Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Nezucafe: There's nothing fusty about the Nezu Museum's new cafe

by Robbie Swinnerton

When the Nezu Museum reopened last October, after more than a year of reconstruction, we were among the first to join the lines outside. We were keen to inspect Kengo Kuma’s impressive architecture and wanted to view the remarkable bronzes, scrolls and screens in the new galleries. But more than anything we wanted to know what had happened to the cafe.

It’s not that the snacks served to museum visitors were ever of great note, it’s just that the setting was second to none, overlooking an extensive, thickly wooded garden that is one of Tokyo’s greatest “secret” oases. Mercifully, the grounds appear virtually untouched, though the rustic tea-ceremony houses have been spruced up considerably.

And the new cafe, rebuilt on the same prime site, is better in every way — in its design and materials (we love the washi-look ceiling), comfort and, thankfully, its menu.

In place of the old-school coffee-shop snacks, it’s now offering light dishes and cakes worthy of the fabulous location. There are dainty meat pies; BLT toasted sandwiches; salade nicoise and a pasta of the day — spaghetti puttanesca was the offering when we dropped in.

There are 45 seats in all, but it’s the places along the picture windows that fill up fastest. At weekends and on holidays, expect extreme competition from the kimonoed ladies who lunch for those prime positions.

NEZUCAFE, Nezu Museum, Minami-Aoyama 6-5-1, Minato-ku; 03-3400-2536; open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (last order 4:30 p.m.). For more information, visit www.nezu-muse.or.jp/jp/guide/cafe.html