Hardial is an English language teacher, currently living and working in Hangzhou, China. Stay tuned for all her latest tips and adventures!
As I mentioned in my last post, while in China, one should definitely be eating Chinese food. Most Western restaurants I’ve encountered here are awful – they are always pricey, and are usually a disappointment (“pricey” is, of course, relative – in China, I would consider a meal that costs 85 RMB [$13.50 US] to be expensive, even though at home in Canada that is cheap for restaurant fare).
However, one cannot deny that sometimes you just aren’t feeling Chinese food, whether it’s because you’re missing home or just want something different. Or maybe you aren’t looking for food, but for decent beer and someone to speak English to. In this country it is not uncommon to see non-Chinese people congregate at what I call “foreigner bars”.
Having lived in Hangzhou for a year and a half, I’ve checked out some of the most popular places for “expats” and visitors to hang out, and have found some great ones.
1. Charcoal American BBQ
Charcoal opened earlier this year, and has found success amongst those looking for a change from Chinese food. They brew their own beer, which is a big deal – Chinese beer is, quite honestly, terrible. When it comes to food, they serve a wide range of “American” dishes, but the best are the pulled pork and the ribs. If you approach it with an understanding that it can’t possibly compare to proper Western BBQ, you’ll appreciate it for the times you just can’t eat another bowl of rice. While more expensive than eating Chinese, as is to be expected from places serving Western food, Charcoal’s prices are quite reasonable. At around 120 RMB per person including drinks (less than $20 US), it’s still cheaper than anything similar one would find back home. Address: 余杭路（丰潭路路口）矩阵国际3号楼，Matrix Building 3, corner of Fengtan Road and Yuhangtang Road.
If you’re really missing pizza, Warehouse is the best place to get your fix. Recently relocated from a real warehouse, this Italian restaurant has undergone a classy transformation.
Where before it had a clubby underground vibe with tall barstools and a foosball table, now it has leather chairs and velvet sofas facing an open-concept pizza counter (complete with chef in tall white hat and pristine apron).While I mourn the music tradeoff from house beats to elevator muzak and funk, the food is thankfully unchanged.
Their signature thin-crust Warehouse Pizza topped with arugula and prosciutto (85 RMB) is always a hit, and their “seasonal fruit” (always cantaloupe) starter with Mascarpone cheese and parma ham is perfect. Top it off with a beer from their huge selection, whether you go cheap with a local brew or choose a niche imported bottle that is sure to please the pickiest aficionado.
Address: 平海路38号杭州马可波罗假日酒店1楼，First floor of Merchant Marco Hotel Hangzhou, 38 Pinghai Road.
Those who are looking for a low-key but fun place to party should head to Ellen’s, where it is nearly always packed with foreigners ready to have a good time. This small bar squished between a school and dumpling restaurants is easy to find once the sun goes down – just look for the huge group of people gathered outside, taking a break from the oppressive heat on the dance floor and drinking beer from the nearby store. Regulars know not to go near the liquor at Ellen’s, because it is the epitome of sketchy, but once you’ve finished your convenience store beer and tossed your can in the garbage outside you are in for an awesome time dancing to the DJ’s tunes. There’s always a bit of Indian and Arabic music along with everyone’s favourite American pop anthems, with a heavy dose of Shakira and Pit Bull. It’s ok, no one will judge you for knowing all the words to Hips Don’t Lie. Address: 58 Xueyuan Road, West Lake District; 西湖区学院路58号.
4. Reggae Bar
Reggae bar is a favourite amongst locals and foreigners alike for its relaxed atmosphere and, of course, great reggae music. There are lots of big tables and sofas where a group can lounge while they watch the live band or listen to the DJ, as well as a pool table if you venture to the top of this three-storey hangout. The drinks are on the inexpensive end, starting at 25 RMB, with even better deals if you go during happy hour. For shisha fans it’s the cheapest you’ll find at 40 RMB, and it’s the ideal spot to finally learn how to play that dice game you find at all the drinking establishments in China, from the grimiest bar to the classiest nightclub. Address: 131 Xueyuan Road, West Lake District; 西湖区学院路131号.
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