Find your way down to the lower level of the Village North, your best bet is through The Opposite House, where a circular maze of shops are starting to root into a hip clandestine fashion underground. Snake through the shiny space and you’ll eventually land in front of a curved glass building named Colibri, just like the fancy lighter.
Colibri is a café that boasts cupcakes, coffee, and fine eats. Anywhere else in the world, it’s nothing special, but Beijing has been living in a vacuum and lacking much in the way of café culture, which makes this space commonly uncommon. The café is bright with clean, hard light wood benches, lots of steel and white, and a good-looking crowd eating simple fare.
The menu is simple: order at the counter and wait at a table for delivery. Fancy sandwich selections include panini, sourdough, wraps and the necessary baguette. Prices range from 38RMB to 58RMB, with the majority hovering around 48RMB – a New York sandwich price in China. A smoked chicken and mushroom panini (48RMB) is meltingly warm with gooey cheese inside the crunch of grilled bread. But a roast beef baguette with gherkins, horseradish and rocket is cold and just not enticing. Roast beef sandwiches (48RMB) need that rosy pink medium centre in thin slices, rather than thick, dry brown layers that lack the ‘bite me’ quality of a good sandwich.
The leek and potato soup (28RMB) is remedied with salt, while Colibri throws the kitchen sink at a deep salad bowl that contains: roasted cauliflower, radicchio, feta, bacon, quail egg, sweet grapes and hunks of golden croutons (48RMB). The salad should be great but, if the restaurant space is cold, the salad is even more so. A red wine dressing coats it all in an odd purple colour that pairs up to the grapes and cooked radicchio in a monochromatic mauve. Flavour-wise it’s different and refreshing.
When you’ve finished your vegetables, the reward is dessert. The cupcakes that Colibri prides itself on may make those who have been in on the decade-long cupcake craze wonder what all the hype is about. A Malaysian pastry chef with international experience is in the house and she may have her cake, but clearly, by the taste of things, hasn’t been eating it. Cupcakes are dry, coarsely crumbed and begging for butter or oil in their batter. The toppings develop a hard unpalatable crust from sitting openly on display. Other than the carrot and zucchini cupcake – which is oil-based and therefore more tender than its colleagues, the other selections seem geared toward a Chinese palate. They will leave you begging for libations.
Beverages at Colibri are a very good thing. Fresh juice (25RMB) and excellent coffee (15RMB to 23RMB) and tea selections (25RMB) are welcome in the area. Stop by Colibri when you’re hungry and need a break from all the Village shopping madness. Lillian Chou
Offering one of Beijing's best hot sandwiches