We’ve always liked what Brasserie Flo has going on: fruits de mer, a decent steak and an atmosphere that will truly transport you out of Beijing and drop you right in the elegant bustle of a Parisian brasserie. Fifteen years after Brasserie Flo’s beginning, the Flo group is tackling the next iconic Gallic eatery: the French café.
Take Parkview Green’s ultra-long escalator down and you’ll find Café Flo in the lower level. The group’s art deco motif runs throughout – parquet flooring, grey-streaked white marble-topped tables and gold accents. A large round table spills out onto the mall’s pedestrian area, small booths line the mirrored walls, and an attractive, low bar-style table anchors the whole space. There’s nothing else in Beijing quite like it, and it throws off the irresistible glamour of another time and place.
The menu’s drowned in foie gras, duck confit and Emmental cheese. Order the tartine périgourdine (58RMB) to get it all in a one go. It’s unrestrained and hearty – crispy pieces of duck confit, foie gras and bits of mushroom smothered with melted cheese. The tartine croquemonsieur (52RMB) has a sweet lick of fig chutney that ratchets up the unassuming classic ham and cheese combo. Casual and cut into sixes for sharing, these dishes aren’t blow-your-face-off works of art, but they represent the feel of the restaurant well – toned down, democratic French fare.
You can run through all the classics here, but nothing’s game-changing. The French onion soup’s (49RMB) floating topping is unmoored, and a lonely island of baguette slices lashed together by cheese bobs in the middle. A few more onions below might have secured it better. There are hunks of meat in the steak frites (steak and French fries) tradition, though order the frites separately as these plates come with roasted potatoes. Pull apart the slowly simmered meat in the boeuf Bourguignon (118RMB). It’s rich, but lacking in that final layer of complexity a longer pour of red wine or extra bit of fat might add.
On weekdays, Café Flo offers eight set menus (69-136RMB) themed by region, like the Alsacien menu (98RMB), which features the regional speciality choucroute traditionnelle (sauerkraut with bacon, sausage, ham and potatoes). It’s an accessible way to get in with French food, and that’s really what Café Flo excels at throughout. Beijing’s now got a satisfactory primer on la cuisine Française – just ignore the mall outside.