We didn't give ourselves a lot of time to track down the veg*n restaurants of Beijing but I did ask Steph for her one most enthusiastic recommendation and she nominated Baihe Lily. There are three Lily restaurants across the city, and this one was a convenient couple of kilometres from our accommodation. We stopped in for an early, quiet dinner after a hot day hiking up to the Great Wall (see photo at the end of the post).
Online sources had helpfully pointed out that from the hutong entry, this restaurant simply looks like a small wholefoods shop. On entering, a series of courtyards and small rooms emerge, each decorated with plants, mismatched comfy furniture and soft lighting, with bookcases forming extra partitions between tables. These afforded us a sense of privacy and quietude even though there were plenty of other customers about.
While the staff spoke pretty good English, the menu was a bit of a mystery; stored on an ipad with haphazard English and Chinese labels, Michael and I just swiped around and picked whatever took our fancy.
The first to arrive was a plate of very hot glazed eggplant batons with edamame - we hadn't tired of this sweet-soy style yet, even after eating it repeatedly. A heated clay dish of bamboo shoots was more novel to us, and contained a generous dose of chilli.
The asparagus was much lighter and plainer, while our saucy sweet and sour choice was a mushroom with a mock-meaty texture, served with sweet semi-dried plums.
When we ordered mock fish, we didn't realise we were committing to this enormous centrepiece! Its bubbling broth held some truly excellent mock fish (even our Chinese omni companion was impressed) and all sorts of other treasures - we plucked out black fungus, lotus roots, ginger and lightly cooked and pickled vegetables.
Our final dish took unusually long to arrive at the table, so much so that we'd assumed the meal was over. This looked like another mock meat but was actually a glazed root vegetable (I suspect burdock). With its crown of fried potato threads, it was the most delicately presented of our dishes and easily my second favourite after that fish.
We ended up paying around AU$20 each for this four-person meal - higher than our average and well worth it. The staff were a bit aloof, but helped out when we needed them, and certainly didn't detract from the comforting peaceful atmosphere of the restaurant.
Baihe Lily Vegetarian Restaurant
23 Caoyuan Hutong, Beijing, China