I love that we’ve been here four or five months already and we’re still discovering new nooks and crannies around the city. We owe a lot to wandering and just getting lost! And other places we find through friends we make.
Our friends Paul and Rena, who own the wonderful Motu burgers in Laomendong, introduced us to a couple of coffee places in Nanjing. And when I say coffee, I mean REAL coffee that reminds us of home (Wellington) and Melbourne. Round, robust, fruity flavoured coffee’s that shut me up and make me really content.
The first place they took us to was Uni Uni, a funky little coffee shop within walking distance of Xinjiekou subway station. It was the first real coffee I have had in China and I couldn’t even drink it to start off with. I just sat there with the cup in my hand, inhaling the real coffee aroma. Nick was laughing at me because there aren’t many things that shut me up. And good coffee is one of them. I think we had two macchiato’s and a mocha each at Uni Uni. And the barista gave us two different blends for each macchiato. I thought I had died and gone to heaven!
We had a two Airbnb guests (Hannah and Regan from the UK) arrive a couple days after Paul and Rena introduced us to Uni Uni and so we HAD to take them for a coffee. Hahaha welcome to Nanjing, let’s go get coffee. Yep thats how we roll!
A few days ago, Paul introduced us to another coffee joint, Rococco. Rococco is a teensy, tiny little coffee shop. As soon as you open the door, you are hit by the thick, heavy aroma of coffee that wraps itself around you as you step inside. Peter, who owns and runs Rococco, clearly LOVES coffee. His espresso machine is shiny and is obviously used with love. And all of the other coffee making materials are in similar condition, with filters, cones, scales and other pieces on display within arms reach (the place is so small and intimate that pretty much everything is within arms reach!). We squeezed into bar seats, and watched one of Peter’s staff lovingly and oh so carefully pour water into a filter and cone, all the while keeping an eye on the very expensive looking slim kitchen scale the coffee was all sitting on. Peter’s main market is training barista’s and teaching clients’ staff the art of coffee making, and his passion for coffee is blatantly obvious in his wee set up that is almost hidden away off of the main streets of Nanjing.
Our last Airbnb guests, Mike and Jess, inspired us to explore our city a little bit more. We had heard about Hunan Road and decided to go check out what all the fuss was about… Turns out Hunan Road isn’t what it used to be! The night food markets that made Hunan Road so famous have been shut down! And the part of Hunan Road that we were in was mostly under construction. We wandered past the construction, past the beautiful stone gate that marks the entrance to the Lion Bridge Foot Street (the Lion Bridge is has been taken down and I couldn’t tell from the construction site whether they are rebuilding it or doing something entirely different!) and into a strip mall filled with commercial shops, brightly lit restaurants and fast food booths. There were a few street vendors selling brightly coloured plastic toys, knick knacks, seeds, dried fruits and fresh fruits down the middle of the strip mall. But there were none of the piping hot street foods that we have come to know and love in Nanjing. And we were starving. Thankfully our wonderful friend Leo had met us on our way (accompanied by the lovely KK) and he knew a great hotpot restaurant nearby to thaw our freezing bones!
Hotpot was a genius idea for such a cold winter’s night. Jess and Mike live in Houston, Texas, Jess isn’t a huge fan of the below zero temperatures and Mike was coming down with something akin to a cold despite his best effort to ward it off. So we were pretty stoked that we could introduce them to this soul warming Chinese winter favourite, with Leo’s help. And it was a big hit! We had individual pots that were set into the table, sitting on elements that sat just below the level of the table itself. Each of us had our own little dial to control the heat of our element, and we could even choose what kind of soup we wanted. Mike, Leo, KK and I went plain (since there was no spicy soup left. Nick and KK were pretty gutted about that), Nick chose tomato and Jess decided to try the curry soup. Huge bowls of vegetables came out, with a couple of rice gluten sticks, a piece of frozen tofu, a meat ball, a fish ball and an egg. I got pretty excited about the vegetables, especially the pieces of corn on the cob. I happen to LOVE fresh corn! We also shared some finely sliced mutton and beef, and we had some chilli sauce, soy sauce and mushroom sauce to share on the table. We switched on our elements and began cooking! KK and Leo demonstrated the art of cracking open your egg into the hotpot and poaching it in the soup. I’m not a fan of eggs so Mike got mine too. And in return he gave me all of his veges. I was pretty happy with that swap!
Now for anyone who has had hotpot, you’ll know that the BEST part of hotpot is that the soup right at the end, with everything you cooked in it, is now JAM PACKED full of flavour! I made everyone else wait for me while I drank every last drop of my soup. We were pretty late and I am sure the restaurant staff were waiting for us to leave as well! They had cleaned up and mopped all around us so we had to be careful making our way to the door.
It has been so cold lately here in Nanjing and it’s been such fun meeting people, catching up with people and exploring new nooks of the city with new and old friends. THIS is why we love Nanjing, for it’s hidden gems and it’s amazing food, both traditionally Chinese and modern Chinese!