The Fumin Lu-Xinle Lu-Changle Lu triangle in the former French Concession is a relatively dry spot when it comes to bars. Restaurants abound, but anyone seeking a place to settle down for a tipple either has to trek north, towards the likes of Dr Beer, or venture upstairs to LUNE via what is probably Shanghai’s smallest elevator.
Seeking to plug the gap is Chala Tapas & Bar, a central and South American-style bar-cum-tapas restaurant owned by the folks next door at Bistro Burger. The mish-mash of elements sounds original but proves problematic. The pleasant visuals – scrubbed wooden floors, dim lighting – are undermined by a bizarre, incongruous playlist that leaves one wondering whether alternative music bar DADA has suddenly relocated here. The atmosphere is muddled, the venue seemingly unsure of whether it wants to be an eatery, lounge bar or something more casual.
Most disappointing are the drinks. Pisco, Peru’s national drink, abounds here, but Chala’s servings are tame and better cocktails employing the spirit can be found elsewhere, such as at Ferguson Lane’s Azul and its K11 sibling, or Unico by Mauro Colagreco on The Bund. At Chala, both the Chilcano de Pisco (pisco, lime and ginger ale, 48RMB) and Pisco Sour (pisco, fresh lime juice, sugar syrup and egg whites, 48RMB) taste too sweet and would struggle to make the grade as a passable alcopop, let alone a proper cocktail.
The bar’s other concoctions are similarly not up to standard; our gin and tonic made with Hendricks (48RMB) is bland and lacks bite, while the Long Island iced tea (48RMB) tastes so weak it could be served at a kids’ party without parents noticing anything awry. Wine dominates the menu, but with most glasses costing a mildly unreasonable 52-62RMB there’s little that appeals. If you want a proper drink you’d have better luck heading next door to Bistro Burger and ordering one of their hard shakes.