Dear friends, it's Aihua here!
Last year, when we were evicted from Chapter One by the property owner without reason, I lost more than a place to run a bar... I also lost some hope and happiness.
At that time, I decided against opening another bar, because I didn't want to meet another kind of landlord that I couldn't trust. I didn't want to be in another situation I had no control over.
Instead, I packed my bags, left the country, and travelled abroad. Travelling has been one of the most beautiful, happiest periods of my life. However I have also come to realise that while you can travel for a while, you can't make it your whole life. My feet have grown weary, and the very same fate that made me open Chapter One in the first place all those years ago has bought me back to Kunming, to once again open the bar that I love so much.
I feel that a small bar has to have a soul, but it is very hard to say exactly what that soul is. Like people, architecture or art, a bar has to have it's own thought, ideas and style. Of course, this is a business, and one in Wenlin Street, so we have to make a profit to survive. However, at the same time I realise that there are a large number of local and foreign students nearby. So, during the day, from opening time to 7pm I've picked your favourite beer, cocktails and coffees, and will provide them to you at almost half the price of the evening!
Also, between 11am - 2pm, and 5 pm - 7:30 pm everyday we'll be providing a buffet of great food including two different types of Chinese and Western meals each, plus vegetables, fruits and non-alcoholic drinks, for just 40 RMB per person. Please follow GoKumming or your friends WeChat to see our daily offerings. But our prices don't mean we've sacrificed on quality. The western foods on our menu includes tried-and-tested recipes collected from the many foreign friends of Chapter One over the years, including my favourite burritos. And of course, our Chinese food is authentic and delicious. Running a bar gives me so much joy, and I always try to put my entire heart into it. I hope that other people will be able to see the care and attention I put into the bar too.
I don't know whether or not my thoughts are too international, but I believe that at the end of the day it doesn't matter if you're a foreigner or if you're Chinese: at the end of the day, we're all people. Of course, visitors from abroad do need extra help and to be treated carefully because our cultures differ from each other. I realised that much when I went abroad to travel and became a foreigner myself, and received the help and assistance of the people I met
Thinking of this makes me recall a sentence my German friend and his Nepalese wife told me: they felt Chapter One was their second home. Likewise, I've many Chinese friends who say that after I closed Chapter One, they stopped coming to Wenlin Street.
You could say that a bar has to have a soul. It is my hope that Chapter One's soul will make everyone who visits feel at home.
So, I'm delighted to say that I've returned and Chapter One has returned too! Please tell all your friends, and I look forward to catching up with you in Chapter One very soon!
This is not a review of Chapter One but a way of saying 'thank you'.
Thank you Piers for all your recent assistance and for your help in obtaining tickets for the China v Australia game. Great atmosphere, mediocre game but a good time had by all.
Anyone that is ready to help other visitors in this way should surely have a successful business - good luck with your rennovation/review of Chapter One.
I would agree with everything that Jared said, but I should add that the importance of always having a cook in the kitchen -- certainly at midday -- goes without saying.
I would just say it depends what you are looking for from Chapter One.
The food is not great and it's often hard to find a fuwuyuan to order another beer, but there is no place better than Chapter 1 to hang out on a Friday or Saturday night (they're even showing the Rugby World Cup!), or to spend an afternoon studying.
Don't order a cup of coffee, though.
If you must eat there, the hamburgers are usually decent, but the fries are soggy.
As far as drinks go, as Jared mentioned they have Beer Lao (a bit expensive, but good), but I prefer the wine by the glass, which is often hard to find in Kunming.
I have found this place to be sub-par in customer service and food quality.
The three times i have eaten there, I have had to repeatedly question the fuwuyuans where my food was.
If you don't order at the front desk, forget about it.
The food is bad in general.
The last time I was there, thinking I would give them a "third" chance, I ordered the chicken salad sandwich.
It was more of a mayonnaise sandwich.
I expect more from a western restaurant.
Library by day, pub by night, Chapter One is great for both weekday studying or Friday night libation. Despite its mediocre food offerings, Chapter One has a solid drink menu and a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.
Food. Last spring I'd come in several times a week for the inexpensive but tasty Indian curry. Over the summer, however, the Indian menu was spun off to create Indian Kitchen (two shops down on Wenlin Jie). Besides the decent burgers, the remaining food leaves a lot to be desired.
A cheese pizza I ate a couple of weeks back had an almost milky consistency and had the aftertaste of some kind of fruit.
Drinks. Chapter One has a comparatively good selection of alcohol. You can choose between slightly up-market imports like Beer Lao (¥16) and old standbys like Dali or Qingdao (both a reasonable ¥8). The bar has at least two or three options for popular liquors like whiskey or vodka. Non-alcoholic options are pretty standard, though I wouldn't recommend the coffee.
Ambiance & Service. With its comfy lounge-like set-up, Chapter One is one of my favorite places in Kunming. The second floor features cushy-couches and sturdy large wooden tables. I've spent countless hours reading and studying there. The servers are friendlier than average, and while helpful generally leave you alone.
Unique Feature. Unlike some other expat restaurants lined book shelves, Chapter One's book collection is definitely worth browsing.