McCawley’s coming to Dongguan, Helen’s to Shenzhen: PRD bars expand to new cities

Posted: 10/15/2012 1:00 pm

Helen’s will open two outlets in Shenzhen by the end of the year.

The bar scene in the Pearl River Delta is growing fast.  It seems to have hit a wave of expansion, with some bars moving into entirely new cities.

Guangzhou seems to be ground zero for all the action.  The Brew now has three locations, after the grand opening of their Yuexiu location on Friday night.  The Tavern has two locations, and the Paddy Field opened their second location earlier this year.

McCawley’s – just this year – opened a new location at the Peninsula in Shenzhen and expanded into Guangzhou in a joint-venture with Hong Kong’s Delaney’s.  McCawley’s isn’t done yet though, as sources tell The Nanfang the popular Shenzhen pub chain has already locked up a new location in Dongguan.

Dongguan, itself, now has a whole bunch of more bar options.  The Nanfang visited Murray’s on Saturday night, which is a classy Irish pub with a relaxed feel.  Helen’s, directly across the street, is the 18th outlet of the popular student-themed bar but the first in Guangdong.  It plans to open two new outlets in Shenzhen before the end of the year, bringing dirt cheap draft beer and pizzas to the city.  The Office makes up the triumvirate in an area which is becoming known as The Crossroads, as all three bars are steps away from each other.

The rapid expansion of laowai bars and restaurants in Guangdong raises a few eyebrows considering the economy is supposedly slowing and manufacturing – while still strong – is a few years past its heyday.

Your correspondent also spent many years living in Beijing, a city with its own iconic establishments.  What’s interesting to note is there seemed to be almost zero desire among these bars and restaurants to expand to second locations, nevermind expand to other cities.  The entrepreneurial fire burns hot in southern China, and maybe laowai are picking up on the shrewd business skills of the Cantonese.



The Paddy Field throws open its doors in Tianhe

Posted: 08/8/2012 3:25 pm

It’s been around longer than many expats in Guangzhou, and now one of the city’s first decent pubs is opening a second location.

The Paddy Field – that den of Irish beer and pub food – is now officially open in Tianhe, lining up alongside other local stalwarts like the Tavern, the Brew, and McCawley’s in Guangzhou’s increasingly heated pub wars.

Michelle from the Paddy Field told The Nanfang that everything customers have come to know and love about the first location will be replicated at the new venue.  ”The new place is exactly the same Irish hospitality and warmth offered at the mothership. The only difference is that we won’t be having our weekly Salsa nights because of space constraints,” she said.  ”But it will be still 99.99999% business as usual!”

The Paddy Field originally opened in 2004 on Huale Lu, just behind the Garden Hotel.  It moved up to the second floor earlier this year to expand — indeed, there is plenty of space inside the revamped bar.

Michelle notes the new location, on Tiyu Dong Lu, is family-friendly and offers plenty of non-smoking areas.  It has the same (rather extensive) pub grub menu and beers on tap as the original.

The Paddy field is just the latest bar to make a foray into the Tianhe / Zhujiang New Town area.  The Brew opened its second location there and Shenzhen bar staple McCawley’s opened in the area, both within the past year.  The Tavern is also nearby, and Rebel Rebel opened last month, meaning there’s plenty of choices for people who want to get their drink on.

You can get all the info about the new Paddy Field, including the address, map, opening hours, and menu here.



Open Mic Night: A city’s need for live local music

Posted: 06/14/2012 5:18 pm

The Nanfang is pleased that Rue Moyer, the founder of Shenzhen Local Music, has joined as a weekly contributor.  Each Thursday, Rue will look at the local music scene in the Pearl River Delta.  You can read more on his website at Shenzhen Local Music.

Music is ingrained in us. It’s as intricate as the DNA that makes up our being and as rhythmic as a heartbeat. It was always a matter of time until the need for music in Shenzhen was backed by an obvious enough demand. The time is now. How do I know? We have 3 regular open mic night’s happening throughout the city.

In nearly every city, in every country around the world you can find at least one open mic night. These vehicles for expressing creative freedom, either for showing off your goods or merely conquering some stage fright, are a staple to music communities worldwide. They offer a welcoming stage to any level of musician for presenting well-tuned pieces or rough drafts to an audience which, at most times, will listen. At the very least they’ll refrain from booing!

In countries like America, an open mic is a neutral stage upon which musicians can test their newest riffs and producers, agents, and pro musicians can scope out undiscovered talent. From a venue owner’s side of the bar, they can pack the joint with free live music, minus the free booze musicians usually get. Unfortunately, Shenzhen isn’t Nashville and isn’t sought out for its musical prowess, so local music and open mic nights have barely even existed. As anyone that’s lived here for more than a minute can attest to, the only real rhythm you feel comes from the thousands of construction workers hammering away all day. However, most of the red clay has been replaced with foundations; the sea reclaimed for city building projects and now, after more than 30 years, people have taken root. Now, as Shenzhen approaches its 40th birthday, a community for music is starting to bud.

Sunday Nights at 10pm

The first to start looking for live local music, a place that has been doing it long before it was practical and remains by far the most interesting, is La Casa in Coco Park. Need proof? Check out this video:

This is David Seymour, owner and active participant in open mic, singing his own song, “Old Joe Hammer”. It was 2am and we’d gone through 8 musicians by this point. Notic, everyone huddled around the stage, each person pounding away on some form of percussive instrument; djembe, Cajon, washboard, chairs, tambourine.  Jordan’s even wailing on a water jug! It’s tribal, it’s simple and it’s intimate. It’s authentic. Ask most customers why they’re singing along on a Sunday night until 2am and they’d tell you it’s because they want to experience raw music backed by travelling talent. La Casa offers a small stage with a minimal setup, and most people play a mix of covers and originals.

Mondays, 9:30pm-Midnight

The second venue to offer an open stage was McCawley’s in Sea World, Shekou. It’s been on about a year or so now and fills an otherwise empty 2nd floor and generates revenue on Monday night. This stage is completely different from La Casa’s. Here, musicians get access to a fully equipped stage setup; instruments, amps, band space and an atmosphere which epitomizes the Rock & Roll scene. And, Rock is likely what you’ll hear if you pop in. Shekou is the hub for long-term expats in Shenzhen. Many of the residents are middle-aged and raising their families here. Incidentally, most of the musicians relive glory days by jamming away on Hendrix, The Beatles, and Clapton tunes. Shekou is also where most of the live music in Shenzhen happens, so more often than not musos from the local venues stop in to help the open micers feel like real rockers. On occasion, you’ll even find local Chinese busker musicians strumming away.

Thursday Nights

As of 2 weeks ago, the third open mic is on Thursday night at Rapscallions Café Bar, just around the corner from La Casa in Coco Park. When you walk into Raps you won’t find a stage, just some mic stands and an amp. Why? It wasn’t designed with music in mind. But alas, the owner is himself a musician. After little deliberation and keen enthusiasm, Darragh made music a priority for Raps.

Brian Wegener singing at the 2nd Rapscallions Open Mic Night

Music started about 2 months ago with John Hutton, a local teacher and old school tunes player. I’m talking 60+ year old music – sweet, huh? Within a week, he added fiddle extraordinaire Graham to his show. Shortly after, I met Darragh and introduced my entourage of players and a Xinjiang, flamenco style trio to the mix and now music is on all weekend. Audience support and crowd turnout blew our expectations out of the water, so we’ve added a Thursday night open mic night. In the two weeks we’ve run it, we’ve had more than twenty musicians peel out of the woodwork to pick away on the guitar.

Raps is quickly becoming a house of music and gaining a reputation for a venue to hear tunes you may have long ago forgotten.

Shenzhen isn’t known for its music scene. It’s only ever been a transient business city, as it remains in its infancy. But the infant loves music the same as the old man. And, the infant has the advantage of being introduced to the best music from its grandfather’s generation. This international city has the advantage of drawing a highly talented, culturally diverse populace from which to build its music foundations from. Believe me when I say, it’s only a matter of time.


McCawley’s Irish Pub opens its doors in Guangzhou

Posted: 09/22/2011 1:55 pm

McCawley's GZ

McCawley’s Irish Pub is among the most famous and well-patronized pubs in Shenzhen. It’s first outlet opened in Shekou in 2003, and it threw open its doors near Coco Park in Futian in 2003. It’s been so well-received that it’s now expanding beyond Shenzhen city limits.

The latest McCawley’s outlet is in Guangzhou’s Pearl River New Town. It opened officially on September 10, so is so new that few people know if its existence yet. It’s a 1,000-square metre behemoth of a pub which serves up cold draft beer and burgers akin to McCawley’s Shenzhen.

Spread out over two floors, on arrival the first thing everyone will notice is the amazing façade that stretches over 30 meters wide. Fitted in hard wood and stained antique the façade is finished with old lanterns and brass goosenecks. Giant brass letters spelling out McCawley’s confirms you have arrived at the right place.

Our Beer Garden is the first retreat you will pass as you enter our welcoming tiled entrance then are greeted by a floor to ceiling traditional Victorian Bar, with wood paneling, intricate wood carvings and generous bar counter. The ornate finished ceiling and cast iron mezzanine on either side finish off the magnificent entrance that pulsates natural ambience and character

On either side of this Bar, is The Deck, which can be best described as chic alfresco. A combination of warm tones, natural slate and funky artwork combine well with our brass finished pressed metal ceiling to form a unique setting for a casual lunch, girls night out or even the next corporate function. The concertina doors open the entire façade to reveal another area to explore or to simply step outside to answer that important phone call.

But wait, there’s more…. Time to go upstairs A polished copper sweeping-staircase, takes you to our second floor where you will find three clearly defined sections.

We have The Back Room – an intimate section that easily seats 60 persons, with high comfortable mahogany drink stands, leather chairs and private booths.The seating offers the privacy when required or the perfect location to soak up the atmosphere during that big sporting event.

This version of McCawley’s is actually a joint-venture between McCawley’s and Delaney’s pub in Hong Kong (located in Wan Chai, but I’m sure many pub goers already knew that). One expects more famous Hong Kong establishments to begin dipping their toes into Mainland waters.

McCawley’s Guangzhou is going to have some tough competition in the area though, as both The Brew and The Tavern are set-up nearby. The Nanfang will be at the new McCawley’s this weekend, so come by and say hello.

You can check out the new McCawley’s here.



Coco Park the new home of the Whopper

Posted: 04/10/2011 9:38 pm

It appears that Burger King, purveyor of mayonnaise-drenched flame-broiled beef patties, has found hungry clientele in Shenzhen.

Our good friends over at ShenzhenParty noted that the city is preparing to welcome its fourth Burger King outlet inside Coco Park, making it an ideal place for bar-goers in the area to soak up copious amounts of beer and various other shanzhai drinks. Of course, that would also depend on the hours of the new ‘King.

Burger King’s first outlet in Mainland China opened in Shanghai back in 2005, and I remember being overjoyed and visiting that initial spot. At that time, as a Beijing resident, I had grown accustomed to having no decent burgers at all, or buying a Big Mac, which is basically the same thing. Since that pioneering Burger King (Hanbao Wang in Chinese), it has grown in Shanghai and Beijing, taken up shop in airports (it’s a tradition to get a Whopper when departing or arriving from a Burger King-endowed airport), and continues to grow in Shenzhen.

In fact, with McCawley’s and Tequila Coyote Cantina all in the vicinity of Coco Park, it’s quickly becoming a burger-muncher’s paradise.

The new Burger King is expected to open in May this year.