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
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.
Location: 250 Huashan Road