The Leg and Whistle

By your man on the spot.

I thought about going to The Leg and Whistle last night, but afer the exertions of the past few days, I thought better of it and decided to leave my visit until this evening.

The Leg and Whistle is out on 科华街 which runs from east to west to 科华北路’s north-south. It’s not far north of the intersection with the 2nd Ring Road. It’s easier to have taxis do a U-turn there because there’s no convenient point where you can cross the road without a long walk.

The first thing that I noticed about the place was an absence of British beer. I got talking to the guy who obviously runs the place and who told me that in spite of a contract with suppliers, no British beer was available. There was Tiger draught (¥20; c. £1.30) and anything after that was in bottles. My informant told me that if he were to sell such brands as Strongbow or Guinness, he’d have to charge ¥60 a pint (about £4). Overall, the prices at The Leg and Whistle are reasonable for what they’ve got.

The range of beers was dominated by a Russian brew called Baltika, although Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia might want to complain about such a brand name. I tried the No. 4 Baltika which tasted like port or raisins, but if I want port, I’ll drink port. Won’t be drinking that particular Baltika again.

I also had to go to the place early because the gates to my complex get locked at 11.00pm (or 11.30pm). I feel I haven’t been here long enough to make Mad Madam Mim admit me me after hours.[1]. As a consequence, for much of the time I was there, I seemed to be the only patron who wasn’t a friend or relative of the people who were running the show. The bar maid (although I suppose these days you have to call her an Alcohol Distribution Specialist) appeared to spend time on this side of the bar smoking, although she went to the place next door (公社菜馆) and had something to eat at about 9.15pm. There was some old guy who was, I suspect, a mate of the guy running the place (who himself only appeared part way through the evening) and his girlfriend. And if you’re guessing that she was half his age and half as wide, you’ve just scored 100%.

A few more people did turn up. I ended up talking to an Australian couple who are in their fourth year in Chengdu; well, outside it near the panda place. There were a couple of guys who were playing darts; there was some foreigner and his girlfriend who sounded as if she was overseas Chinese, but might’ve spent time in the States. Their sojourn was brief.

In spite of what Chengdoo [sic!] Citylife said, there’s no pool table, but there’s a dart board and there is football, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I’m not.

I observed that the local night life was a little lethargic. Most people sat around on the benches on the pavement and seemed to be inert both physically and mentally. There was this group, though.

Old people worshipping a street light

They appeared to be worshipping a street light; although I’m foreign so what do I know? There was also a book stall in the foreground with a steady stream of browsers. I note that by about 9pm most of the other places near The Leg and Whistle fell quiet, although before that there’d been people at the tables outside them. There were a few late diners, but that was about it.

Overall, The Leg and Whistle was not all that it might be through no fault of its own. It’s also still quite new. I had thought that there might be a few more rich and pretentious university students (or locals) in the place. I guess that it’s still establishing itself. If you’re looking for a British pub in Chengdu, The Leg and Whistle isn’t quite there. At the moment, it’s a quiet place and hasn’t yet been infested in the same way the Shamrock has by people who think this is a Western experience when it isn’t; or by Chinese girls who are out to snare an (allegedly) rich foreigner.

Worth a second visit? Yes, I think so. It would be easy to dismiss The Leg and Whistle for its want of British beer and its superficial resemblance to a pub, but it’s a place where you can hear yourself think, which I find more appealing than the Shamrock any day. Similarly, it doesn’t feel like your average Chinese bar, which is typically a fairly seedy, dimly lit sort of place and lacks any appeal whatsoever.

Notes.

1. Nonetheless, I have to wonder how puerile this place is for the gates to be shut at 11pm.

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