Article By Mike Leaner
B1, Song Yuan, South Gate, West of Huang Cheng South Road, Beilin District.
(029) 8525 7223
6:00pm – 4:00am
Average Price per Person /人均消费:90RMB
PROS: Strong drinks; affordable beer prices; no Jessie J covers
CONS: Not for anyone looking for gimmicks or fancy cocktails
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Song Yuan, the two-level complex just west of South Gate. I was surprised to find a sprawl of tables in the once ghostly promenade, ready and waiting for someone to come have a drink. Among these many bars you’ll find H Live, a no-nonsense Chinese-style bar that’s great for just dropping in for a drink or two.
H Live is on the western side of Song Yuan, half under one of its many labyrinthine underpasses. I call it Chinese-style because its layout is reminiscent of the many no-frills bars that popped up during the bottle shop boom several years ago—dozens of small square tables for small parties (4-6 people) to sit and enjoy the evening with each other. A big difference at H Live is that it’s full service—you’ll be waited on by staff, and they were reasonably prompt and attempted to speak English at my unforgivable whiteness, though I preferred the relative ease of conducting my order in Chinese. Offerings aren’t super mind-blowing, but there’s enough variety to please anyone in your drinking party. Beer, cocktails, liquor and wine are all available for your consumption, along with some typical snacks if you’ve got the munchies (you know the drill, French fries, popcorn chicken, etc.). Beer will be the cheapest way out of a trip to H Live, with competitive prices on Corona, for example (20 RMB a bottle), while cocktails are priced about 10 RMB above median. My Long Island Iced Tea (68 RMB a glass) had a bit too much tequila in it for my tastes, but was worth the money for its strength alone.
As for the “live” part of H Live, I was bracing for the worst—which for me is a starry-eyed lounge singer yell-singing “Price Tag”—but was pleasantly surprised to find a DJ instead. His remixes weren’t amazing, but it was a nice little trip through the hits of yesteryear, and it was undeniably charming to be at the bottom of that Long Island just in time to rap along with a couple verses of “Stronger” and lament with my drinking companion about Kanye West losing his mind.
All-in-all, H Live isn’t the flashiest place in the world, and it isn’t my new favorite place in town by any means, but I have an appreciation for its utilitarian qualities. A lot of bars in town are all sizzle and no steak, but H Live seems to set its expectations properly and then gamely meets them. If you’re just going out for a couple of friends who are saying “yeah, sure, anywhere is good” then H Live can be anywhere, and it will provide you with a nice night of pleasant drinks and conversation, and maybe a couple of catchy remixes to boot.
Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at email@example.com