Lou Wai Lou (louwailou, 楼外楼, literally translated as Tower Beyond Tower) located on Gushan road 30, West Lake, Hangzhou, is the most featured traditional restaurant in Hangzhou. It is a time-honored historic site in China originally built in 1848. Close to Zhongshan Park and Xiling Society of Seal Art, it is the best place to taste the typical cuisines of Hangzhou when viewing the fantastic view of West Lake Scenic Area. |
The Gate of Lou Wai Lou Restaurant in Hangzhou
In accordance with the historical record, the founder of Lou Wai Lou was a scholar named Hong Ruitang(洪瑞堂). Due to the failure in imperial examination, he moved to the foot of the Solitary Hill, and settled down over there. He was good at cooking the fishes and shrimps, and owned fame in Hangzhou. Since then, he built the restaurant nearby Liuyi Spring. The name is originated from Lin Sheng’s poem - Written in the New Capital(题临安邸, This is a satire on those revelers who make merry in the Southern capital, forgetting the Northern capital occupied by the invaders, and the translator is Xu Yuanchong):
山外青山楼外楼- Blue hills beyond blue hills and towers beyond towers,
西湖歌舞几时休- When will West Lake and its singing and dancing hours?
暖风熏得游人醉- The revelers are drunk with vernal breeze and leisure;
直把杭州作汴州- They'd take the new capital for the old with pleasure.
And the other standpoint is that it was named by Yu Yue(俞樾, a famous master of academics in late Qing Dynasty) when it was built. And Yu Yue named it Lou Wai Lou as it was built out of Tower of Yu Family.
It used to be great place for scholars or elites’ gathering or parties, many famous souls like Yu Yue, Wu Changshuo, Sun Yat-sen, Soong Chingling, Lu Xun, Zhu Kezhen, Ma Yinchu, Ma Yifu, Yu Dafu, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yi, Feng Zikai, Pan Tianshou, Zhao Puchu and Jin Yong were the guests over here.
The Lou Wai Lou farthest west is big and noisy. There are plenty of rooms for large groups, and you’ve got the occasional tour group traipsing through to get to them. There’s even a boat that goes out on the lake. The staff is curt because they are busy-busy, but the food comes in good time. The dining atmosphere isn’t the best, but the view out of the front window is spectacular. For exactly the same good food and the same view, hit the smaller LWL a little to the east. They’ve had this place closed a few months to do a little renovation, and can we just say, nice job. Very modern, and the noise level, despite the open dining area, is much, much lower than its counterpart. The staff is much more attentive and courteous as well. No need to go back to the biggun’.
As for the food, you’ll find no finer Hangzhou cuisine than here. We were especially impressed with the new menu – one of the most beautifully and professionally done we’ve seen. It even gives the stories behind the specialties. Our favorites were the Dongpo Pork and Beggar’s Chicken. The chicken is pricey though. On tables throughout, you can see either a chicken or the just as famous West Lake Vinegar Fish, which can also be a little much depending on the type of fish you get. Yeah, Lou Wai Lou can be a tad bit costly (if you get the big mains, which you should try at least once), but it’s good food.
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