Probably the most mature, subdued and classy joint from cocktail bar impresario Daniel An (The
Antique, Taste Buds Cocktail Palace), Atelier is an austere, classic bar lounge set in a massive, exposed-concrete space inside More Than Eat. The big wraparound bar is where they serve up lots of very rich, bronze, and smoky drinks. Heavy syrups and bitters, for people in suits and "chief something" in their job title. The entrance has racks to hold casks of barrel-aged drinks. They take a month to prepare and cost roughly 2,000rmb. The rest of the (excellent) drinks are in the 75-90rmb range, which is pretty good for this kind of bar. Also, they have a carbon-covered cocktail menu you have to burn with a blow-torch to reveal the specials. That's pretty neat. They've also go a kitchen serving up fusion-ish, pan-asian-ish fare.
The Beef: The guy next to us at the bar ordered a beef sandwich that smelled and looked amazing – pastrami loaded with melted cheese. Which made us wish we had gotten that instead of the pizza (it was more like a pit-a than pizz-a) and our least favorite item on the menu. That being said, we were spoiled because all the other bar snacks were all exquisitely yummy - definitely get the risotto balls and the ribs. We also tried the fried fish and pork tacos (a steal at 25RMB each). I preferred the fish which was tangier and citrus-y while the pork was more savory.
BUTTTT the standouts here are the drinks. After all, it’s a bar first and foremost (…that serves great food, oh did I already mention that?). First of all, when you walk in, the place is gorgeous. The bar is spans three sides and is dimly backlit with eclectic bottles from all over – mirrors everywhere. Immediately we feel 100x fancier-schmancier. The bar seating is fun because you can watch the bartenders craft your cocktails and of course, order drinks on a whim. Am I the only one who gets “order envy” – everyone else’s drink/food looks better? You won’t have that problem here, though, because seriously they put so much love and attention into every drink (even when its only 45RMB). Must try – the chocolate and coffee negronis! Alcoholic-friendly and oh-so-flavorful. Or maybe start with the fruity stuff (spritzes) which are also surprisingly interesting.
The Gang: A cool mix of pretty sophisticated-looking people. Small groups of Chinese, Taiwanese, and laowai. All well-heeled and smartly dressed. Think suspenders and black-rimmed specs. Classy joint.
The Motive: Great for intimate gatherings and dates. The perfect first date place, but only for someone with real potential. Or if it’s too early to tell, save it for a 2nd or 3rd date. Vibe is romantic but casual, you can both make an effort to get dressed up without looking like you’re trying too hard. One (or two, if you’re being cheap) can easily afford a few drinks before 9:30 here without breaking the bank. The food menu is small bites so you can nibble and share without making a commitment for a full-on dinner.
The Damage: If you go for aperitivo before 9:30, select drinks (spritzes, ladies cocktails, negronis) are only 45RMB. The regular drink menu can get pricey though, ranging from 80RMB-100+RMB. Food menu start at 25RMB.
The Down n’ Dirty: Not dirty at all. In fact, so fancy and pretty you might want to get down, down, down…
I am a big fan of late dinners -especially on Saturdays- and believe me, I have been chasing all the late night cravings around the city. Located on Julu road and opened at the beginning of the Dog’s year, Atelier by Taste Buds is one of my favorites. I have been there several times. I adopt it like an “ace up my sleeve” sort of restaurant to go when I want to have a relaxed dinner, listen to good music and eat some refined ( or more than average) snacks.
Entering trough a hall of wooden barrels you will find yourself submerged in a mix of vintage and industrially sophisticated space with speakeasy vibes. I visited it last Saturday night with my partner in crime. We were pretty hungry which means we ordered too many dishes -and we ate them all, that’s out of discussion. One thing I like but usually people complain about is the low light. I love that pseudo speakeasy ambient, the decoration and the comfortable seats. I could say it is ideal for couples or for a group of friends.
The service is really fast. Most of the waitresses are English speakers and very kind to make suggestions about the menu.
But let’s jump into the F&B. To start with we ordered two berry spritz. Very disappointing to be honest, they were not good and the size was pretty small for a spritz. However, later on we had two “The Mule”, which definitely made it up for the previous ones: super refreshing with the exact amount of ginger, along with the passion fruit on the side to either have it by itself or pour it into the drink.
Regarding the food it is fair to say the portions are more snack alike and so it’s the price. I like this because it is more like a tapas bar, easier for sharing with friends and also to get a bite of different things on the menu. To first dish we had were oysters (3 for 40Rmb, nice deal) and a mushroom artichoke pizza, which wasn't tasty at all, lacking of cheese and toppings. Next we had the ginger fish and chips that were good but didn’t include any ginger and the cheese risotto balls that were okay, nothing brilliant.
For main we had the Iberian pork ribs and to be objective I think is the best dish of the house. Amazingly tender, juicy and tasty, you can tell the BBQ sauce is totally homemade. Nothing sweet to end the journey, as we prefer the salty stuff. I owe you some desserts guys!
Overall feeling: Reasonably priced, amazing music playlist, authentic atmosphere, and decent late night menu. I feel the quality of the food is descending a little tough, compared to the first occasions we went there.
Suggestions: They should check up on the starters/snacks and be more careful in the preparation of the easiest cocktails (Although they are simple, they are not less important to keep the high standards). OH, and one last thing, for those fans of barrel aged cocktails; this is one of the right places.
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