Insider: China

Night owls have plenty to choose from in the Chinese capital, from world-class restaurants to indie music clubs. By MANUELA ZONINSEIN

6:00 P.M. Start the evening surveying the city from the 65th floor of the Park Hyatt Beijing, where you’ll fi nd the suave China Bar (2 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District; 86-10/8567-1234; beijing.park.hyatt.com; drinks for two RMB150). Before admiring the 360-degree panorama, a rarity in Beijing, peruse the exhaustive drinks menu, which lists more than 440 wines and nearly 100 cocktails. (We recommend the expertly made Manhattan.) With your drink in hand, join the well-heeled guests on black leather sofas or take a seat by the bar fashioned out of illuminated, translucent onyx for a front-seat view of the sunset. Then turn your attention eastwards to the iconic, OMA-designed CCTV towers (and its charred neighbor, the TVCC, where the Mandarin Oriental Beijing was meant to be).

7:00 P.M. Take a cab to the historic Legation Quarter, newly renamed 23 Chi’enmen (23 Qianmen Dong Dajie, Dongcheng District; legationquarter.com), Beijing’s destination du jour just southeast of Tiananmen Square. Originally built to house U.S. diplomatic offices at the turn of the last century, the stately stone complex is now home to a contemporary art gallery, a Patek Philippe outlet, restaurants and, come next fall, a wine and jazz bar. Tour the elegant quad before claiming your table at the opulent Maison Boulud (86-10/6559-9200; maisonboulud.com; dinner for two RMB1,200). Daniel Boulud’s first Asian effort is as high-caliber as his famed New York eateries; diners tuck into Eastern-influenced French fare amid neoclassical murals and Art Deco furnishings custom designed by Paris-based Gilles & Boissier. We recommend starting with the king crab, which comes wrapped in avocado and accompanied by carrot coulis, followed by the crispy suckling pig with apple coleslaw, Dijon mustard jus and daikon sauerkraut. Make sure to request a view of the back room where Henry Kissinger met Zhou Enlai in 1972 to arrange then-president Richard Nixon’s historic visit.

If you’re looking for a more casual ambience, head over to Beijing’s hipster hotel, The Opposite House, and sup at Sureño (The Opposite House, 11 Sanlitun Bei Lu, Chaoyang District; 86-10/6410-5240; surenorestaurant.com; dinner for two RMB500), a buzzing Mediterranean eatery with cerulean walls that lures the city’s worldly young professionals. A wood-fired oven delivers the city’s most authentic thin crust pizzas, but save room for the Italian ham with white truffle honey and melon.

9:00 P.M. Designed by Japanese minimalist master Kengo Kuma, The Opposite House boasts an impressive collection of contemporary Chinese art on view in its lobby. After viewing artworks such as Wang Jin’s PVC rendition of an imperial robe, go underground—literally—with Punk (86-10/6410-5222; barpunk.com; drinks for two RMB100), an edgy nightclub designed by Shanghai design darlings Neri & Hu, who’ve decorated the space with moveable pods and moody backlit walls. Expect pierced staff, music-mad locals and a line-up of international DJ’s spinning hip-hop, techno, house and more.

10:00 P.M. Punk stays open until 3 A.M., but there’s a lot of live music to be discovered in Beijing, which boasts one of Asia’s liveliest indie rock scenes. Before beginning the club crawl, stroll through The Village at Sanlitun, a short walk south of The Opposite House. A colorful collection of asymmetric glass-and-steel buildings, this lively retail and entertainment complex attracts a crowd late into the night. Then hail a cab and head over to Mao Livehouse (111 Gulou Dong Dajie, Dongcheng District; 86-10/6402-5080; maolive.com; tickets from RMB20), a gutted cinema that’s now the testing ground for local up-and-coming indie rockers and occasional acts from overseas.

12:00 A.M. Across from Mao Livehouse is Nanluoguxiang, a gentrifi ed hutong that’s packed with quirky-cool boutiques, cozy cafés and cheap-as-chips bars. Choose any of the convivial waterholes for a RMB10 beer, though we favor Salud (66 Nanluoguxiang; 86-10/6402-5086; drinks for two
RMB60
) for its homemade rums that come in fl avors such as mango and anise. For a posher nightcap, join revelers at LAN Club (Fourth floor, Twin Towers, B12 Jianguomenwai Dajie; 86-10/5109-6012). Designed by Philippe Starck, it’s a celebration of excess: velvet chaise longues, crystal chandeliers and gilded chairs. Framed oil paintings cover the ceiling. It’s worth seeing—if only for the kitsch value and the sight of Beijing’s beautiful people preening.

Published in the September issue of Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia.

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