Situated south of Dashilan, Zhaowu Xishi is a hidden café worth finding. The ambiance is Japanese-tea room style, with potted plants, all-wood furniture, natural light, and heated tile floors. And then there are the bunnies. Zhaowu Xishi has been getting a lot of buzz in recent months, with pictures of their remarkable desserts shaped like bunnies, hedgehogs, and objects from the natural world filling Weibo and Dianping feeds all over.
The menu is a bit confusing, especially if you don’t read Chinese, but luckily the wait-staff are happy to help. Once settled at the end of the long, tatami table at the end of the room, we ordered the coconut and mango “Meng Meng” bunny dessert (RMB 128). It’s almost too cute to eat, and we spent a while just admiring it from various angles before diving in. The coconut is subtle and balances well with the tropical fruit interior, although it actually tasted more like passionfruit than mango. The bunny comes with sides of coconut shavings and pop rocks, a fun throwback that almost made up for Beijing’s lack of fireworks over the past couple of weeks.
The desserts aren’t all cutesy (although the “Slowly” 慢慢 mànmàn hedgehog, RMB 126, which is actually the cafe’s mascot, is very hard to resist), but that wouldn’t prove our point so we also got the matcha and pandan mousse “Well” (井 jǐng, RMB 95). Inspired by the water wells that used to dot these hutongs, it is truly a geometric marvel. Sharp edges and artful dusting give the jewel-like dessert a startlingly realistic appearance. Again, it’s difficult to ruin the artwork, but the interior doesn’t disappoint; the toasty matcha is perfect alongside the white chocolate and rich pandan mousse heart.
Rather than choosing from the extensive tea offerings, we opted for the basic pot of white tea for two (RMB 58), complete with a small tea candle underneath to keep it warm. Cold as the day was, we appreciated being able to enjoy the tea straight away.
True tea connoisseurs will also appreciate the fact that guests are invited to choose their own teacup from the unique, and beautifully-arrayed selection in the wooden shelving.
While Zhaowu Xishi is all about tea and beautiful desserts, they also offer a range of flavored wine (from RMB 90) and sweet and savory snack boards (from RMB 38) should you want to linger deeper into the evening.
Though Zhaowu’s selling point is that it’s incredibly Instagram-friendly, it doesn’t come at the expense of the actual product. Service is great, the tea is delicious and properly served, and the desserts are as decadent as they are beautiful. Overall, the experience makes for a great spot for a chat between friends, and to warm up on a cold day in the hutongs.
Daily 1-8pm. 3 Zongshu Ertiao, Dashilan, Xicheng District (6315 0107)