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Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 18, July 23 - 29

WATERSIDE CAFE
by Cindy Carter

Waterside Club and Restaurant
Liuyin Park, 8 Huangsi Street, Dongcheng District
(Just northwest of Ditan Park)
Tel: 6424-9882
Hours: 9 am-12 midnight (breakfast 9-11:30 am)
Food: ** Ambience: **** Service: ***
Cost: breakfast, dinner

Just north of Beijing's drum and bell towers is a little-known park with a lake and a lot of willow trees. Liuyin Park-the name meanswillow shade-is a green space used mostly by local residents. On the weekend, families come here to let their children play, while old men wait idly by their fishing poles or sing Peking Opera. In the middle of this quiet slice of traditional Beijing is the Waterside Club and Restaurant, housed in a small brick courtyard with a patio that fronts onto the lake.

Arriving at about 10.30 on a weekend morning, we find the patio almost deserted, save for a table of young Chinese and a small group of expats holding a breakfast business meeting. We choose a table close to the water's edge, shaded from the sun with bamboo blinds.

The breakfast menu has four western breakfast sets, each including fruit juice and a choice of coffee or tea, priced at a reasonable RMB35 (RMB30 for members). Annual membership cards are available for a one-time fee of RMB100 and entitle the holder to discounts of 15-25 percent on food and up to 40 percent on drinks. Members also receive unlimited use of the small gym inside the club's courtyard.

 

Armed with a new members card (we only need one for the whole group), we sample each of the breakfast sets: American (egg, sausage, ham, bacon, toast/French toast), Country eggs, fried mushrooms and potato, sausage, bacon, toast/French toast), Mexican (tortilla with fried egg, cheese, bacon, and salsa, toast/French toast) and the Continental (fruit salad, toast/French toast) and several rounds of good strong coffee.

The American breakfast is a little too meat intensive, but all the breakfast sets are well-prepared, reasonably priced, and unabashedly western. There is an extensive menu of fruit juices, coffee, and coffee drinks (Bailey's coffee, Irish coffee, and Cafe Royal for those who wake up hankering for the hair of the dog that bit them) and a menu of breakfast sides such as pancakes and French toast.

Our bill for four comes to 210 (with the member's discount).
Sated and over-caffeinated, we wander inside the club to take a look around the small courtyard and gym, projection room (where movies are shown every Monday-call for schedule), and the tidy restrooms. Tidy, but only semi-useful: a sign in the restroom sternly warns customers to please 'not have a bowel movement' here.

Should you wish to languish, the restaurant is also open for lunch and
dinner, offering an impressive range of sandwiches, soups, salads, pasta, steak, curries, and Chinese dishes, as well as a good selection of drinks. The Caesar salad is excellent, made with freshly baked, buttered croutons.
Also highly recommended is the tomato and mozarella salad.

The restaurant is open daily until midnight. The ambience is quite
different in the evening: gone are the crowds, the fishermen by the side of the lake, and the families in the children's playground. The plastic duck-head paddle boats are moored, but the real ducks still swim around at the lake's edge. The trees and eaves of the Waterside Club's courtyard are strung with fairy lights, and the patio affords a lovely night view of the island in the center of the lake. All is quiet and romantic. So now, if you'll excuse me, gentle reader, I think it's time for another walk under the willows by the side of the lake.

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