So delicious panini and
I like this place
So delicious panini and
I like this place
Walking through the hutongs I happened upon Austen and immediately knew I had to return for dinner. When I started feeling hungry I came back and was welcomed into the adorable restaurant. I had a delicious bowl of mushroom soup and some fresh baked bread to accompany it. I loved this space. It was incredibly serene and the staff were very helpful and kind. I hope to come back during my stay. An added bonus is that they speak english very well.
After a long week travelling around China, I found myself in a Beijing hotel on my last evening determined to experience something other than business meetings.
I had a strong desire to visit a night market that wasnt explicitly for tourists, something "off the beaten track" maybe and was recommended by a Chinese colleague to visit Nanluoguxiang Hutong.
I am sooooo pleased I did! Firstly the market, which comprises 100's of small shops, was alive and buzzing and I stocked up on many fabulous gifts.
But the real find was waiting for me down one of the side streets. Having spent the past week being feted with some amazing Chinese banquets, I was shamelessly desperate for some western food.
On gazing from one small restaurant to another, suddenly a big smile greeted me from inside of an Italian restaurant. I was looking at the menu from the outside when the lady (who later found out was the owner, Cici) kindly ran through the simple but for me, perfect choices. I allowed myself to be persuaded and went inside.
What a lovely place! There are just 5 or so tables but the decor, the music and the general ambiance was an oasis of tranquility among the hustle and bustle of the Hutong. Cici was fabulous - a really wonderful maitre d'!
Upon her recommendation I chose the home mad Mushroom soup followed by a spicy bacon and tomato pasta. I have eaten on many restaurants around the world, including many in Milan and Rome but this food was a match for them. All of the food is home made and freshly prepared by Cici's husband who, I understand, once trained under a Michelin-starred chef - and it told!
The food was exquisite and so was the conversation. Cici spent time chatting and made me feel very, very welcomed.
I cannot recommend Austen more highly. Since all of their food is freshly prepared, the menu is perfectly chosen for a small restaurant.
I am going back to Beijing in middle of December and will definitely be visiting Cici and her husband again and strongly recommend you do the same!
I've been in this city for more than 10 years and tried many so-called "Western" restaurants which most often do a disservice to the cuisine they purport to represent. This is sad if we want locals to appreciate the fact that we take food as seriously as the Chinese and have just as much to offer in terms of subtleties of taste, texture and flavour.
However, happily we have Austen flying the flag for at least Italian cuisine: I second everything in JohnnydiScozia's comprehensive review and the others (below) and would add how delightful it is that Austen have been brave enough to reverse the paradigm of shouting loud and offering little in favour of quietly and consistently delivering 100% on both food and service; the home made lasagna, salmon, and pannacotta with raspberry coulis (to name but a few) were exquisite and make you sit up, slow down and fully savour every mouthful - add a glass of their special red wine (sadly strictly limited, get there quick) and you've nigh on checked in to food heaven!
In keeping with the spirit of the place, the owners Sissi and her partner are friendly but respectfully low-key and have that rare knack of neither being hysterically attentive or frustratingly absent throughout the meal: it helps that the place is so intimate and has no need for other service staff and it feels both nice and reassuring to have direct contact with the people at the heart of the business. In these days of anonymous chain restaurants and constant food safety scares (rat meat anyone?) I value such a relationship.
Respect and best wishes for continued future success to Austen and its owners :-)
We found this little restaurant (4 tables) by accident while exploring the hutongs in Beijing. Everything in this restaurant is made with love and passion for Italian food. If you want to get a place I'd recommend to make a reservation. Pasta is home made and that was one of the best Lasagne I ever had. Also the desserts are great...and the service was very (family) friendly