The last two years have seen an explosion in the number of Western food venues in Kunming. We’ve used the word ‘venue’ as a convenient term (or convenient duck out depending on your opinion!) to describe the restaurant-café hybrid variety of eatery that is common in Kunming. In making our list of top 5, we have considered first and foremost the quality and range of the menu, but also atmosphere, price and of course every expat’s favourite topic of conversation in China – the service!
Without further aplomb, here are our top five…
Salvador's Coffee House 萨尔瓦多咖啡馆View In Map
Established in 2004, and run by a triumvirate of Americans and one Japanese, Salvador’s was one of the earliest wholly foreign owned Western style food venues in Kunming. Salvador’s is operated with a refreshing sense of social conscience in mind. With an eye on sustainable agriculture they are working towards an organic menu, which is probably a first for Kunming, if not Yunnan as a whole. Further, all staff are entitled to English lessons and, by Chinese standards, a generous holiday package. Perhaps this is just down to good business practice as the posse of young female fuwuyuan are attentive, friendly and most importantly can understand bad laowai Chinese to accurately take down an order. Not that you have to order in Chinese however, as all Salvador’s menus are translated into English, Japanese and Korean.
Salvador’s has an eclectic menu ranging from salads, soups and pasta dishes to falafel, burritos and of course the humble burger. There are a wide variety of vegetarian options. The food is always fresh and comes in generous portions. Particularly delicious is the creamy pumpkin soup which comes with a chunk of homemade bread. The tuna and cheese quesadilla and the wide variety of bagels also make for great snacks. The dessert menu is very good offering a wide variety of homemade cakes and ice-cream, which is trumped as ‘China’s best’. Our one moan has to do with the mix up of American-British English on the burger menu. Lads, those aren’t a side of chips, they’re crisps...and for 25+ RMB in Kunming, we think that’s bit stingy!
Add: 76 Wenhua Xiang, Wenlin Jie, Qingdao
Tel: 0871 536 3525
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 09:00-23:30
Price: mains from around 35 RMB
Mazagran Café 水井咖啡屋View In Map
Set on the second floor and with one side of the dining space floor to ceiling French doors, Mazagran makes a great place to watch Wenhua Xiang hurry past beneath you. The light, white walls and high slanted roof give Mazagran a sense of freshness and space, and it must be said, also slightly remind of a modern day church. This café/restaurant hybrid is also the only fully non-smoking eating venue there is in the area.
Mazagran is connected to a drug rehabilitation programme, as such there is no alcohol on the menu. However, they do have a very nice selection of freshly made fruit smoothies, which are a great accompaniment to the wide selection of salads and light meals on the menu. The list of dishes is quite international, so if you fancy a change from Western try the delicious Thai green curry. There is also a good selection of cakes and desserts near the counter and the shortbread and cinnamon buns have built up a reputation as Kunming’s best. The menu is generally excellent value for money. A small salad with garnish comes for 6 RMB and a pitta bread and hummus can be ordered for 10 RMB. If we have one complaint it is that the delicious pizzas are a bit on the small side.
Add: 201, Building 7, Wenhua Xiang, Kunming
Tel: 0871 535 2697
Opening hours: Tues-Sun, 10:00-21:00, closed Mon
Price: mains from around 30 RMB
Sandra'sView In Map
Sandra’s is the only proper restaurant in the true sense of the word on our list. Sandra’s stated aim is to ‘bring fine dining to Kunming’, and with her passion for food and ferret like ability to source out herbs and vegetables from Yunnan’s export orientated farms in the countryside, she does just that. The candle lit room of dark maroon walls and heavy wooden dining tables creates a cosy atmosphere and is the perfect setting for quaffing back a nice glass of red from the restaurant’s extensive selection of foreign (and reasonably priced) wines. The menu boasts a selection of very good homemade pizzas and the chef specials are offered weekly. Last time there, we tucked into chicken breast with a raspberry sauce garnish and a side of rocket salad -delicious! Sandra’s is a little pricier than others on this list, but in our opinion, for the sense of dining sophistication you feel (a rarity in Kunming) and the gastric delights on offer, it is well worth splashing out. While you’re in Kunming, watch out for fliers advertising Sandra’s special food tasting and wine and cheese evenings.
Add:. Beichen Garden Walkway D-7, Beichen Zhonglu, Kunming
Tel: 158 2526 7010
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 11:00-23:30
Price: mains from around 40 RMB
The Wicker Basket 馨香烤屋View In Map
The service at the two Wicker Baskets is excellent. However, we have included them on our list for one reason and one reason only; the superb all you can eat salad bar which is held every evening from 18:00-20:00. For the price you won’t find a better salad bar anywhere else in SW China. Fresh garden salads, pasta salads, nut and fruit salads and a wide variety of garnishes, pickles and dressings crowd the table. Along with these is a selection of cold meats and lots of small snacks such as crackers, potato croquettes and fried onion rings. To top it all off The Wicker Basket produce excellent bread, which is also provided as part of the deal.
Outside the salad bar the menu doesn’t get us too excited. There are a few items that you won’t find in our other choices, such as chicken kiev, but these are generally all imported frozen products. Great if you’re feeling homesick but not so special otherwise. What lets Wicker down in our opinion is the décor. Although both locations have nice outdoor seating areas, the inside reminds of a cheap granny’s tea parlour. If the chintzy floral curtains don’t send you running for the Western Hills, the nursery rhyme style Christian music surely will. You have been warned.
Add: Beichen Xiaoqu Walkway C-14, Kunming
Tel: 0871 573 0647
Add: Bldg 11, 1-4, Kaiyuan Residential Area, Xishan District, Kunming
Tel: 0871 822 1382
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 10:00-21:00, closed Sun
Price: mains from around 35 RMB
The Silver Spoon Café View In Map
The Silver Spoon Café has recently been taken over by a French and Chinese couple. Always a good bet for a nice meal in the past, the new owners have taken this small café in the north of the city to new heights. We say café and it’s in the name, however, the menu suggests otherwise. What other café can boast of roast pork with capers, beef bourguignon, duck a l’orange and smoked salmon mousee on its menu? The 1/2 pound burgers are also regarded as some of Kunming’s best.
Silver Spoon is set down a quiet pedestrian street, which make the outside seating even more attractive. Inside, the dining area is calm and relaxed and the décor subtle. The venue also attracts attention for its impeccable cleanliness and excellent service. Most of the service staff seem to speak English and in the unlikely event of any problems, one of the owners is normally around anyway. Because of its location in the north of the city, this venue never gets as crowded as it deserves. This makes it perfect for a quiet lunch or dinner, especially if you feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of Chinese city living.
Add: B-10 Beichen Garden Walkway, Kunming
Tel: 0871 573 8448
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-23:00
Price: mains from around 35 RMB
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