Hefei Lu is filled with historic architecture and bad business ideas, like whatever café preceded Funky Monkey. The neighborhood bar's logo looks like a shanzhai version of the Super Monkey Ball video game series, and their motto is "Serious Drinks, Great Music, No Wankers". British proprietor Jeff often comments on Reddit about what he sees as a lack of good / proper / real bars in our city:
"I'm going to sound biased here, (full disclosure, I own Funky Monkey bar) and these [ed: referring to Senator, Speak Low, Union] are all great bars...but I don't think they have so much of a relaxed, Cheers type atmosphere, especially if you go by yourself. Cheers like is somewhere were the bartender will chat with you and where you can talk to the other patrons (as long as they want to talk) and where the barmen actively introduces people or involves them in the conversation.... being able to judge this is what I consider the barman's biggest job, whereas here almost all barmen see their main job as making drinks."
Bold statement. Indeed on all three visits to the place, Jeff introduced me to other patrons and good conversation ensued, even when I rolled solo. The music was mostly good (Black Sabbath, Jamie XX, Curtis Mayfield...but also some brostep Weeknd remixes). The drink selection is serious.
Funky Monkey's barshelf is like the home bar of an eccentric uncle who collects rare bottles from trips around the world: Columbian liquor taken as shots with lime and ground coffee beans, Norwegian liquor "matured at sea", bottles of Japanese whiskey that resemble Ronin Warriors. The extensive whisky menu contains Jeff's personal tasting notes. Gin & Tonics come in levels like Economy Class and First Class, topping out at Private Jet, made with The Botanic, a Spanish gin. The make proper coffee with an AreoPress, a device invented by the same guy who patented the Aerobie flying disc. Three sandwiches are in the works (they open during the day). They even have a bit of Japanese tea. Basically, something good for every palate. Beer bottle selection could be better though.
Naturally, this place is just ordinary without the main character. On one visit, Jeff hadn't arrived yet, and his wife's personal trainer was kind of holding it down. Lovely and talkative, but couldn't make a negroni (her coffee is on point though). Jeff and his wife showed up, gave us a few shots, and dropped some recommendations for Ramen shops in Gubei. He stays in the bar until 2am every night, because there's nothing worse than taking a cab across town to find out that the bar staff fucked off at 12.45am because the night was slow. No, it's clearly not the only bar where you can talk to the bartender and meet other patrons, but definitely a solid option for the Xintiandi hood, especially if Danshui goes full R.I.P.