An off the eaten track cafe specializing in organic fare and fine pizzas sporting toppings from their own Shunyi farm. The bagels and daily breakfast are not to be missed either.
What’s behind that obscure green metal door on the unremarkable market street Sanjiefang? The answer: the freshest, most feelgood food in Beijing. Seriously. The source is Shunyi’s Green Cow Organic Farm. Husband-and-wife team Shan En and Lejen Chen started the farm nine years ago when they were struggling to find quality produce for their new restaurant, Mrs Shanen’s. Soon they found themselves with acres of organic greens, heritage breeds of chickens and pigs and a flourishing, community-supported agriculture programme.
With top-tier produce sorted, Mrs Shanen’s has been killing it for what seems like forever now. It built its reputation on the kind of honest diner fare you’d get from a family-run joint in smalltown America, and this is exactly what you’ll find behind that green metal door on Sanjiefang at Green Cow City Café, the couple’s latest venture.
Don’t even think about not getting a bagel. Freshly toasted and warm, these guys are strong contenders for best bagel in the city. Shan En and Chen have got nearly two decades of baking under their belts and you can taste it in the impossibly light and airy centres beneath crisp exteriors. On a Saturday morning a fresh, hot, classic bagel spread with farmhouse herb cream cheese is transformative.
Bagels may be where it all started, but they’re hardly where it ends. The pitta bread served with hummus is excellent for all the same reasons – they’re pillowy fluffs of a thing, yet with proper surface tension. Oh, and on the topic of tension, take a moment to de-stress from the week by getting on those weekend brunch menu ricotta pancakes. They melt in your mouth (no joke), each bite bursting to reveal new pockets of soft ricotta.
The organic sausage’s beauty lies in its simplicity. When pork is good, it’s good – no shame in that. The seasoning is minimal, which may cause some complaints, but it just makes us think, ‘Do we have room for that organic hamburger (65RMB)?’
Green Cow’s off-the-hook carbs find their soul mate in the farm-raised meat. Combine the two and we’re in chart-topping territory. Lash that all together with the world’s greatest dairy product – cheese, of course – and you’re faced with their organic porchetta pizza. The crust par-excellence has a pronounced crunch that evokes the outer boroughs of New York, or, more faintly, the streets of Naples. Lavish slabs of porchetta are rich in flavour.
The café sells a variety of hard-to-find, speciality ingredients like baked wheatgerm (450g 50RMB) and an extensive selection of organic meat including beef and pork (1kg 200RMB) and gluten-free meatloaf (25RMB a slice).
Sure, the name City Café may be a tad misleading given that – while it may be closer to downtown than the farm – it’s still in the middle of seeming wilderness. But with stellar eats and a noble agenda of local, organic food, we can only hope that Green Cow continues its slow march into the centre of town. And in the meantime? We’ll be back for more.