Hidden Hutongs: Dashilar

Beijing’s newest creative hub has plenty of cool cafes, unique shops and brand new galleries

Beijing’s newest creative hub, and the centrepiece of Beijing Design Week, Dashilar has plenty of cool cafes, unique shops and brand new galleries

Book Design Shop

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find 50 Shades of Grey here, but if not reading crap books is your thing, then this shop is definitely worth checking out. The tiny boutique bookshop has a selection of handpicked publications on art and design and the shop also doubles up as a design studio and hangout for local creative minds.
Book Design Shop 23 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (8310 7844). Open midday-6pm Tue-Sun. 西城区杨梅竹斜街10-14号

Spoonful of Sugar


Not many places can claim to have a rooftop hydroponic garden powered by catfish. But then again, there’s pretty much nothing else like Spoonful of Sugar. The stylish café features furniture made from up-cycled materials – baijiu vat lids as stool seats, for example – they grow their own herbs in said hydroponic garden, and its line of house-made, low-sugar cookies is divine (particularly the kumquat and oatmeal; 6RMB). Stop by for a coffee and the duck sandwich (40RMB) and pay homage to this spot, the only booming business in the hutong – for now. The winds of gentrification are definitely a blowin’. Come check out the area before everyone else.
Spoonful of Sugar 59 Tieshu Xiejie (6308 3971). Open 11am-9pm Tue-Sun. 西城区铁树斜街59号

Soloist Coffee


For an aromatic hit of hard, unadulterated caffeine, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere better than this. The passionate baristas at Soloist know their beans, and aren’t afraid to show it with their inventive brews. With coffee beans roasted on the premises, beautiful furniture salvaged from an old church and police station, and a peaceful veranda overlooking the hutong rooftops, this is a great place to while away an afternoon on an outrageously potent coffee high.
Soloist Coffee 39 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (5711 1717). Open 11.30am-8pm daily. 西城区杨梅竹斜街39号

Suzuki Kitchen


Fast becoming a Beijing staple, this branch is the newest addition to the Suzuki Kitchen empire. With decent curries, hefty rice dishes, and much more besides, this is a reliable place to fill up on some affordable Japanese nosh. The cool interior is quintessentially Japanese, apart from the frankly disturbing obsession with rabbits – we have no idea where that came from. From the logo to the ornaments, bunnies are all over the shop – it’s almost hallucinatory. ‘Excuse me, waiter, is that a rabbit on your shoulder, or am I tripping balls?’
Suzuki Kitchen 10-14 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (6313 5409). Open 11.30am-3pm, 5.30-10pm daily. 西城区杨梅竹斜街10-14号


Everything from old radios and revolutionary memorabilia to a handmade, glittery, cross-stitch portrait of Chairman Mao can be found in Rongdexuan, a twee little antiques shop run by an elderly Chinese couple. It’s a fantastic place to browse, full of ’70s-era graphic novels, porcelain figurines of the proletariat, and hundreds of other things you had no idea you wanted until you found them but now you just have to have! Come to think of it, if the Mao cross-stitch is still there on our next trip, we’re taking it.
Rongdexuan 45 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (no tel). Open 10am-5pm daily. 西城区杨梅竹斜街45号

Ubi Gallery


This gallery-cum-studio-cum-bespoke shop specialises in handmade, artisan jewellery and ceramics. This isn’t the place to go on a budget, but as far as quality and unique design go, Ubi Gallery is where it’s at. Founded in 2012 by Dutch expatriate Machtelt Schelling, Ubi Gallery has been providing a forum for cultural exchange between China and the international artistic community for a couple of years now. Places like Ubi Gallery are what’s putting Yangmeizhu Xiejie on the map and making it the must-go place for Beijing’s creative elite, especially during autumn’s annual Beijing Design Week.
Ubi Gallery 62 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (6301 2382; www.ubigallery.com). Open 11.30am-6.30pm Wed-Sun. 西城区杨梅竹斜街62号

Twelve Moons

Twelve Moons sells artisan notebooks, sketchbooks, greeting cards and pretty much everything else that’s made from pulped trees. Unlike many similar places, the designs on sale here aren’t so kitsch or saccharine-sweet that they make a little bit of sick come up – in fact, the designs are definitely worth seeking out. The quaint little shop also uses ethically sourced materials, so you can rest easy that you’re doing your bit for ma nature. As with most of the other businesses in the hutong, this place also doubles up as an art gallery.
Twelve Moons 27 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (8319 7245). Open 11am-7pm Tue-Sun. 西城区杨梅竹斜街27号