Cheap, cheerful and tasty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2012, 12:00am


Like its sun-dappled, tree-lined streets, Hangzhou's cuisine is light and fresh.

Here are three places to try Hangzhou's local cuisine while you are visiting the city.

Grandma's Kitchen, a 12-year-old chain of cheap and cheerful restaurants, is so beloved that eager diners have been known to queue for up to three hours for a table. There are 30 branches across the city, but the most popular is the Hubin Lu outpost, just across the street from West Lake.

Grandma's Kitchen, at 2/F, 3 Hubin Road, is extremely affordable, with few items on the menu topping 50 yuan (HK$61). The menu is thick, packed with colourful photos and amusing English translations.

Be sure to try the succulent roasted longjing tea chicken, honeycomb tofu and the wonderfully light, slightly sweet cauliflower.

Like Grandma's Kitchen, Green Tea Restaurant, at 83 Longjing Road, is inexpensive, wildly popular and always packed.

You can and should make reservations.

The restaurant has a downtown branch in the same building as Grandma's Kitchen, next to West Lake, and one in the countryside, next to a verdant longjing tea plantation and koi pond.

The menu is updated every few months with a handful of new dishes, but the classics remain.

Start off with a few cool, sweet drinks, such as lemon and grapefruit juice or a peanut smoothie, before moving on to the savoury bits and pieces.

The restaurant's signature rice pot soup is simple but sublime, served in an old stone pot and studded with plenty of vegetables.

The boiling spicy fish and spicy frog are both mouth-numbingly hot, in the best way possible.

Be sure to order rice if you're tucking into either of these.

Perfect for solo travellers or those who want to try just a bite of everything, the 50-plus stalls at Guangfu Lu Food Street, 88 Hefang Road, offer a dizzying array of delectable snacks.

Traditional Hangzhou small eats include beggar's chicken, spare ribs and rice in lotus leaf, and freshly baked sesame cakes.

Guangfu Lu's atmosphere is lively and seating scarce, so be prepared to make friends with a hungry Chinese family, who will no doubt warmly welcome you to their table.