It has been around in Beijing for longer than this writer, but a recent low-key rebrand has given Zarah a new lease of life. That’s right, Café Zarah has dropped the “café” in a bid to move beyond its afternoon-coffee-and-Macbook-warriors image and become a more mature, all-day venue.

However, this column is about outdoor dining, not branding, and for us, it is in this regard that Zarah really comes into its own. Sheltered by a venerable, lantern-decked tree, Zarah’s central courtyard – added during a long overdue renovation in May 2014 – is one of Gulou’s most pleasant spaces to while away an afternoon or evening, set far enough back from the busy street to feel tranquil, but without losing that essential hutong atmosphere.

We find we like the courtyard even more with the addition of a more substantial wine menu. With five reds and five whites available by the glass, the selection of varieties from Europe and Australia is solid if not particularly groundbreaking and, crucially, competitively priced. They’re also gradually expanding their cocktail options, with an espresso martini catching our fancy at their recent grand opening party.

Whether stopping by for a morning coffee or settling in for a sunset session, grab your drink and head outside at Zarah – you’ll be glad you did.

More stories by this author here.

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Photo: Ken

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