First up, a warning. If you order Chinese wine, it will probably be pretty awful. Harsh vinegar like you wouldn’t believe, in fact. The best domestic wines they have, if you’re lucky enough to choose a good one, are about level with an own-brand supermarket wine back home. One called ‘Enduring Pulchritude’ (that’s ‘beauty’, thesaurus fans) should really be called ‘Enduring Fortitude’, and not because it’s well aged!
The good news, however, is that here and there you’ll find a smattering of foreign wines that, for the most part, are really quite drinkable. But most locals here in Lishui City, east China seem not to know what to do with them – they obviously never order them themselves for a start, as many a dusty shelf can attest. Furthermore, if you do order one in one of several comfy but slightly off Western-style cafe bars in the city, you might end up with something quite unexpected.
It may be served in a huge duck-shaped decanter, and has been known to come with brandy glasses! Funnier still was the second time we ordered this particular wine – quite nice, really, and a great deal in Western terms to drink out for $15 – when it arrived with a small bucket of ice for us to dip into our drinks!
As for pub drinking there’s not a lot going on mostly due to our location in a developing city and the fact that the Chinese style is more to have drinks over dinner. So we really got a treat the other week when by chance we came upon Lishui’s first place with beers on tap, the Yes Bar. Tiger and Carlsberg, to be precise. And unlike the cafe bars above, it has a real wooden bar and the pleasing look and feel of a classy jazz club.
Imagine our surprise, moreover, on learning first that it had only been open for the previous two days – we don’t miss a trick ’round here – and then that it even sold cans of Guinness!
The actual night time atmosphere of this place isn’t great, sadly. It’s all flashing lights and bad Chinese music, leaving the deck chairs outside as the only good spot. And like many other outlets of various kinds in Lishui, some of the staff just don’t know how to handle us laowai, or foreigners.
One of the first times we went, Megan decided to order us two pints of Carlsberg. In what I can only assume was her usual flawless Mandarin, she asked the girl for two pints of beer, referring in addition to ‘the green one’ and pointing to the tap. Several minutes later, we weren’t even looking at what was on the table when suddenly two lime flavored Bacardi Breezers arrived. We just had to hold up our hands and laugh!
Until next time, dear readers, remember to be thankful for life’s simple pleasures and the privilege of ready access to them!