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Play it Cool

August 17, 2015
Royal Icehouse

Some 150 years ago, the most powerful person in China was not the instated emperor, but his mother, the formidable Empress Dowager Cixi. A concubine-cum-queen-effective, she stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. So, when she desired an ice-cool beverage in the steamy summer, an ice-cool beverage she very well got. How? From her own icehouse, of course. 

Refrigeration has come a long way since then and only one of Cixi’s 18 chilly buildings still stands, serving not frozen water but fine Imperial cuisine.
Royal Icehouse lives up to its regal past not only in name, but in decor too. Upon entering the historical hutong, Beijing’s mod metropolis melts away to reveal ravishing red lanterns, spartan slate flooring and copper kettles kept warm atop glowing embers. Domed scarlet doorways lead down into the underground chilly boxes, now home to the numerous pours on the list, while the classic cuisine is fit for an emperor or empress, of course.
Imperial dishes are reimagined with a slight Shandong twist – think sauteed tofu with ham and pea, steamed pumpkin with Chinese dates, and venison tenderloin. There is also an authentic lack of MSG and, should your mind need its nourishment, books and chess sets for you to get stuck into. Cool, indeed.

5 Gongjian Wuxiang / Xicheng / +86 10 6401 1358 / lunch & dinner daily