Tucked away in the not-notable carpark of the more notable former residence of Republic of China-era warlord Duan Qirui, Arch is about as close to a hidden gem as it gets. Moreover, it’s lao
Beijing-lite, and especially ideal for when you’re entertaining visitors who insist they’re all about exploring Beijing’s hidden gems, but actually want hutong charm minus the gritty realism of open-plan squat toilets. Lead them away to Arch's blink-and-you’ll-miss-it archway and you'll have your mates convinced you’re down with Beijing’s best-kept secrets.
Outfitted with exposed stone walls, wooden rafters and a siheyuan-esque pitched roof, Arch is understatedly intimate, complete with off-duty barkeeps and low-key lovers huddled around low-slung tables. A quick glance at the cocktail list shows intimidating, unfamiliar tipples made with the likes of truffle oil bourbon, sous vide banana-infused rum and cardamom bitters. Don't let the high-class hooch and exotic liqueurs put you off, Arch's ambitious menu is, despite its price point, particularly well considered.
A heady concoction of truffle oil bourbon, cognac, chocolate vermouth and Pedro Ximénez, Somewhere in Time (125RMB, ouch) makes a compelling counterpoint to modern-day truffle oil scepticism. The well-balanced Guilty Pleasure (95RMB) cuts its rich coffee liqueur, spiced rum and quail egg base with a dash of tart citrus, while the Latin American-inspired Chimney (120RMB) packs a punch with its smoky blend of mezcal, reposado tequila, sherry and almond essence.
Owner and bartender Alfred Yu demonstrates an unerring ability to mix and match complex flavours, resulting in drinks that are casually exceptional and all too quaffable. It's not long before we realise we've lost all sense of time, lured by Arch's potent tipples and warm lighting into a liquor-addled repose.
We're not alone though. With its hidden location and hefty price point, Arch isn’t a place for a raucous night out. It’s first and foremost a drinker's bar, with a clientele that’s single-mindedly focused on good drinks and good company – unsurprising, considering the minor effort it takes to find Arch in the first place. For the cocktail averse, an extensive wine and whiskey list is also available, but with cocktails this special, it almost seems unnecessary.
By Leanne Wong