Mai Fresh: Casual Hutong Brunches for Casual Hutong Hipsters

By Noelle Mateer, July 4, 2017

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It is a time-honored Beijing tradition to get hammered at Temple Bar on Saturday and then booze the pain away at brunch the next day. At least in Gulou, it is. If you live in, say, the CBD or Sanlitun or Shunyi, and are less familiar with the concept of ‘hutong hipster,’ allow us to explain: That is literally all it takes to be one – getting wasted on that insane 10-kuai-shots-after-midnight-deal at Modernista, then following up the next day with a hutong brunch that you 100-percent do not deserve. That is the laowai dream. That, and opening up a tiny beer shack on Fangjia Hutong. (Don’t act like you haven’t thought about it.)

Traditionally, The Orchid has ruled the hutong brunch game. The Orchid is perfect because, while it is nice and the food is high quality, the prices are a bargain. It’s no NUO, of course (we will plug this Champagne-dripping bastion of hedonism and free-flow crab legs until the stars fall from the goddamn sky) – but NUO wouldn’t work in the hutongs anyway. The hutongs are for casual folk.

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Now, a new group of casual hutong folk are trying their hand at casual hutong brunches. Mai Fresh is the newborn baby of hutong cocktail institution Mai Bar, and is just a quick drunken stumble away from its ancestral homeland along Beiluoguxiang. Mai Fresh has a beautiful terrace overlooking sloping hutong roofs and the bulldozers currently knocking them over. Maybe it’ll overlook a big parking lot in a couple months – we don’t really know. (Sorry That’s Beijing has turned into Hutong Closings Monthly of late. We hope to get back to your regularly scheduled programming soon.)

While the ultra-pleasant refurbished-hutong setting is the draw here, we’re also pleasantly surprised by the food. Dishes lean towards the trendy – poke bowls are everywhere lately, including here – and some are better than others. But dishes are perfect for sharing, and reasonably-priced egg plates make for budget-friendly brunching. A filet (RMB138) is available if you’re in the mood for a splurge – but we think the best way to splurge, ultimately, is oysters (RMB30 each) and bubbles.

After all, booze is in Mai’s blood. Mai Fresh’s drink game is strong – heady cocktails lightened up with day-drinking in mind. Get a spritz (RMB60) or seven – if you’re a hutong hipster, you were going to anyway.


See a listing for Mai Fresh and read more Beijing Restaurant Reviews

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