are also pretty spectacular views of the city (you are on the 65th floor, after all), but sit near the jazz band set up if you want to appreciate the live performances that kick off from Wednesday to Sunday from 9.30pm-12.30am
No good hotel bar is without decent whisky, and Hu Bar stocks a selection that is moderately entertaining. More thought has gone into the cocktail menu, which in addition to the classics contains more than a few ambitious numbers. Sit at the bar if you want free entertainment watching the mixologists construct them.
Definitely not free is the RMB100 Smoked Cherry Manhattan, served in an elaborate glass skull hall full of bourbon, cherry brandy and Martini Rosso, and half full of smoked cherry wood. It's surprisingly smooth sipping for a bourbon cocktail, and the smoke is an undeniably complementary flavor.
Reinventing something like the Negroni is always a risky endeavor, and while we cringed at the arrogant name of Hu Bar's reinvention of this classic (THE Negroni, RMB120), the result, with crushed ice, fresh blueberries, oranges, raspberries and assorted fruit liquors, gin and Campari, is exceptionally drinkable and apt for summer.
Less elaborate is the Sichuan Lantern (RMB100), which quite frankly ought to contain a little more Chivas 12 (blended Scotch whisky) for the price. We also didn't catch any Sichuan pepper notes, but the apple and cinnamon is a nice combination.
Ultimately Hu Bar is a high quality addition to Shanghai’s hotel bars. We’ll come here with out of town guests for live jazz, good cocktails and beautiful views.
Price: drinks from RMB100 (plus 15 percent service)
Who’s going: hotel guests, moneyed expats and locals
Good for: cocktails, views, live jazz, business and formal occasions
See a listing for Hu Bar and Lounge
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