A casualty of the capital’s ongoing urban do-over, Fangjia shoebox Jiao’s endearing brand of rowdy, economical mirth is becoming harder to find in Beijing. Thankfully, the team that brought you bargain negronis and the community that loves to drink them are back at it on Beiluoguxiang – bless their resilience – with a fresh nook that we’re feeling very chipper about.
These airier new digs sit midway up Beiluoguxiang, the warm orange glow of a neon 'Nina' sign emanating forth onto the hutong from where it hangs proudly behind the bar. The light wooden slats of Nina’s gable roof, a rare-ish delight in hutong Beijing, lend the room an illusion of spaciousness – a neat trick that makes the most of a modest square metrage.
Like Jiao, Nina’s negronis and spritzes are the stars of the bar. We were particularly impressed with our max steez artichoke spritz, which, laced as it is with a generous slug of bitter Italian liqueur Cynar, goes down with zero protest on a balmy summer’s eve.
It’s a new and triumphant foray into food, however, that will come to define Nina’s importance on Beiluoguxiang. A groovy sharing menu of small pizzas, brilliant mix ‘n’ match arancini and croquettes, and some seriously well-priced charcuterie options pair with the community-forward atmosphere for which its predecessor Jiao was so fondly known.
Nina is a more-than-welcome addition to a drinking scene in a need of a win – and a laugh, for that matter. A recently launched weekend brunch offers another reason to get the Sunday session underway on time, and artichoke booze is just plain cool.
By Frank Sweet