Just behind the north-end of the Bund. On a side street near the main entrance to the Peninsula Hotel
. On top of a large new shopping mall called Yi Feng Galleria that's stuffed with fashion brands. Remember that little short-lived club Drop
? No reason why you should. Anyway, it’s down a cobbled street opposite Drop’s old home. Find your way into a lift and up to the 5th floor.
What it is:
Muse needs no introduction. The nightclub group backed by Hong Kong actress Carina Lau runs three clubs
and a restaurant
in Shanghai, as well as managing the Mixing Room
at the Mercedes-Benz Arena
, and its clubs have been packed to the gills for longer than most of us have been here. The original Muse
opened in 2006 in the New Factories. It closed in March this year, in preparation for this relocation to the Bund, a move that aligns two of the most powerful aspects of Shanghai’s nightlife: the Muse brand, with its dedicated army of bottle-ordering ABCs and locals; and the Bund, with its flocks of tourists, high-spending foreigners and anyone else who’s out to impress.
Muse (as opposed to M2
) has always been popular with a Chinese crowd – higher-spending, less fussed about DJs and more into table service. The Bund draws more cocktail-sipping foreign faces. Put these two things together and you create a vortex that will suck in clients and cash like the Death Star’s tractor beam.
The layout of the new venue in some ways reflects this meeting of scenes. It’s a huge, rectangular room with a long central bar. One end of the room is set up with a maze of tables, high and low, the DJ booth and a small dancefloor. Over there it’s Muse business as usual. The other side is a little more like a bar — there are still a lot of tables and sofas, but you get the impression they’ll be able to cook up some cocktails for those who like to prop up a bar and order by the glass not the bottle.
The bar staff they’ve hired to run the place seem to support that view: Cross Yu, former head shaker at M1NT
, and Logan Brouse, who started at Strip
and went on to replace Yu at M1NT. Both come with a solid cocktail pedigree and the menu reflects this. It opens with a gatefold of cocktails, classics (going for 70rmb) and new school (for around 90rmb).
Brouse and Yu both say they have trained their dozen bar staff for three months on how to crank these out in volume without compromising quality. There are stools around the bar where anyone can sit and drink, so it looks like it will be possible, at least in theory, to turn up in small numbers and order a la carte
without incurring the wrath or derision of the bar staff — something the old Muse never quite managed. The rest of the menu is a pretty standard set of bottle packages, and it's available on an iPad.
So, what else is new? They have KTV rooms: a dozen of them tucked out the back behind the main room. Each one is branded with a different Diageo label. There's a Johnnie Walker room, a Moët & Chandon room. A Glenmorangie room. Some of them are spectacular, with their own bars, their own bathrooms — two of them have their own private terraces. This is where the real action is going to happen. Christ, those rooms are going to see some spills.
For the rest of us, there's a huge roof terrace with tables and sofas scattered around a large, rectangular pond. It’s decked, with views on all sides and some plant life. However, while the space was open for one night during an early preview, it looks like it's going to be shut this weekend, and the management are still unsure when it's going to open for good.
Despite the nods to cocktail culture, when all is said and done, when it’s ram-up on a Friday night, when the fake eyelashes are fluttering like confetti and the waiters stand in queues to deliver their sparkler-festooned bottles of Moët, this is going to look and feel very much like the Muse we all know. Lasers, smoke, ostentatious displays of alcohol, commercial dance music on the system, beautiful women, well-dressed men, armies of confused staff. The formula is working, and Muse won’t be changing anything up too drastically, just spinning the wheel once again with a new venue and a larger space.
Cocktails are from 70rmb, which is reasonable for this zip code. Bottle packages are where you'd expect them, from a couple of thousand up to 10k+ for the top-shelf grog. KTV rooms: we were quoted a minimum spend of around 10,000rmb for the night. I think it will be at least that, and they may well be booked up by VIPs and regulars into the foreseeable. Of course there will be minimum spends on all the tables. Muse prices are not the highest in town, but expect to drop a couple of grand on booze if you and your buddies want to sit down.
The grand opening party was last night and pulled in a solid roster of Chinese A-listers. Dig it: actress (Betty) Sun Li and her husband, actor Deng Chao; the supermodel Qin Shu Pei; Hong Kong actress Zhong Li Ti (Christy Chung); and of course the club's backer Liu Jia Ling (Carina Lau). Other than that it's the armies of ABCs and Muse girls that keep the Muse lights on. All power to them.