Bring the Kids: Argo
Themed on the ship of Golden Fleece legend, Argo is a rare vessel in this part of town – a genuine family-friendly restaurant. A bright, split-level dining area dedicates the galley (downstairs, landlubbers) to families with several large tables and a carpeted corner full of toys, games and cushions. A kids’ menu (for under-12s) plays it safe with spaghetti and meat sauce or cod fillet and fries (RMB 32), but why bother when chef Kipouros Ilias’ authentic Greek food goes down such a storm with little ones? You won’t go wrong with a dish of mild hummus and soft, floury pita bread (RMB 28), and the creamy baba ghanoush is a great way of getting your little ones eating eggplant. Other child-friendly dishes include spanakopita (RMB 35), layers of flaky pastry baked with feta cheese, spinach and herbs, and dolmadakia (RMB 32), grape leaves stuffed with herby rice. Be sure to order a plate of tender, lemony calamari too (RMB 35) – just tell them it’s chicken! Take note that most dishes come with un-pitted olives, so you might like to request that these be left out, or better yet, put into a big bowl for the grown-ups.
Daily 11.30am-11pm. 59 Wudaoying Hutong (100 meters west of Vineyard Café), Dongcheng District (8403 9748) 东城区五道营胡同59号
Date Night: Nuage
A veteran of the city’s fine dining scene, this elegant Vietnamese
restaurant has managed, in the words of Kipling, to keep its head when all around are losing theirs. Houhai’s pre-Olympics explosion of neon-clad clubs and “lady-bars” seem a world when you’re in the underlit environs of this colonial-chic three-storey restaurant, as English-speaking waitresses clad in stylish ao dai glide between tables of tourists and moneyed locals. Insist on a top floor window table for jaw-dropping views across the lake to the pavilion crowning the summit of Jingshan Park. Standout dishes here include the grilled la lop leaf beef and steamed tiger prawns with Saigon beer; Chef Tan’s catfish pot with mushroom is perfect for a couple to share. A meal for two without wine should cost in the region of RMB 250, with house bottles of Australian Wolf Blass starting at RMB 240. After eating, take a stroll due west if the temperature allows it, skirting the north shore of Qianhai. Before long the bars and bustle gives way to traditional lakeside residences, once the homes of princes and court officials from centuries past.
Daily 11am-11pm. 22 Qianhai Dongyan, Xicheng District (6401 9581) 庆云楼, 西城区前海东沿22号