For centuries, Canton has been internationally known for its innovative food culture. Global trade links from the 18th century onwards created a class of very wealthy, discerning patrons who – due to strict laws that prohibited an ostentatious public display of wealth by merchants – had to find some other way to enjoy their money. As they could afford high-quality, innovative cuisine, this developed into an enduring passion for good food, which remains deliciously evident today.
Above: The interior of Guangzhou Restaurant; Below: the famous jade burial suit at the Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nam Yue King; Right: Willow pattern plate
Historically, the Cantonese were the he nation’s migrants, as well as politicall and social innovators. At least in part due to the city’s long exposure to the outside world, these factors give context to the city’s fabulous – and historic – food culture.
Combined with openness to outside influences, Canton’s expanding wealth and rising middle class in the 1920s created great opportunities for the catering trade. Near the jade market, the Guangzhou Restaurant, established in 1935, is an enduring example of this trend.
This deservedly famous local landmark is the original restaurant; other branches have since opened elsewhere in the city. Prices are reasonable, and quality remains very high – a full and varied meal for two to three people will come to about ¥300 ($49). Beautifully decorated private rooms are set around a superb central courtyard.