Reclining on a padded chair in a small open-view upstairs room, manager Dai Ni sips a cocktail as her husband and venue owner Hai Tao (both pictured above) finishes off a tattoo of Salvador Dali’s face on her right thigh. Directly beneath them, former Ginseng
barman Max Teng mixes more cocktails as his patrons’ Harley Davidson motorcycles are revved outside.
This is Tattoo Family
on Xiangyang Lu – a tattoo parlour that is also a fully functioning late-night cocktail bar. Thankfully, Hai has rigid rules about clients getting wasted then demanding tattoos (‘People have asked but I always say “No, we’ll do it tomorrow!”’, he laughs), but whether you want to get inked or not the place is enticing. ‘We wanted to create a place that could change some of the preconceptions about tattoo parlours,’ Hai says, as a customer tunes up an acoustic guitar in the small main bar area. ‘A place that brought more arts into it. A place where we could have music and artists.’
Tattoo Family has been operating here for a year, but re-opened with the bar early last month. True to its name, the space has the feel of a club house or collective HQ, with the chatter of artsy locals competing with the buzz of the tattoo gun for volume. But with quality cocktails being made by Teng, the idea is that it’s an inclusive destination bar as well as just a place for the owners’ cool friends to hang out. ‘I don’t want to do a bar that’s too elegant or serious,’ explains Teng, who left Yongkang Lu bar Ginseng, located just around the corner, to work here full time. ‘This place is friendly, like a home.’
Teng’s cocktails are proving a popular draw (especially for the ‘show your tattoo for buy-one-get-one-free’ drinks deal all night on Tuesdays). His specialty is infusion cocktails such as the Sichuan sour (58RMB) featuring bourbon infused with Sichuan chilli and pepper. The Dark Knight (68RMB), featuring scotch, dry vermouth and bitters is another specialty, with more classic options such as a mango mojito (55RMB) also on offer.
Tao, a highly-talented artist who designs many of his customers’ tattoos himself, is preparing to ink up Teng with some Buddha images on his chest soon and his impressive paintings adorn the walls. He’s created an intriguing little spot and thinks he can take things further with an outlet in Beijing, ideally to open next year.
‘This feels independent – we’re the only place like this in China,’ he claims. ‘We want to bring people together like a family.’ Like the tats customers walk out of the parlour with, we’re hoping Tattoo Family’s unique approach ensures that it’s a long-lasting affair.
By Jamie Fullerton