Back in June, I spent a few days in Beijing. Despite my tight meeting schedule, I carved some (little) time to discover the Chinese capital. It’s a fascinating place, and it has quickly ranked up in my top 10 cities.
First thought on arrival. Beijing airport is huge, and I mean you can walk and ride trains for a while before being finally out.
I flew in overnight, and within 30 minutes from landing, despite the huge distances, I very swiftly passed through customs, collected my luggage and headed to my hotel by taxi, in the crazy Pecking traffic.
I stayed at The Opposite House, a fantastic Japanese designed hotel in Sanlitum, the Embassy district. The area is exceptional for shopping, restaurants and nightlife (well, if you are not working).
Attention to detail is incredible, from background music, fast wi-fi, exceptional vanity kits, free mini bar (inclusive of snacks – try the wasabi nuts!) to the rejuvenating facial mask placed on your pillow every night.
The Opposite House personalized service goes beyond expectations.
Perhaps it was because I was visiting reception on a daily basis, to ask for addresses and directions to be written in Chinese, (no taxi driver understands English), but when I (sadly) left, most of the staff were calling me by name!
On my first day, after checking my emails, and doing a bit of work, I grabbed a late lunch (pad Thai.. I know.. but I had Thai cravings..) from the hotel Cafe and headed to Hutongs (Beijing Old city).
Here, I hired a pedicab and ventured in the narrow streets.
At one particular point I think I have grasped that Mao briefly lived in one of the compounds that my driver was showing me, but then it could have been something completely different.. so take with a pinch of salt!
Feeling particularly athletic, I climbed up to see the view from the Bell Tower.
Not having much time left until dark, I crammed a visit to Jingshan Park, a beautiful and relaxing green space with a panoramic view over the Forbidden City (that unfortunately was closed) from the top of the hill.
I then headed to Tiananmen Square, one of the top 3 largest squares in the world, where I sat down watching people, resting my feet, and feeling incredibly small.
On a different evening, after work, I visited Yashow Market, which was literally around the corner from my hotel, and had a delicious dumpling dinner in the food court on the top floor.
I did also manage a quick visit to the Silk Market where I exercised my bargaining skills.
I think I am actually pretty good at it, must be my Meditareeanean background! I came back with some beautifully soft scarves and deep-sea blue silk sheets.
The culinary highlight of my trip was an incredible yet surreal dinner at The Green T House, where a fellow foodie and colleague, had booked a table for my last night in the city.
I must admit I was slightly skeptical, as I wanted to try somewhere a little more traditional (Pecking Duck). In fact, I had a reservation for Made in China at the Grand Hyatt. But, in retrospect I am so glad I changed my plans!
The Green T House is a ‘tea’ experience restaurant, gallery, boutique hotel, creative space by artist, entrepreneur and tea lover (of course) Zhang Jin Jie.
The restaurant itself is an actual exhibition gallery, with pieces by the owner and guest artists. It’s essentially made of two main buildings separated by a pond.
Everything, from the design to the presentation of the food, plays with the Yin and Yang opposites (white and black, hot and cold).
The food is a fusion of contemporary Western (with a French influence) and Chinese Fusion. They offer a very extensive wine list, and of course an immense menu of special teas.
The day we visited, the restaurant (white building) was closed, as they were shooting a fashion video, and we were accommodated in the black building, which usually hosts the guests of the boutique hotel.
Normally photos are not allowed, but I managed to bypass the waiter’s strict controls and take a few with my iPhone (without flash unfortunately, and in a dark room painted in black. I hope this can justify the poor quality of the images ).
What we ordered:
Delicious and soft green tea steamed buns served with green tea pesto.
Dusted pork ribs in champagne sauce (my favorite course), heavenly sticky with a lovely caramelized flavor.
Mushroom and green tea risotto, creamy and very well balanced.
And to clean our palates, a silky chestnut black truffle and cappuccino soup.
A fantastic dinner. Food is beautifully presented and packed with flavor. Decor is incredible (particularly if you, like me are a fan of design).
Service is prompt but not intrusive; except from the fact that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures ;). Recommended.
Dinner £80/pp including drinks.