Hidden Hutongs: Dongsi

Retro cafés, great summer watering holes and a restaurant owner named Bond, James Bond

Retro cafés, great summer watering holes and a restaurant owner named Bond, James Bond

1968 Café

It’s no misnomer, this is café is dedicated to all things 1968 (we’re talking The Beatles and JFK as opposed an embittered year during the Cultural Revolution). Stuffed floor to ceiling with retro curios, this cosy café has your usual selection of beverages, a great selection of records and art and design books, and plenty of bric-a-brac to keep you entertained. If that’s not enough, a little birdie told us they have another trick up their sleeve – that’s right – an actual talking bird!
1968 Café 59 Dongsibatiao (no tel). Open 1-10pm Tue-Sun. 东城区东四八条59号

Miaomiao's

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‘Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first’ – now there’s a motto we can get on board with. It’s with this guiding principle that owner Miaomiao runs her quaint little café, specialising in Cantonese desserts and Hong Kong milk teas and Japanese coffee. Milk tea and desserts from the south are admittedly an acquired taste, but this spot is a welcoming place to try them out.
Miaomiao's 78 Dongsishitiao (6401 0349). Open 10am-10pm daily. 东城区东四十条78号

Slow Boat Brewery Taproom



This is the place that has been putting the Dongsi hutongs on the map since dropping anchor a year and a half ago. Its white-tiled walls remind us a little of tipsy trips home on the London Underground, albeit substituting sullen commuters for upbeat crowds and some of the best craft beer and burgers in town. The place’s only problem is lack of space as word spreads and more and more punters climb aboard – so get there early when you can. And yes, we are incapable of writing about this place without resorting to haggard nautical puns. It’s a disease. Seriously – help us!
Slow Boat Brewery Taproom 56 Dongsibatiao (6538 5537). Open 5pm-midnight Tue-Thu; 5pm-late Fri; 2pm-late Sat; 2-10pm Sun; closed Mon. 东城区东四八条56号

Beer House

A new arrival in the hutong, this tiny bar on Dongsijiutiao has got a good thing going on. Consisting of two bar stools, one table and a fridge packed with an excellent selection of imported foreign beers at ridiculously cheap prices, this is a great little place to knock back a few on a sunny afternoon.
Beer House 82 Dongsijiutiao (no tel). Open 9am-late daily. 东城区东四九条82号

Lao Beijing

Run by the unforgettably named James Bond (seriously), this charming family eatery has a license to thrill with its home-style Chinese dishes cooked by Mr Bond’s friendly brother. The charismatic duo pride themselves on the quality of their fresh produce – the menu changes daily depending on what’s in the market that day. Plus, he and his brother will happily cook up your favourite dish on request. The restaurant has been in the same spot for the last 15 years, making Mr Bond a fountain of local knowledge and the go-to guy for hutong gossip. They’re missing a trick, though: we would have called the restaurant ‘Live and Let Fry’.
Lao Beijing 2 Yufang Hutong (6402 1229). Open 4pm-late daily. 东城区育芳胡同乙2号

Nice Rice

This recently opened second branch of Nice Rice, which specialises in cuisine from Hunan province, is a great place for a flavoursome Chinese meal free from the grime and oil of your standard cheap spot. Its slate-and-wood interior makes it a damn sight trendier than your average neighbourhood joint, too. Try the stir-fried tofu and any of the beef dishes. Be warned: as with all Hunan cuisine, dishes here are spicy as hell. We’ve heard that the rice is nice, though.
Nice Rice 23 Dongsiertiao (8408 4345). Open 11am-10pm daily. 东城区东四二条23号

Crescent Moon

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The green, Islamic façade of this Uighur restaurant makes it easy to spot from way down the hutong. Crescent Moon is a good choice for some authentic cuisine from China’s westernmost province, without the noise and razzmatazz of many of the big Xinjiang restaurants in town. The food is clean and affordable, the waiters dress in traditional Uighur outfits (which makes the surly service a bit easier to swallow, somehow), and the bottled stout is surprisingly good. What’s not to like?
Crescent Moon 16 Dongsiliutiao (6400 5281). Open 10.30am-11.30pm daily. 东城区东四六条16号
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