CITYLIFE / Bars & Cafes

Pavilion gets it right with predictability
(Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2006-06-22 14:58

Shanghai is one of the most vibrant, dynamic cities in the world with probably the most developed bar and club culture on the mainland.

From smooth and sophisticated lounges at the top of some of the world's tallest buildings, to grimy dives in meandering basement caverns, this city has the lot.

American diners, sports bars, English pubs, Irish bars, Australian theme pubs, French bistros, the list goes on and Shanghai has them all.

So, given the startling choice on offer, who in their right mind would forgo the smorgasbord of options available and plum for drinks at the Pavilion bar in the lobby of the Hilton on Huashan Road?

Well, according to the press release: Natasha Richardson, Liam Neeson, Ray Fiennes, Jackie Chan, Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Mariah Carey, Andrea Bochelli and, somewhat incongruously, ex-chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl.

Which sounds quite impressive until you think that they were probably just staying at the hotel and did not have a clue where else to go, or perhaps just got a bit thirsty waiting for their limos to take them to the Bund.

The reason they went to the bar in the Hilton is the same reason anyone else would go to the bar in the Hilton when they are in a city they do not know very well, the same reason tourists choose McDonald's over local restaurants where the food actually tastes nice and the same reason Brazil are still favourites to win the World Cup: It is a safe bet.

And every assumption you would have about the bar turns out to be true. Smooth jazz trio? Check. Slightly expensive but reliable cocktails? Check. Conservative Western-style decor with an Asian twist? Check. Cosmopolitan crowd who have been scared off trying anywhere local by bars with names like The Eager Beaver and Snatch? Check.

But for all its predictability there is nothing wrong with the Pavilion. In fact, there is plenty right about it - the drinks are well made, the service is polite, there are no drunk English teachers trying to get the waitresses into bed and the band is excellent at what they do.

If what you want is a decent drink in a pleasant environment without the threat of any nasty surprises, this is the place to go, especially if someone else is paying.

With soft drinks and Tsingtao starting at 38 yuan (US$5), cocktails running at 60-120 yuan (US$7.50-US$15) and the most expensive bottle of Cognac going for almost 25,000 yuan (US$3,125) per bottle, the Pavilion bar is not cheap.

But with a two-for-one promotion on cocktails during World Cup games when your home team is playing, it may be worth forging a few passports, investing in some football shirts and a bit of fake tan and getting as many daiquiris down you between now and July 9 as is humanly possible.

Hilton Shanghai
Location: 250 Huashan Road
Tel: 021-62480000