Seeing the stars while enjoying a drink in often-overcast Shanghai can be a rare pleasure. However, depending on the night, such an experience is possible with the advent of the new, improved Airbar.
This lounge, situated on the 34th floor of a serviced apartment, can be considered a hidden gem, albeit an unpolished one. A quick survey amongst friends suggested that while many had heard of it, actually knowing where it was is another matter.
Knowing where the Summit Service Apartment on Yan'an Road can also be confusing. Upon finding the place, however, the view is spectacular. The entrance is not exactly grand and the red lights inside the bar are a little off-putting; the key is to walk straight through the interior and immediately grab a seat in the large garden terrace.
On a clear night, you can easily see over to Pudong; and this is not just limited to the obvious landmarks that can be seen from just about any vantage point in the city; one can literally see the vast expanses of space speckled with giant slabs of concrete that is Shanghai. A person almost gets the sense that they are looking down on one's kingdom.
The alfresco set-up takes full advantage of its setting. Wooden tables, benches and chairs are placed on the rooftop grass for patrons to enjoy a nice drink and to scope out the city below. The koi pond is also an interesting feature, as the idea of fish in the sky is mildly tickling. Looking out at the majestic skyline with drink in hand is sure to soothe any feathers ruffled over the course of the day.
The premises, however, still need work. The single chairs are comfortable enough but the long benches feel a little hard after a few hours of sitting. The front garden is separated by the building's design into two sections, but the more secluded area would benefit from being a more intimate space. This is because of the presence of an awkwardly-placed pergola that seats about six; their presence might crowd out the amorous pursuits of others.
Volcano Yang, who took over operation of the place in July, understands the limitations he faces. The young man in his early twenties has already spent nine years in the food and beverage business. This included a stint at Senses Wine Lounge on Jianguo Road W. where he learned the ropes of running a business.
He explained that he wanted to make improvements to the rear garden with the less spectacular (for now) westward view, maybe even to create a space where guests can kick off their shoes and drink in comfort. At present, he is focused on working with what he has; bringing a no-frills bar to customers.
"This is not meant to be an upmarket place like Bar Rouge or Glamour Bar where, realistically, people go just a few times a month. This is a place where people can feel at home and drop by a few times a week."
One method Yang is employing to pull in customers is the daily barbecue. On Monday and Tuesday, patrons pay 80 yuan (US$10) instead of the usual 100 yuan for all they can eat. On Wednesday and Thursday, diners can purchase a reasonably priced bottle of wine for between 300 yuan to 500 yuan and enjoy the barbecue for only 50 yuan a person.
Yang's extensive beverage knowledge is handy for introducing affordable wine to diners, as there is a good selection by the glass that can cost as little as 30 yuan. Another plan involves a weekly champagne after-party on Friday evenings, featuring Laurent-Perrier bubbly.
Airbar has the potential to be a great bar, but it is still a tad rough around the edges. Business is a little slow at the moment, but if the management are able to fully implement a few cosmetic changes the crowds should come and will be able to feel at home. After all, how many other places can one drink in a garden 34 stories up in the air?
Address: 34/F, 1066 Yan'an Road W.