You don’t have to be hip to enter Café Indépendants, but it helps. Located in the basement of the old Mainichi Shimbun Kyoto bureau, Indépendants is the kind of cafe frequented by the artsy set. There is a version of this cafe in every city all over the world. In Cork, where I grew up, that cafe was mostly populated by skaters, goths and loners working on the 50th draft of their first novel. In Kyoto, Indépendants is staffed by models and artists between jobs and frequented in the main by college students.
The building is distinctive: an adobe finishing makes it more Spanish Colonial than Japanese. But it’s refreshing, especially in the summer months, thanks to its basement setting. Inside there is a whimsical, rustic feeling — a mix of exposed brickwork and tiles, wooden tables, sunlight streaming in from the street, a piano, with a Mac laptop for background music.
And the fare? It’s within budget and generous. The daily lunch is ¥650 (including tax). It’s usually something simple and filling, such as chicken curry with rice, salad and soup. The bouillon soup is a little too student-y — it’s more reminiscent of salty dishwater. There’s more besides on the lunch menu: BLTs, baguettes and normally a dish from a nearby Asian country. The communal tables offer the chance for conversation — if you’re cool enough.