New-school approach in an old-school setting

Earlier this spring I was fortunate to take a weeklong business trip to China. It was my first time visiting Asia, and I spent time in and around Beijing as well as Shanghai.

Without question, one of the biggest highlights of the trip was seeing the Great Wall. My guide and I stopped at the Mutianyu section, and after a morning hiking the wall’s sometimes somewhat treacherous paths, I enjoyed an unexpected treat: lunch at The Schoolhouse.

China Bound Ltd. created The Schoolhouse as a sustainable tourism venture in Mutianyu’s abandoned village primary school, which is now the main restaurant and office. The business also includes a lodging component in the Schoolhouse Homes, 11 houses leased from local villagers and designed to offer modern amenities while preserving the properties’ original character.

On the food side, The Schoolhouse’s menu was definitely not what I expected from a place essentially in the middle of the Chinese countryside. Dishes are seasonal and almost entirely house-made, starting with a daily soup — tomato the day I visited, served with delicious little rolls accompanied by roasted garlic.

As a main course I could have chosen one of the several scratch-made pastas, but instead I opted for a club sandwich, which even boasted house-made mayo.

The sandwich came with a hearty side salad, starring vegetables grown in The Schoolhouse’s own gardens or from local suppliers.

There is so much buzz about sustainability these days, but it was great to see it’s not just the purview of high-end establishments in stylish locations. Instead, one lasting lesson from The Schoolhouse is that even a hot trend can be reflected in a simple, satisfying way.