Take a trip to 1920s Shanghai at hidden speakeasy Cindy Chow’s Theatre & Cocktail Bar
Before it flourished into one of the world’s largest economic centres, Shanghai was often referred to as ‘the Paris of the East, the New York of the West’ and was a melting pot of cultures, languages and ideas. At the beginning of the 20th century, the centuries-old walled city’s nightlife was flush with dizzying splendour and secretive speakeasies – an equal mix of glitz and danger that is a far cry from contemporary Shanghai’s gleaming skyscrapers. Fortitude Valley hideaway Cindy Chow’s Theatre & Cocktail Bar is throwing it back to Shanghai’s Prohibition-era identity, a shadowy-yet-exciting parlour offering everything from absinthe towers and Asian-inspired snacks to burlesque performances and swing jazz ensembles.
Like one would expect from any secret saloon, the entrance to Cindy Chow’s Theatre & Cocktail Bar is granted with the uttering of a secret code. The bar, located in a subterranean site on Brunswick Street, is guarded at the door and only the right words (hint: it can be found on Cindy Chow’s Instagram page) will get you in. Once inside, you’ll be greeted by a buzz of activity – a curved wall-length main bar is attended by uniformed bartenders, each pouring enticing elixirs, while burlesque performers execute routines and swing-jazz ensembles fill the air with brassy tones. Cushy leather armchairs fill the main floor, where guests can sink in and have their needs attended to courtesy of some crisp table service, while a set of spacious booths at the back is geared towards larger groups. Cindy Chow’s is a hub of secrets within secrets – a separate low-ceilinged whisky den can be found underneath the main entrance stairs, perfect for intimate conversations and secluded sipping, while a red-hued poker lounge hosts friendly games (no cash bets, fake chips only, folks!) and private gatherings.
Cindy Chow’s cocktail list is flush with high-end concoctions that take inspiration from Shanghai’s storied past and historic landmarks, including the Birdcage (gin, creme de peche, creme de passion, citrus, orange juice and rhubarb), The River Bund (tequila, agave, pineapple juice, house-made chilli syrup), Yu Garden (rum, Pedro Ximénez sherry, creme de cacao and chocolate bitters) and the Shanghai Grand (bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, apricot brandy, rosso vermouth, vanilla and walnut bitters). If you’ve got a crew with you, gather around a Cindy Chow’s absinthe tower, which boasts a heady mix of the emerald spirit, citrus, natural syrup and cucumber. The rest of the beverage list boasts Australian wine, French rosé and champagne, and Italian prosecco, alongside Asahi, Peroni and Stone & Wood beers on tap. A light tapas-inspired menu features pan-Asian snacks that are simple yet satisfying. We’re talking shoestring fries with nori salt, fresh Coffin Bay oysters, panko-crumbed mushroom sliders, glossy chilli-broth won tons, coconut salmon ceviche and crispy wasabi-dusted calamari.
Cindy Chow’s Theatre & Cocktail Bar is now open to the public. Operating hours and menu details can be found in the Stumble Guide.
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