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There’s more to British food in Japan than fish and chips

by Rebecca Milner

Authentic British food is hard to come by in Japan, and the food at the theme-pub chains isn’t often great. However, there are a handful of expat-run places that get it right — and should hit the spot for homesick Brits.

Having heard encouraging things about Warrior Celt (3F 6-9-22 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3836-8588; www.warriorcelt.jp), I headed out there with a British friend. We’d hardly made a dent in our bottles of Bishop’s Finger when she announced that she was “really moved” by the cheese platter: a very, very tangy, crumbly vintage farmhouse cheddar, a rich, creamy blue, and something called Oxford Isis that had a profound, uh, aroma. Also on the menu: homemade sausages (seasoned deliciously with sage and thyme), scotch eggs and, occasionally, haggis.

The Meguro Tavern (2F Sunwood Meguro Bldg., 1-3-28 Shimo-meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3779-0280; www.themegurotavern.com), another homey, British-run pub, has a variety of U.K. classics on the menu — such as shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash — but is best known for its Sunday carvery. The spread of roast beef, lamb and pork, accompanied by Yorkshire puddings and veg, is “all you can eat as long as you’re drinking.”

Fun, laidback Heaven’s Door (2F 2-17-10 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3411-6774; www.heavensdoortokyo.com) has a niche of its own: It dedicates Tuesday nights to the peculiar culinary tradition that is British Indian food. The wife of the owner picked up some recipes while living in London and now turns out a rotating selection of curries served, as they should be, over basmati rice. When I visited it was a gingery chicken pathia with tender chunks of lean chicken.

For authentic appearance — inside and out — nowhere beats The Cat & Cask Tavern (1-32-10 Kanamema-cho, Toshima-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3530-6180; www.catandcask.com): It’s on the ground floor of a very British-looking house, done up in brick and with a cornice over the entrance. Step through the heavy wooden door and it’s all wainscoting, hand-pumped ale, meat pies and banter from the British barman.

Speaking of meat pies, Kyoto-based Jerry’s Pies (6-7 Setogawa-cho, Saga, Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto; [075] 862-3321; www.jerryspies.com) deals in handmade ones, with fillings such as beef and beer or chicken and mushroom (plus sweet ones, too). Gerry O’Donnell himself has retired and the company has passed into new hands, but the pies are still plenty tasty. Get them fresh from the shop, from the basement food hall at Hankyu department store in Umeda, Osaka, or shipped frozen to anywhere in Japan.

But where to get condiments and other bits that are key to any British kitchen? Supermarket chain Peacock (www.peacock.co.jp) carries a handful of Waitrose products, like baked beans, biscuits and cereal — and it has shops all over Kanto, Chubu and Kansai. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? The occasionally updated blog Tips for Brits in Tokyo (tipsbritstokyo.wordpress.com) lists British goods available at Tokyo supermarkets and specialty stores.

And for afters, Tokyo’s Shangri-La Hotel is hosting The Pudding Club, a collaboration with British dessert chef Simon Coombe, from April 26 to May 6 — where ¥3,900 gets you afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and a selection of bite-size puds.

Rebecca Milner is a freelance writer in Tokyo and coauthor of Lonely Planet’s travel guides to Tokyo and Japan.

  • Joe Ninety

    It’s cruel to leave Hobgoblin out of this write-up. They may have more than one branch, but the food is easily equal to (from my direct experience – I haven’t tried the others) The Warrior Celt and The Meguro Tavern. You’ve also missed out What The Dickens in Ebisu, ditto ?

  • desmondferd@hotmail.com

    Hobgoblin is average at best! VERY over-priced for sub-standard British food. There is a good reason the author left it out in my very humble opinion!

  • Chibmie

    Not exactly friendly fare for vegetarians.

    • rick 582u

      indeed.