Bar Review (South China): CJW

By Alastair Dickie

What: Upscale jazz club making its mark in Shenzhen
Where: OCT Bay, 8 East Baishi Lu, Nanshan District. Tel: CJW Bar: (755) 8654 1133
How Much: Draft beer RMB 80; wine (per glass) RMB 88; spirits RMB 80 upwards; cocktails RMB 70
Why: For the most virtuosic musical display Shenzhen can offer

Music and Shenzhen have long been unhappy bedfellows. The majority of musical acts that come through South China seem to bypass the city in favour of Hong Kong, leaving the majority of Shenzhen’s watering holes serviced by soulless Filipino cover bands. Expats do a decent job of filling the gap, but if rough-and-ready DIY acoustic isn’t your scene then you are often left at a bit of a loss.

Until now. Enter CJW (Cigars, Jazz and Wine), a remarkable little establishment nestled right at the heart of the city’s new OCT Bay development. It’s as high-end as you can possibly get, meaning you’ll need to bring a well-stocked wallet. As I walked in and sat down on a sofa in an entirely empty area, a waiter hurriedly moved me, saying that to sit in that area was RMB 1,000. And a seat in the (equally empty) adjacent VIP area cost twice that.

The menu likewise is eye-watering. A Heineken draft goes for RMB 80, house wine (Miguel Torres Sauvignon Blanc or Torres Iberico Rioja) sets you back RMB 88 per glass and cocktails are pegged at RMB 70. The nuts sum it up: RMB 88 for a bowl. For nuts.

However, all that was forgotten when the band came on. Without a doubt the most virtuosic and talented musicians currently performing in Shenzhen, the band – playing under the moniker ‘Jammin Manaj’ during my visit – ran through a singularly impressive repertoire of jazz, soul and R&B tunes. Perfectly pitched, exquisitely crafted and effortlessly delivered, I found myself shelling out on drink after drink to watch right until the end.

Beyond the music though, the bar doesn’t offer all that much. The prices are a major black mark, but music this good doesn’t often come to Shenzhen. Go see.

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