Nian Bar

 

Introduction

To create the perfect ‘hostel bar’,you need to know your clichés.Wonky foosball table surrounded by French-speakers? Mais, oui! Out-of-tune guitar hanging on the wall, primed for some flea-ridden backpacker to belt out ‘No Woman,No Cry’? Radical! A vague feeling that there must be more to life than this, coupled with the self satisfaction that you’ll be moving on soon? Totes f**king magotes! Nian (aka The Wheel and adjoinedto Home Hostel) is the latest effort from Huxley, the man who brought us not only the excellent Drum and Bell bar, but also Sanlitun vomit hotspots Nanjie and Tun. The key selling point of that pair was always cheap booze that yielded the most incredible hangovers. But they also lured the kind of clientele for whom a dozen shots in exchange for only the lint in your pocket was met with cries of ‘Duuuuude!’ rather than abject suspicion, so there was always some Darwinian satisfaction in their existence. Nian closely follows the Nanjie/Tun mould. Shots for 5RMB every Thursday and 50RMB all-you-can-drink Beijing Beer and a few choice cocktails on Fridays hints as to its ambitions.But in practice it’s no more a ‘hostel bar’ than, say, Sanlitun’s By the Tree, which shares its toilets with Friendship YouthHostel. Nian has its own entrance and looks pretty polished, thanks to its wooden floors, red-brick bar, and giant, reality-challenging mirror. And yet it just has that vibe about it; a sense that any minute now some dreadlocked white guy,smelling of hemp and injustice, is going to begin a conversation that ends with you beating him to death with an acoustic guitar. Nian has a spirit of paucity about it that makes most student bars seem heroic. Two tiny TVs blink out local channels to a soundtrack of irony-free R&B and Pink Floyd. The cocktails (25-35 RMB) are vile; our 25RMB mojito was so citric that we might as well have been free basing limes, and the sense that the taste masks something more unpleasant lingers in the air. Even the option of half-measures of draft Beijing Beer (10/20 RMB)and Carlsberg (15/30 RMB) remind you that unless you’re 21, broke or like waking up on a Saturday morning feeling like King Kong has stamped on your brain, you just shouldn’t be here.

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