Hidden Hutongs: Jiugulou Dajie

Experimental theatre, centuries of history and a Big Bang Theory-loving restaurant

Experimental theatre, centuries of history and a Big Bang Theory-loving restaurant

Zhaofujie Fushidian

So much of Beijing’s history has been rebuilt and rewritten, but this corner shop (pictured above) offers an authentic glimpse on the past. At Zhaofujie Fushidian they haven’t changed a thing for decades; the shop has been in continuous operation since 1956. Watercolour posters from the ’70s adorn the walls, and the shopkeeper still uses an abacus and old-school scales when measuring the pickles, sauces and sundries on sale. You can almost smell the history (although that may also be the pickles) in this nondescript grocery store with a lot of stories to tell.

Zhaofujie Fushidian 67 Zhaofu Jie (no tel). Open 7am-9pm daily. 东城区赵府街67号

Bazinga!

bazinga

This cute café, named after a catchphrase from the US sitcom Big Bang Theory, is decorated with cartoons all over the walls. Décor-wise, it’s for kids at heart – and the cuisine is no more sophisticated. Bazinga’s speciality is mashed potatoes, which they serve in a huge variety of options. Would sir care for his mash baked with curry (28RMB) or served on a mini-pizza?
Bazinga! 4 Dashiqiao Hutong (138 1149 8021). Open 2-10pm Tue-Fri; midday-10pm Sat-Sun. 西城区大石桥胡同4号

Drum Tower West Theatre

theatre

A contemporary contrast to the ancient alleyways, this new theatre specialises in modern and alternative productions. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but the uninspiring façade houses a modern, mid-sized theatre. They have no website so the best way to discover the upcoming performances is to check out he boards outside. The programme is varied, featuring dramas, comedies and experimental productions.
Drum Tower West Theatre 6 Xiaobadaowan Hutong (6445 7019). 西城区小八道湾胡同6号

Contempio Bar and Café

contemio

What better place for a slice of serenity than a 600-year-old temple? Contempio’s event space, closed to the public most days, is part of the ancient Hong En Daoist Temple – and is absolutely stunning (if you can get in there). But even if you can’t, Contempio’s lounge area is inspiring. The ancient courtyard has been brilliantly restored into a chic space, well suited to amidday espresso or a late-night martini. Choose between the modern, white leather couches in the inner café or lounge around in the back area on one of the ornate wooden beds surrounded by vibrant watercolours.
Contempio Bar and Café 23 Doufuchi Hutong, Hong En Daoist Temple (6407 6778). Open 9am-late daily. 东城区旧鼓楼大街豆腐池胡同23号

Blue Stream Bar

This chilled-out renovated courtyard hosts intimate folk and blues performances nearly every night, with a good mix of rising stars and more established acts. But before night falls, the living room vibe is just as fitting for a lazy afternoon drinking coffee under the trees. It’s a well-positioned resting spot after a stroll in the hutongs, and the second-floor terrace is in the shadow of the mighty Drum Tower.
Blue Stream Bar 183 Jiugulou Dajie (6403 2597). Open 4pm-late daily. 西城区旧鼓楼大街183号

Shao Rou Ren

Here’s a date night idea: making out for ten seconds at Shao Rou Ren gets you a free plate of ox tongue. We’re serious – ten seconds of tonsil tennis gets you another tongue to chow down on. Just in case you’re not dating your dinner companion, Shao Rou Ren also offers a wide variety of sizzling meats, vegetables and soups that get the juices flowing (and they accept cash for these, you’re under no obligation to get to second base for a piece of steak). The best part is the fun atmosphere of it all, amped up by the hyper-enthusiastic staff. Just don’t bring your mum.
Shao Rou Ren 138 Jiugulou Dajie (6403 7626). Open 5.30-11.30pm daily. 西城区旧鼓楼大街138号

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