The last thing you expect to see in Beijing is a churros stall. So it did come as a surprise to see a lengthy queue for these Spanish snacks when strolling along Nanluoguxiang Hutong (南锣鼓巷胡同). I gave these bad boys a miss, as I really couldn't squeeze them in. Proof if proof was needed that the Spanish and Chinese are kindred food spirits.
A Beijing must eat is the humble jiaozi dumpling (饺子). Simply boiled and served with vinegar, they come with a variety of fillings such as the everyday pork & chive, crab, and sanxian 三鲜 (pork, prawn & chives). Should you find yourself in the Xidan (西单) neighbourhood, pop into 天津百饺园 – there's no English signage but the name translates as Tianjin Garden of 100 Dumplings.
You always get more interesting dim sum in China like these baked bbq roast pork buns (cha siu bao 叉烧包) from Modern China (金满庭) in the Times Square mall. I've not seen baked cha siu bao served as dim sum in London but you can get a man-sized version at Chinatown bakeries like Wonderful Patisserie.
Mushroom 'pie' with dim sum? It's not a classic combo but one that you can put together at the Golden Jaguar (金钱豹) buffet restaurant located in The Place mall. In common with the rest of the Western selection, the 'pie' was no great shakes but the Chinese and other Asian food was of a decent standard with many dishes cooked to order.
Le Quai (有璟阁) has a stunning interior and this restaurant, located near the Workers' Stadium, offers a mix of classic and contemporary Chinese cuisine with a fusion touch. It sounds like a car crash waiting to happen but I needn't have worried; fusion dishes like tea eggs filled with foie gras worked just as well as traditional dishes like the steamed Mandarin fish (gui yu 鳜鱼).
Eating Sichuan food in Beijing is another must. We went to Yuxin Sichuan Dish (渝信川菜), which is found inside the Chang'an Grand Theatre. Our selection of old faves such as dry-fried green beans (si ji dou 四季豆) and more unusual dishes like bullfrog in chilli oil was all good. Be warned, Sichuan cuisine in Beijing is a lot more potent than its London counterpart.
Grand Steam (蒸) is a trendy Cantonese joint just off Financial St. As you might have guessed from its name, this restaurant serves mainly steamed food including dim sum and larger dishes. I adored dishes like the steamed cod & beans with garlic soy. Less successful were their wonton noodles (yuntun mian 云吞面), as they didn't use the proper fresh egg noodles (san mein 生面) – sacrilege!
As much as I liked the healthy concept of Grand Steam, it seemed the locals preferred the unhealthy TGI Friday's next door. I have no objections to Beijingers sampling Western food on a night out; I just wish that they had better options to choose from. Mind you, there's not much chance of that when Grand Steam's other neighbour is Pizza Hut with a KFC two doors down.