One beloved past time that I truly miss from my home city of London has to be a visit to the pub (a bar, traditionally known as a Public House in the UK and other parts of the globe with a culturally specific aesthetic), to enjoy hop-fueled midweek “pub grub” and after-work drinks on a Friday night. Our friends across the pond, as well as our good friends to the east in Australia, share our love of pub culture although it may come in different variations.
Although the bars in Beijing far from resemble either the traditional pub or what has now become known as “gastropubs” in London and other cities (serving ale with revamped traditional English or fusion cuisine), a wave of trendy bars offering craft beers brewed on site, and burgers that incite prolonged “best burger in Beijing” debate, have arguably taken first position above the humble branded-beer-only watering-hole.
Queue: the new Great Leap Brewing (GL) in all its finery, nestled beneath the Nuo Center in Lido. GL #12 closed its doors back in May last year to the despair of many and has now become their corporate headquarters. News soon followed regarding their brand spanking new branch, and I for one was happy to know that an indulgent cheeseburger was only a few blocks away from home.
A slightly nautical looking bar adorns the middle of a quaintly intimate space, with wooden booths to the sides and some of the more familiar low sitting wooden benches and tables that encourage (and sometimes require) communal dining in the other two locations. Exposed brick and metal characterize the walls, and I especially love the Concrete Island that is the bar and their use of raw and natural materials to create a refined but rustic look.
The new GL Lido branch has had a few teething problems (no heat during their soft opening), is maybe a little on the difficult side to find when first setting out (there is no visible signage to or outside the property), but delivers yet again on a range of fragrant, crisp, malty, and peppery beers available on tap, including rotating Guest Beers and specialty menu items, such as The Reuben (RMB 95, see below). Like GL #45 in Liangmaqiao, the menu includes both a selection of burgers and New York style pizzas.
My go-to meal to partner the well-balanced Honey Ma Gold (RMB 35) has always been the coma-inducing cheeseburger (RMB 65), but with the introduction of their new weekday deal and a few recommendations, I now have an extended list of favorites.
From Monday to Friday you can choose any burger, salad or two slices of pizza and enjoy a free soft drink, Pale Ale #6 or craft ginger beer. Your meal should always commence with the Spinach and Cheese dip (RMB 40), a creamy delight, well-seasoned and laden with perfectly wilted buttery spinach. The first scoop, with what I have always described as the best in-house tortilla chips, will quickly lead to the last, but slow your roll and don’t give in to the temptation to order another, or you may regret it later when trying to tuck into your main.
The beer battered fried chicken, albeit a little on the greasy side (RMB 40) – though I would argue that grease should always accompany a beer – are tuck-in-alicious and served with Spicy Mayo and Green Goddess Dressing. Another new try for me, were the crispy oyster mushrooms (RMB 45) that make a great addition to shared starters and a good option for vegetarians needing a fried-fix. Lightly peppered and earthy, there really is no need to reason why this should be added to your order.
The Reuben really was worth the cheeseburger trade-in. Melt in the mouth corn beef with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and toasted rye bread was indulgent and felt more like a filling continental brunch option. If burgers are not the order of the day on your visit, then this should be. If you go for any of the pizzas, you’d better like your cheese with a side of garlic. The Little Nunzio (RMB 130) is perfectly crisp and thin (like any good pizza should be), with hearty flavors such as the featured house-made sausage. However, make sure you’re happy to have your pizza laden with garlic, and of course omit this option on date nights!
The new Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale (RMB 35), made with wasabi, was a lot subtler than I expected. I waited for a taste that packed a punch on the palate, but was left without the robust finish I was hoping for. Nonetheless, this craft creation that combines the styles of Pale Ale and IPA is pleasant enough. What I will order more of is the Mikkelle, Berliner Weisse Mango (RMB 40); fruity and tangy, and more reminiscent of a medium-dry cider. This one would be best enjoyed during Beijing’s long summer months, or you could just stay wrapped up and pretend you’re sipping this beverage while sitting under the sun. Finish off your meal with the Hand Crafted Apple Tart with vanilla ice-cream (RMB 40), which reminds me of a right-way-up tarte tatin and is YUM!
A plus is the customer service, which has one-upped the other locations. Friendly, smiley staff in cool GL-branded tracksuit get-ups are always ready to assist you with a good command of the menu in English. The only thing you need to watch out for is enjoying this new haunt more than one ought to during the working week. Check out www.greatleapbrewing.com for more information on the different locations and menus.
Great Leap Brewing, Lido, Rm103, Nuo Center, A2 Jiangtai Road, Chaoyang District (010 64347221) 将台路甲2号诺金中心一层103室
Photos: Nicole Bonnah