Tiny spartan Julian Tavalin-approved tiki bar Bungalow gained a loyal following during its all-too-short life in Dongsijiutaio Hutong earlier this year. Good news, then, that a bigger Bungalow is now open one street off Fangjia Hutong–home of El Nido, Ramo, Hot Cat Club, Fang (review coming) and the like–and next door to La Bas.
Bungalow drinks are strong. The rye-driven Scofflaw is the cocktail that shot both the sheriff and the deputy. The three-rum Jet Pilot will crash and burn your liver. And the Corn and Oil, which gets its name from the colors of the rums in the recipe, is a concoction that will do crazy corny and oily things to your senses. Blur them, specifically.
The cocktail menu is a thing of beauty in terms of organization (three neat sections), brevity (five pages) and design (watercolor images of each drink). There are two pages of tiki options (like that Jet Pilot, a recipe from the late fifties), two pages of “lost classics” (like that Prohibition-era Paris-invented Scofflaw), and a page of stuff you can get pretty much anywhere (like Mojitos). The tiki and lost classic sections include a short write-up on each drink.
Bungalow is a sliver of a bar. The front half is split between several tables on one side and a row of stools facing a ledge on the other. The bar is in back includes an inlet that can comfortably seat four drinkers. Toilet breaks require a saunter to the public squatters down the street.
The place offers warmth with its ocher walls, wood features and cozy confines. It has a nice collection of kitsch, including stuffed parrots, novelty mugs, grass fringes and a ceiling festooned with baubles and (dead) puffer fish. And the barmen–friendly all–wear vibrantly patterned Tommy Bahamas shirts, the preferred clothing brand of tiki professionals the world over. I imagine they will have their hands full with the rowdier patrons–did I mention the drinks are strong?–but it’s nothing a firm tap to the back of someone’s head with a (dead or live) puffer fish can’t handle.
Speaking of which, the stars are already showing up, with turntable veteran DJ Blackie “in da house”–as those in his trade say–last night and knocking back Scofflaws and Manhattans. We reminisced about our first meeting, just before the Olympics, one that involved petting trained deer while drinking Dom Perignon at a chateau in Changli. I also discovered that: 1) he has 300 records in his vinyl collection, 2) he’s been a DJ for 11 years here in Beijing and 3) he’s not one of those guys that shouts “1, 2, 3, 4” at a crowd but, when trying to generate excitement, stops at “2” and gives the other half a voice. The People’s DJ!
I also saw Johannes Braun show up with two liters of infused gin from The Distillery. Will be fun to see what the guys at Bungalow do with that!
I’ll return to Bungalow soon and have a more detailed look at the drinks–last night was my first fun one out in ages and I just wanted to relax. Suffice it to say, from the cozy vibe to the quality spirits to the attention to detail with the menu and pretty much everything else, it’s looking like it will be one of those rare places that inspire me to venture from my home base at Workers Stadium and into the hutongs.
To get to Bungalow, see the map below. Drinks are rmb40 and up. Happy hour is from 6 PM to 8 PM, with a two-for-one deal on select drinks