The Nali Patio Pioneers on Setting the Trends in Beijing's Food Scene

By Edoardo Donati Fogliazza, December 17, 2018

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Beijing’s food and drink world has been through so much turmoil lately, if feels like nothing is the same anymore. But one place has kept thriving through it all. Throughout this past year, Sanlitun’s food mecca Nali Patio proved to be an incubator of new exciting concepts, while still hosting some of the oldest players in the tricky boardgame that is Beijing’s foreign dining universe. For our Year in Review issue, we spoke with some of the city’s food and drink industry gamechangers that started, or are starting, their journey here, hoping to understand how the city – and its food – are changing.

The Veterans

The Mosto/Moka Bros team

Who they are:
Eva Biorck, Anna Lin, Alex Molina, Alvaro Rincón, Daniel Urdaneta

What they brought you:
Mosto, Moka Bros, La Social

True veterans of Beijing's F&B industry, the Mosto team is celebrating ten years of business in the capital. With their brands, they taught Beijingers that healthy food can be both cool and delicious. Meanwhile, their latest endeavor, La Social, emerged as one of the hottest new LGBTQ spots.

On the city's transformation:
Alex: The turning point for foreign food in Beijing was the Olympics. Before, restaurateurs were amateurs with money to invest, but from that moment on people who had more experience in the business started taking over. The food and the service all got better, and that was also when Chinese clients started getting more discerning. 

Anna: Everything in Beijing has moved into malls... But malls are boring. You don't want to get drunk in a mall. Nali Patio has always been something different. Where else in Beijing can you find a Spanish-inspired portico? It's special.

La-Social.jpgLa Social, courtesy of Mosto

On the 'la social' side of Nali Patio:
Alvaro: The idea for La Social came to Alex and I during an alcohol-infused night at Migas... We wanted to bring arepas to Beijing but we never imagined it would become the crazy nightlife spot it is now. The LGBTQ community grew bigger, and louder, this year. It moves from one place to another, and we wanted to give them a new safe and welcoming hangout, so we came up with The Closet, where we decorated La Social with hangers to celebrate diversity. We want to make it the new go-to LGBTQ event in Beijing. 

Image via Mosto

[The Mosto/Moka Bros team wants you to know they don’t endorse heavy drinking.]

The Veterans

Who they are:
Daniele and Paolo Salvo (Paolo is only involved in Bottega), Nana Shinohara, David Connolly

What they brought you:
Bottega, El Barrio

The Salvo brothers, offspring of a family of pizza makers from Naples, are the minds behind renowned Italian joint Bottega. In September, Daniele together with Nana and David opened the new Mexican restaurant El Barrio, filling in the neglected space of Nali Patio next to their first establishment.

On their start:
Daniele: At first, we had a lot of complaints: the tomatoes were too acidic, the mozzarella was too juicy... People used to send our pizzas back because they did not reflect their expectations – they didn't trust us, even if we came from a family of pizza makers. We had to 'brainwash' the staff and the customers, going from table to table to explain everything. Bottega was an educative project. We had to cure them!

Bottega (Nali Patio) interior, image via Bottega

On the influence of their home:
D: I think being from Naples helped us. We Neapolitans adapt to any situation, and if something doesn't work out we just rebrand ourselves as unlicensed car-park attendants to make a living. Or we become pizzaioli!

On the Nali Patio Community:
D: We're a family. We're always together and at least once a month we organize dinners and meetups. We help each other and send customers over to the other places. The fact that we are competitors doesn't matter. If a customer comes to Nali Patio, everybody benefits, because people will migrate here and there during the night. It's how Beijing works. There's a smoking area on the second floor – that's where everybody meets, gossip is exchanged and new plans are discussed. It's amazing. 

[Daniele would like to clarify that he does not endorse Naples’s illegal parking attendants.]

The Newcomers

Kerona Xu, image via The Bell x Terrazza Martini

Who they are:
Kerona Xu, bar manager

What they brought you:
The Bell x Terrazza Martini

After Migas left their legendary terrace in Nali Patio to move to the CBD, Beijing lost one of its most cherished rooftops. That is, until The Bell x Terrazza Martini moved in. The bar plans to fill the very big shoes that Migas left behind by becoming everyone's favorite hangout.

Image via The Bell x Terrazza Martini

On bringing something new:
Kerona: Up until a few years ago in Beijing, there were only bars and clubs for Chinese people and cozy pubs for foreigners. Because they were always more careful with money than their Chinese counterparts, the laowai could not get a table in bars and clubs because they did not spend enough. There were no places where everybody could party together. That is what we're trying to do here. Nali Patio was the place to start because it attracts everyone from the average partygoer or the young and fashionable Chinese influencers.

Image via The Bell x Terrazza Martini

On the evolution of Beijing:
K: Most of Beijing's new openings, including us, offer both dining and drinks. The reason lies in the evolution of the city – people now live further away and take a longer time to commute, thus they are not really willing to go from one spot to another. But it's not just about the location. I remember a time when students would eat in Wudaokou and then party in Sanlitun. Now the two seem so far away. What changed? Traffic! This is why I think everyone now wants to offer the food and drink together.

The Newcomers

Stevie Watson, image via Pickering's Gin

Who they are:
Stevie Watson, global brand ambassador

What they brought you:
Pickering's Seafood and Gin Bar

One of the latest additions to the family is Pickering's, a Scottish distillery that opened its Seafood & Gin Bar in Nali Patio this summer. Their goal is to introduce the spirit to the Chinese market and secure a permanent place in the heart of Beijing foodies.

On being the new kid on the block:
Stevie: 'Urbanfusion' accurately describes not just the offerings in our Pickering's Gin and Seafood Bar, but the also the offerings throughout Nali Patio – local, seasonal, international and now craft. [Opening in Nali Patio] was a great way for us to connect our brand with the well-established names under the Nali Patio roof such as Black Moth, La Social and Bottega. The intimate, family feel offers inclusivity for locals and expats when they visit, whether for food, drinks or just an afternoon coffee.

Image via Pickering's Gin

Read more Beijing Bar & Restaurant Reviews 

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