Although Wangfujing is typically earmarked for cultural sightseeing, the new Mandarin Oriental (MO) bar compels us to visit this central part of Beijing for more than just exotic bites and tourist traps. Situated within the new 73-room MO Beijing Wangfujing, the slick lounge with its expansive rooftop terrace boasts some of the best views of the Forbidden City, and serves carefully crafted cocktails inspired by different quarters of the city.
The bar’s attention to detail is evident upon arrival. Soft lighting washes over guests as the lounge and lo-fi beats undulate in the background. The space feels moody and seductive thanks to the heavy use of dark wooden panelling, cushy booths and blue stained glass. During happy hour, the bar offers more than just good drink deals. Its entrance allows a decadent golden light to seep into the bar as the sun sets beckoning guests to head to its expansive rooftop terrace. From this vantage point, you can take in the stunning view of the entire Forbidden City and the central axis of Beijing.
But back to its drinks. MO Bar has an extensive list of wines and spirits but its attraction is its cocktails –crafted by a bar team trained by Guangzhou-based Hope & Sesame (now number 35 on Asia’s Top 50). The menu is a precursor to the creativity of the concoctions it lists, with a beautifully designed book that visually guides drinkers through its city-inspired cocktails.
The first cocktail on the list, eurasian (128RMB) is a pleasing balance of bitter and sweet. Using English D1 Potato Vodka as the base, the drink is mixed with refreshing Beijing white pear, fennel-infused Mancino Bianco Ambrato, whey and tangy lemon juice. The added Chinese baijiu, Jingye Erguotou aids in cutting through any overt sweetness, adding an interesting flavour to the mix.
Inspired by the restoration of historic architecture in Beijing, the aptly named mint condition (108RMB) is a sweet and familiar mix akin to After Eight chocolate, using mint, decadent Valrhona chocolate redistilled Amaro liqueur with Lillet Blanc and earthy thyme oil. If you’re there at dusk, try sunset hunter (118RMB), made with Flor de Caña rum, Fernet Hunter bitters, lime juice and syrup. With aromatic and tropical flavours, it’s the perfect light drink to complement a gorgeous orange sunset glow.
The innovative cocktail menu can be paired with seven flavourful bar bites on the menu. The signature crispy fish skin (128RMB) is drenched in rich and savoury salted egg yolks and XO sauce, while the crowd-pleasing super spicy chicken (98RMB) is served with a generous sprinkling of dried chilli. All of which needs to be washed down with more cocktails, of course.
MO Bar’s only drawback might be its prices. Adding another 15 percent to the listed prices makes it quite possibly the most expensive cocktail bar in the city. But what you’ll be paying for are expertly prepared drinks, stellar bar service and an unrivalled view of The Forbidden City from its terrace.