With winter biting, it’s important to start the day with a good breakfast. Time Out guides you through the best of Beijing’s breakfasts
Café Zarah The simple, red-walled Café Zarah delivers distinctly North European breakfasts – think cheeses and cold meats – which are surprisingly good. The cheese breakfast (38RMB) pairs excellent gouda and camembert with a boiled egg, two buttered rolls, and tomato and cucumber slices. It sounds odd, but it works. The Zarah breakfast (45RMB) adds ham, jam and Nutella spread; and the excellent value Prosecco breakfast (120RMB) consists of two Zarah breakfasts and a bottle of bubbly. If you want more booze, you can pour rum, amaretto or Bailey’s (30RMB) into coffee (regular 18RMB) or hot chocolate (regular 20RMB).
42 Gulou Dong Dajie, just west of Jiaodaokou, Dongcheng district (8403 9807). Open 9am-11pm Mon-Thu, 11.30am-midnight Fri-Sun. Breakfast for two around 100RMB.
South German Bakery
The south German Bakery is Beijing’s Continental all-rounder, with French (40RMB), Italian (55RMB) and German (75RMB) set breakfasts. Our favourite, though it’s pricey, is the 95RMB Luxury Breakfast, a glorious selection of smoked salmon, ham, salami, and cheese, all served with scrambled eggs and crispy bacon rashers. But the reason we really love it is for the bread, which is fresh-baked on-site and is a contender for the best in town. The rolls come in a bewildering range of options, from plain (7RMB) to muesli (6RMB) and nut (6-8RMB) breads. Many of the breakfasts aren’t cheap, but you won’t find many better.
Lucky Street B5+C5, 27 Lucky Street, Zaoying Lu, next to 21st Century Center (5867 0201). Breakfast served 9am-midday daily. Breakfast for two around 180RMB.
Too few people know about the Village Café, hidden inside the Opposite House, which is our new favourite breakfast spot in town. It provides possibly the classiest breakfast in Beijing that won’t entirely empty your wallet. The Eggs Benedict (68RMB) is probably the best in town (though we also love the Alfa version), but is outdone by its sibling, the asparagus with poached eggs and prosciutto, drizzled with Hollandaise sauce (78RMB). Eat while sipping an Arabica Latte (28RMB), which is only marginally more expensive than a Starbucks latte but vastly superior.
Inside the Opposite House hotel, 11 Sanlitun Bei Lu, Chaoyang district (6410 5210). Breakfast available 6.30am-11pm daily. Breakfast for two around 200RMB.
The Rickshaw makes no beef about serving their breakfasts big, and you can expect a satisfyingly high grease quota in this low-rent 24-hour favourite. The Driver Breakfast (45RMB), formerly known as the Carb Loader, is a hefty plateful of pancakes, two eggs, hash browns, two pieces of bacon or sausage, and an English muffin or toast. A slightly softer option is the Passenger Breakfast (45RMB), with four eggs, baked beans, two pieces of bacon or sausage, and fruit and granola with yogurt. The last bit won’t save you when you’re chomping down on this on a hungover Sunday morning – but who cares?
Sanlitun Nan Lu (50m south of the Gongti Bei Lu intersection), Chaoyang district (6500 4330). Open 24 hours. Breakfast for two around 100RMB.
Steak & Eggs
‘You’ll come for the price but return for the food,’ reads the sign above the bar at Steak and Eggs. But you can’t put a price on an enormous breakfast, and the Jumbo Breakfast (59RMB, by the way) duly delivers: three eggs, two pieces of bacon, one piece of country ham, two sausage links, grits, tomato, home fries and hash browns or baked beans. Be warned: it’s more of a competitive eating size than a ‘wasn’t that pleasantly filling’ size. Don’t tell your cardiologist.
Xiushui Nanjie (the bar street behind the Jianguomenwai Friendship Store), Chaoyang district (6592 8088). Open 6.30am-midnight daily. Second location near the Wenyu River, between Gahood and Capital Paradise, Shunyi district (8046 7119). Open 7am-10pm daily. Breakfast for two around 120RMB.
Forget the salubrious Scandinavian décor, Element Fresh can mix it when it comes to big greasy fry-ups. The Big American (64RMB) breakfast set consists of four eggs any style, three strips of bacon, two sausage links, two pieces of French toast, potatoes, fresh fruit and endless coffee or tea. An alternative gutbuster is The Cowgirl (58RMB), a truly all-American option which pairs a Western omelette (green peppers, onion, ham) with 90 grams of pan-fried steak.
Fourth floor, Building 11, The Village at Sanlitun, 19 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district (6415 0104). Breakfast served 10-11am Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm Sat-Sun. Breakfast for two around 140RMB.
Brits can be very snobby about fry-ups, but the Full English breakfast (65RMB) at the Vineyard Café has gone the way of Fish Nation and recreated a classic British staple in Beijing. The English consists of two pork sausages, two rashers of bacon, sautéed potatoes, grilled tomato, button mushrooms, baked beans, toast and two eggs prepared your way. It’s slightly classier than you’ll get at most English greasy spoon cafes, but just as satisfying.
31 Wudaoying Hutong, just south of Yonghegong Bridge, Dongcheng district (6402 7961).Open Tue-Sun 11.30am-late; brunch served weekends 11.30am-3pm, 5-10:30pm. Brunch for two around 150RMB.
Hou Wan Ton
Just east of the Drum Tower, Hou Wan Ton serves up delicious wanton soup and steamed buns for the authentic Beijing breakfast. Choose from the classic pork (6RMB) wanton (6RMB) or the shrimp and beef option for a classic dish that magically disintegrates in your mouth. Served floating in a traditional broth, carefully flavoured with tiny dried shrimp and seaweed, this is the perfect flavour partnership to set up your day. Mushroom and vegetable buns (3RMB) make for a must-have side order, but be warned: they invariably sell out by 9am, so get there early. It’s a family affair, so expect kids and prams among the nervous car owners on the morning school run. English menu available.
309 Gulou Dong Dajie, Dongcheng district (no phone). Breakfast available 6.30am-10pm daily. Breakfast for two around 25RMB.
Hua Tian Xiao Chi
Join the queue for some of Beijing’s best flatbreads. Known locally as bing (1RMB), they look similar to an Indian paratha and are deep-fried disks of dough that will set you up a treat. Alternatively, the slightly more sophisticated jidan bing contains egg and spring onion flatbread and tastes like a cross between a pancake and an omelette. Other classic Beijing bing include sesame (zhimabing), stuffed (xianbing) and plain (shaobing). The Yumiwotou, a conical-shaped steamed bread made from maize and pickled vegetables has to be tried to be believed. Porridge and noodles are also available and a list of dishes in English is posted on the wall. It gets busy here early.
89 Xianmen Dajie, Xicheng district (6617 6299). Breakfast available 6-10am daily. Breakfast for two around 15RMB.
This Taiwanese eatery (called Dacheng Jia) needs a good scrub and new coat of paint but its short breakfast menu, served from 8-11am only, makes a worthwhile morning stop in Sanlitun. Dip a feather-light steamed bun (3RMB) or deep-fried youtiao (3RMB) into a bowl of soymilk (3.5RMB) or opt for preserved egg and shredded pork porridge (6RMB). Sometimes staff turn all the lights off to make the place look closed. Don’t be fooled.
Goody House serves as the rear entrance to the Jingkelong Supermarket on the corner of the intersection of Gongti Bei Lu and Xindong Lu, Chaoyang district (6416 4757). Breakfast served 8-11am daily. Breakfast for two around 15RMB
Bai Hui Lao Hao Fan Zhuang
A steady flow of regulars keeps this popular breakfast spot busy most mornings. The draw is the traditional Beijing breads on offer and the usual porridge, here made with white and purple rice. Nai you zha gao (5RMB), Beijing’s equivalent to a New Orleans beignet, is a must-order and comes drenched in white sugar. Another treat is the luo si juan (1.5RMB), a thin, narrow band of dough wound in a circle and formed into a cone that is crispy on the outside and soft inside. Delicious jianbing (3RMB), an addictive crepe filled with an egg, fried dough and various sauces, are available from the restaurant’s outside window around the corner on Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie. Although there’s no English menu, pointing is always acceptable.
158 Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie (on northeast corner of Zhuangzizhong Lu), Chaoyang District (6404 0967). Breakfast served 6-10am daily. Breakfast for two around 15RMB.