What: A hidden bar for those in the know
Where: 432 Shanxi Nan Lu, near Fuxing Lu. Tel: 3368 6108
Why: If you want more of the speakeasy theme that is sweeping the city
It may seem like a cruel joke if you arrive at number 432 Shaanxi Nan Lu, unaware about the gimmicky nature of the bar, and you stumble upon a dead looking sandwich shop instead of a happening spot. However, this is just the first hat tilt towards the speakeasy theme of the venue, a trend that has seemed to become increasingly popular in Shanghai over the past few years.
To access the bar, you must enter the empty storefront and stride, with confidence, towards the vintage looking coke vending machine at the opposite side of the room. Pulling on the handle opens up a secret passageway as you climb into the vending machine, and through the small tunnel out into the dimly lit, prohibition bar. The 1920’s and 1930’s speakeasy theme is carried through from the vintage looking furniture to the bar staff in braces and flat caps. The menu also takes its cue from the era, however, when we visited, we were told that the drinks were being revamped for the New Year and they were yet to receive the definitive list.
The cocktail menu is inspired by drinks popular during the period, as well as more modern variations, which are given a twist with a mixture of Western and Chinese flavours. Drinks are separated into three different categories: ladies (RMB 90), gents (RMB 90) and prohibition classics (RMB 80). We selected Taiwan plum soup from the ladies’ section of the menu, which are characterised by less alcohol content and a more balanced flavour. Our drink was beautifully presented in a wooden teacup and saucer with salted dry plum powder around the rim, and dried flowers on top. The drink was the perfect mixture of sweet, sour and salt, which left us wanting to lick the rim of our cup for more of the tart, fruity flavour. We also chose the Robin Hood Roy from the gents’ selection, which are supposedly stronger with a smoky flavour. The drink was presented to us in a hip flask resting inside a cut out of a novel – al la prohibition style – along with a chilled cocktail glass and a smoked, dried fish garnish balanced on the side, which was an interesting accompaniment to the heavy drink. The current drinks menu relies heavily on gin, whisky and rum, but we are looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
Currently, the venue is stocked purely with drinks, although there are whispers that the sandwich-joint shop front will turn into a fully operational food dispenser, dishing out grilled cheese sandwiches to patrons right into the early hours of the morning. FLASK opens from 7.00pm, but starts to fill up during the evening until 2am.