Imperial Dining in Beijing
This Imperial Chinese restaurant is located in the truly amazing tranquil gardens of Prince Li of the Qing Dynasty. Everything about the restaurant is fabulously Qing – the music, waiter’s costumes, decorations and catering and it also has the etiquette of the royal court of the Qing Dynasty.
Whilst it’s about an hour drive to the restaurant from Beijing it’s definitely worth the trip just for the gardens which are spectacular with all kinds of ancient styled sceneries such as pavilions, terraces, verandas, winding paths, rockeries, fish ponds and stunning Chinese lanterns.
When we arrived, we were met at the gate by a waitress dressed splendidly in a Qing Dynasty costume. On this occasion just over twenty-five of us hired a bus to enjoy the evening. We were told to arrive early so that we could enjoy the gardens in the daylight and we were not disappointed.
For the next half hour or so we were given a private tour of the garden by the head waitress who spoke very good English. And after that, because we were so early we were permitted to see the nightly ritual of roll call; every single waiter, all dressed in Qing Dynasty costumes, had their names called and each had to answer verbally.
We were told there are financial implications for anyone who arrives late for work and is not at roll call. The roll call process is followed by a physical check of each person’s hands and nails to ensure they are clean. This commences around 5.15pm every night so again it’s definitely worth going early to see this process.
The girls all wear high Chinese shoes similar to the shoes worn during the Qing Dynasty. Not sure how they stayed upright all night.
After this, we all went our separate ways and strolled around the pathways bumping into the friendly staff who were getting ready for the evening and the chefs enjoying a rest and a cigarette before making our meals.
We reserved one of the large private rooms. It was a good sized room with two large tables covered in the Imperial yellow tablecloth.
The dishes were absolutely delicious and you can BYO your own alcohol and soft-drinks with no corkage fees. Some of my favourite vegetarian dishes were not on the menu e.g. spicy eggplant and vegetarian dumplings so our lovely waitress asked the chef to make them which he kindly did. I could not fault the service.
At the end of the meal we were given a complementary small cup of home made yoghurt and honey – really delicious. On our way out we stopped to have photos taken with the staff who seemed to be walking around the garden paths just to make sure we didn’t get lost.
A further stop at the little shop selling similar crockery to that used during our meal and more walking around the gardens which look so beautiful when the sun has gone down and the lanterns are lit.
Even thought all lanterns are lit at night, our guide walked us to the exit with a hand held lantern to show us the way.
A truly memorable experience.