Staying in Aoyama Itchōme while I flat hunt around Tokyo, I have been able to explore an area rarely featured in guidebooks of the city. Aoyama is primarily a commercial district, featuring banks and business hotels and little in the way of tourist attractions, but does offer one highly attractive prospect: excellent French toast.
Take a right from exit 4 of Aoyama subway et voila: Cafe 246. Cafe 246 serves up French classics alongside indigenous Japanese fare, and offers anyone living in Japan who might miss western cuisine a little home comfort. For around 2,000 yen you can have a delicious rice plate accompanied by champagne, and have Paris meet Japan in a lunch that tastes and feels decadent, without a huge price-tag. (Yes, 2,000 yen is quite a bit for lunch, but for lunch and champagne? Pas mal.)
The menu offers such mixed delights as crème brûlée, gateau au chocolat, and home-made warabimochi or, on the savoury side, salad niçoise, bagels, and ‘curry rice’. I opted for the French toast with blueberries and raspberries, and can now say with confidence that easily the best example of French toast I have tasted came from Tokyo.
Mixed in more than just the menu, Cafe 246 describes itself as a café, bar, internet café, bookshop, and flea-market. On a stainless silver door at the side of the café reads a sign: ‘Book 246. Here is the place to go somewhere’. Go through the door and you find a bookshop/ stationers/ food-stall; this café is nothing if not eclectic. The books focus mainly on cooking and travel, and next to a magazine display stands a portrait of the Gaudi-designed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, alongside it a selection of Spanish ingredients such as Caldo, a cooking base for paella. Here too you can buy delicious-looking honey and boxes of tea.
Cafe 246 is almost a trinket box, each aspect – the food, the books, the drinks ranging from refreshing iced-vanilla milk which I tried on my first visit to the amaretto and ginger ale which I ordered on my return that night – contributing to a mix which seems incongruous, but works. The thing that ties this mix together? Indulgence. We all need a little luxury sometimes, and Cafe 246 provides it.