Secreted away behind a plain metal door in an otherwise unremarkable old residential lane on Taian Lu, Aroom is the very definition of a hidden gem. The large, beguiling space, housed in a 1920s building, is packed full of charming vintage objects and artworks that make for a stunning interior.
The venue's white-washed rooms are scattered with battered leather suitcases, vintage handbags, rocking horses and hundreds of other eclectic items. One of the owners, Nicole Sit, says of the collection, 'We like industrial-rustic, but not too country'. There's an antique chair from the 1850s, a C3PO model from the 1980s and in between, industrial lamps, 1950s handbags and garden tools.
There are corkscrews from Uruguay, postcards from the States and ceramic dogs from Sweden, all collected during the owners’ trips abroad shooting TV commercials. One of the ceramic dogs bears an uncanny resemblance to Hemmingway, the owners’ 12-year-old blind pug, who can often be found minding his own business in his wicker basket under a desk.
The owners, two couples who work in advertising, didn’t set out to open Aroom as a cafe. Originally, they launched it as a shop for all the knick knacks they’ve collected during many years of trips abroad and they assumed they’d just be serving coffee to shopping customers. However, as word has spread on Weibo among those looking for a unique hangout, Aroom’s in-crowd customers are now more likely to buy a latte than a vintage camera.
Given the venue’s beginnings as a shop, the menu is small and simple, with coffees, lime soda, a handful of alcoholic drinks and a few cakes. A mellow latte (32RMB) is a highlight, elegantly served with a cookie, sugar cubes and an elongated wooden spoon, but you’re really here for the decor more than the drinks.Anna Leach