In its origInal incarnation on Anfu Lu, Xixi Bistro was home to Xixi’s Bedroom, an excellent cocktail bar set on the floor above from the restaurant itself. In its new Xintiandi home, the owners are billing the eatery and its bars as a single enterprise, but though housed in the same building, you can visit the space’s watering holes without dining – and they’re the real reason to hit up the reincarnation of the fusion eatery.
You’ve got your choice of one of two vibes: a posh tiki bar in the smaller first room, or a bold and modish low-lit lounge a la 1930s Shanghai in the second; both with excellent East meets West cocktails.
The tiki bar serves casual, sprightly drinks. The coffee tonic aperitif is a shining star: it’s made from a robust blend of cold brew coffee, bourbon and Chinese maple on ice that gets new life from a welcome sprig of fresh rosemary. Give the sprig a swirl in the glass – a few sips of this full-bodied herbal elixir will transport you to a breezy herb garden with a cold glass of spiked iced coffee in hand. It's a pleasing, eye-opening drink. The Shanghai Spritz is the bar's take on the classic Aperol aperitif, with a twist from maraschino and Chinese spirit huangjiu. Xixi's cocktails largely vanquish the overly medicinal tastes from many Chinese ingredients, but if you’re not a fan of Chinese liquor, then perhaps skip it – the huangjiu leaves an aftertaste that’s not for everyone.
We’re pleased to find a drink here that utilises Grasovka Polish ‘bison grass’ vodka, whose presence in the Nr9 cocktail brings sips of subtle herbal notes from the grass-infused alcohol, further brightened by lemon juice and limoncello. Equally pleasing is the bourbon-based Goji Sour, which tastes like a smokey glass of just-squeezed orange juice – it’s delicious and strong, though noticeably light on flavour from the eponymous goji berry and liquorice.
Things only get better in the lounge where the cocktails are nothing short of seductive, though prices rise to match. Xixi’s take on the Jungle Bird cocktail is fabulous in presentation and flavour; arriving with an upside down bottle of a sweet and bitter mix of Amaro, bitter orange liqueur, pineapple, cold brew coffee, sugar cane, pink Himalayan salt and cinnamon that flows into the ice as you sip it. It may sound like a strange blend, but it’s truly excellent. The easy-to-drink Veggie Swizzle brings together vodka, bitter orange liqueur, carrot, ginger, lemon and honey in a rejuvenating blend that may just trick you into thinking you're sipping a detox juice.
Find yourself on the floor after a few mouthfuls of the concentrated herbal flavour in the pitch-black, charcoal-dyed Widow’s Kiss, a small glass of Calvados, yellow chartreuse, Benedictine. If you’re into the current tea cocktail trend, don’t skip the Tea Negroni atop a misty tray of dry ice, a drink whose rose water and Yunnan black tea flavours shine through brilliantly (much more so than the tea in the tiki bar's Yunnan Mule).
Go to Xixi's bars knowing that you're likely to be happy with anything you choose – there's something to satisfy all palates here, and whatever cocktail you fancy will arrive classy, balanced and delightful.