A tried and true stalwart, Zhang Mama is one of our favourite Sichuan restaurants in Beijing – maybe even just one of our favourite restaurants full stop – so the closure of its shoebox-sized outlet at Fensiting Hutong was a huge loss for our longing, grumbling stomachs. Fortunately, the team from that branch have bounced back and re-emerged at this relatively cavernous new spot just north of the Gulou subway stop. Hallelujah.
Admittedly, it was never to everyone's taste, but the romance of the chaos of its old joint (the queuing, table-sharing, shouting staff and scribbled orders) has largely made way at this new feasting arena, complete with a mammoth dining hall, private rooms, orders made via QR code and a generally more sterile environment.
But whether you pine for such a bygone Mama or not, the food – now served from a kitchen that is at least six or seven times the size of the former at Fensiting – still hits the fantastic heights of yore and, unlike the menu at the ritzier Sanlitun outlet
, stays firm at the same exceptional price point. In the apt words of the quite aptly named Spice Girls, Mama, we love you.