To some, gorgeous boutique hotel The Orchid is a favourite destination for a quiet weekend brunch or a cheeky midweek staycation, but to many the hutong hotel is largely unknown.
Set in the heart of Gulou, the hotel’s beautiful rooms – with an old hutong style and modern feel – have remained largely the same since a recent renovation, while the hotel’s restaurant, Toast, is bigger, brighter and sports a new dinner concept.
The concept is in line with the same blend of style and comfort that permeates every inch of the multilevel courtyard space. An array of small plates, designed to share, deliver a measured level of richness, texture and flavour without stooping into the realm of wanton indulgence or jumping the shark into modernist austerity.
Toast has always been fond of Middle Eastern and north African ingredients, made evident by the menu’s hummus, tahini, labneh and lamb kofte to name a few. The new dinner menu runs with the theme, starting with a light salad of couscous and merguez from Israel (68RMB) and the classic Shakshuka (78RMB), a dish of eggs poached in ‘moderately over-seasoned tomatoes’. Garden flavours and deeply sweet tomato notes prevail against rich egg yolk and spices. The homemade beetroot-cured red salmon with ricotta (68RMB) gets an added boost from a mixture of beetroot puree and yoghurt; the contrast between earth and sea is as tasty as it is beautiful.
Freshly seared prawns on a bed of spinach (68RMB) are a savoury departure from the creamy entrants,with the heat from the prawn only slightly wilting the bright green leaves. The flesh is succulent and the heads retain their briny essence and bright pink colour. Our favourite new item is hands down the beef and lamb kofte with mashed potato and poached egg (78RMB), a low-country dish of rustic meatballs made with potato and Middle Eastern spices, all coated in the liquid yolk of a poached egg. The roast duck salad (78RMB) and the samosas (68RMB) shouldn’t be missed either.
We recommend going with a group as plates are small but so are the price tags – sharing is a must. That being said, it might well be Beijing’s best date spot for ambiance, price point and all around ‘in-the-know’ cool points. With wine by the glass starting at 40RMB and the gorgeous terrace opening soon, you’ll be sure to find us eating at The Orchid’s revamped restaurant in the months to come.