Beijing – Dongcheng (Around the Kapok Hotel)

Although Dongcheng  isn’t great for food there are plenty of  good restaurants in Beijing. Check my Beijing Bites post for lots of good suggestions, including places offering regional cuisine. The first few are walkable from the hotel.

This is primarily a post for my work colleagues who are billeted at the Kapok Hotel, but if you’re into modern design, you’d really enjoy staying here.

It’s very centrally located on Donghuamen Street  in the Dongcheng district, about 10 minutes walk east of the Forbidden City and 5 minutes from Wangfujing Dajie, the main shopping street (the equivalent of Oxford St in London).

Describing itself as a business boutique hotel, it has modern minimalist rooms with glass walled bathrooms and comfortable beds. Some rooms have outdoor terraces with a small bamboo garden. There’s free internet in the rooms, CNN and HBO on TV and a small but good quality gym in the basement. There are a couple of convenience stores directly opposite so you can refill the minibar with cheaper drinks.

As I said this post is particularly for my work colleagues who often don’t have the time or energy to go anywhere in the evenings. I’m sure the hotel restaurant is fine (speciality: Hunan cuisine) but on principle I like to get out and about. Unfortunately though, I’ve yet to find anywhere nearby that’s any good.

There is a place across the street from the hotel, over to the right, with a red sign and a stone-covered front. Be warned though that in 2010 the staff were quite surly (racist even?) towards me and the food was a C/D. I had a fried rice with a bit of egg in it and hardly anything else, just doused in soya sauce, always a bad sign. My plate of greens never arrived, possibly because I returned the waiter’s bad attitude.

With this in mind I tried another nearby place one night when I was short of time. The Golden Jaguar is at 55 Donganmen St (turn right out of the Kapok, go straight over the lights and you’ll see it on the corner before you get to the line of outdoor food stalls) It’s a buffet restaurant that in 2012 had a flat rate of 200 RMB (about £22) for all you can eat and drink. The scale and range of the food on offer is very impressive, but it’s all low grade stuff (C). Included in the price is all the beer you want, but given that it’s either flat or very frothy Budweiser, its not that much of an offer. I’d only recommend going if you’re desperate for somewhere convenient.

As I mentioned before, the Kapok is only 10 minutes walk from the Forbidden City. There’s a charge to get in (40 RMB in 2010) and you should give it at least 3 hours to see it all properly, the place is huge. There is an extra charge for the ‘museum of treasures’ at the north end of the city but I didn’t have time to go in. You can beat the crowds by entering at the north gate. The gardens are particularly beautiful and the smaller living quarters to the west are worth checking out too. Watch ‘The Last Emperor‘ before you go.

A nice bar to go to when the weather is good is the Lin Bar on the top floor of the Emperor Hotel at 33 Qihelou St. It’s an open terrace that overlooks the roofs of the Forbidden City which are lit up at night until about 11pm. Drinks are reasonable; I paid just over £5 for a fairly stiff G&T in 2012. The owner was partying with his friends there when I went and was very hospitable towards me.

So, other than this place, I have yet to find anywhere in Dongcheng Qu that I’d recommend. However, taxis are cheap and there are plenty of other good places to go. The nearest branch of the famous Dadong duck restaurant is only a fifteen minute walk if you can get in there (see Beijing – Fancy a Duck? post).

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