Bypassing the dinner crowd in the packed downstairs venue, I recently climbed the grand staircase towards the week-old bar, intrigued as to how Zhou's signature dumplings and tea would translate into cocktails and bar bites.
I was greeted by a stunning modern interpretation of Shanghai design by renowned interior design duo, Hecker Guthrie. Comfy cushions, relaxed whicker table sets and beautiful original prints give the atmosphere a sophisticated homely edge. In fact, the chilled out vibes made me entirely forget the hustle and bustle of Oriental Teahouse directly below.
Having more than once been guilty of drinking on an empty stomach, I was determined to accompany an inevitable order of cocktails with food. As I browsed the menu, I was delighted to discover that some favourite elements of David's and the Oriental Teahouse had been translated to the new upstairs venue. Late night snacks included handmade dumplings, spicy fried chicken and wine-soaked edamame, to name but a few.
All at a very affordable price, an element Zhou later told me was fundamental to the overall experience. "I think one of the most important things when opening Zhou Zhou was to not only create the Oriental authenticity in the interior and in the food, but also in the price."
The drinks menu was equally as impressive, with options including a sweet 'Hello Vera' cocktail and an 'Apple and Ginger Martini' – making drinking almost feel healthy. What will really impress the beer aficionados of Melbourne is the selection of Japanese craft beer, a challenge Zhou very willingly accepted. "It has become a new hobby for me. I always had a passion for infused tea with the restaurants and now I feel I have translated that passion into something new," he explains.
The options are diverse and the well-sourced menu truly explores the evolving nature of Japanese brewing. Two standouts include the Red Rose Amber Ale and the COEDO beer, both refreshing choices for the last few warm autumn evenings.
As hours slipped by and the loft style bar filled with a growing crowd settling in for the night, it became clear that Zhou Zhou is the latest gem for those wanting a relaxed night out with friends, while digging into some authentic food and tasty drinks.
Image Credits: Tash Sorensen, The Urban List.