Ordinarily, the opening of a new C-Straits would not more warrant any more notice than the opening of a Starbucks or McDonald's. The re-opening of their outlet behind the Media Hotel and with an entrance on Qingchun Road is, however, notable both for the changes to the C-Straits aesthetic and some recent additions to their menu. Fist, though, a quick word about the chain. With 700 outlets nationwide and spanning the country from Lhasa to Beijing, C-Straits may well be the most successful domestic restaurant/cafe operation in China. Backed by a Taiwanese businessman but run as the personal fiefdom of his hyper-photogenic para-celebrity wife (a native of Lishui, Zhejiang), C-Straits became quite popular and trendy a decade ago, at a time when consumers looking for coffee and Western fare had fewer options in second-tier cities like Hangzhou which, BTW, is home to C-Straits HQ. Time there was when C-Straits was the go-to venue when one wanted nothing more than decent brewed coffee, a not terrible interpretation of a club sandwich with a side of fries, and a clean washroom with a Western-style convenience, soap, and a hot water tap. Many locations stayed open into the small hours of the morning (the one next to The Dragon Stadium/GAGA [nee SOS] would often serve until 03.00am). For busy businessfolk, which were C-Strait's original target market, their modern, well-managed environs supported nicotine-fueled power-lunches that often tended to drag on for hours. With a range of dishes friendly to a variety of palates and preferences (rice and noodle dishes; steaks and ribs; soups, salads, sandwiches), it was a very convenient place for people from different countries to meet, greet, eat, and talk turkey. On cold days it remained pleasantly warm. C-Straits was also one of the first chains to offer free wifi.
No longer does the chain have a monopoly on any of these things, and one might be excused for thinking that C-Straits and places like it are careening towards redundancy. Pretty young girls pounding the ivories of a grand piano with modest technical acumen and all the passion of a stale jelly donut are beginning to look like an amusing anachronism. (They certainly sound like one.) But we visited this newly reopened and smartly redesigned outlet during week-one of operations, and found it populated with enthusiastic patrons -- some of whom were positively excited about this particular phoenix having risen from the ashes.
The Yan'an/Qingchun Road location was, back in the day, the second C-Straits to open in Hangzhou (the first one is the one in the Sofitel on West Lake Avenue). It has been resurrected and given an impressive makeover, and we think it is worth a look. C-Straits remains a great option when one wants nothing more for lunch or dinner than a generously-sized and very satisfying rice dish with side soup, and perhaps the option of a cake and coffee for desert. Some of the newly-added pasta/noodle dishes look promising, and whether or not the signature C-Straits interpretation of steaks (etc.) are to one's liking, corporate is fanatic about quality using foodstuffs. When you're overwhelmed by options and just want a heaping plate of pineapple fried rice (sans elevated risk of hepatitis B), or when necessity requires the mixing of culinary prejudices, C-Straits delivers, and this outlet delivers with flair.
ADDRESS: Main entrance on Qingchun Road, near Yan'an Road, approximately 30 meters east of the pedestrian bridge that crosses Qingchun over Yan'an Road. Coming from that intersection and traveling east on Qingchun, C-Straits is on the right. It is also behind the Media Hotel.
HOURS: Expect service at this location between 8:30am and 11:30pm, seven days a week.
PARKING: There is a lot associated with Media Hotel parallel to C-Straits, but it would probably be folly to expect to find a parking space there exactly when you want one.
PRICES/FARE: Rice and pasta/noodle dishes are average around 40RMB. Steak, ribs, and chops are in the 100s. Coffees and teas 35RMB and up. They serve beers, wines, and some spirits, cakes, and ice cream.
SMOKING: This venue seems to have both smoking and non-smoking sections. Our experience with these things suggests that patrons will be given ashtrays wherever they sit, and that smoking in non-smoking sections will not result in a reprimand or sanctions; but this location seems to be making an effort to keep the two regions distinct.
ACCESSIBIITY: Dining on the second floor. There is no lift, and patrons with limited or compromised mobility will be challenged.
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