Friday, March 30, 2012

Field trip! - Rose Bakery, Ginza

series of posts from visiting interesting little (and large) cafes, food-related establishments and other places of inspiration.

Today, the first proper warm day we've had in Tokyo this year, I trotted off to Ginza to visit 'Rose Bakery' the 3rd Tokyo store of the Rose Carrarini operation that started in Paris in 2002. I'd first heard about Rose and her bakery in this article in the Guardian, when researching about people who had opened independent cafes in other cities. It was the British angle that particularly interested me - that and the fact the British-style deli had done so well in Paris of all places. Did this mean that people who hadn't been raised on roly-polys and sticky toffee pudding might also grow to love them?

Proper cake - victoria sponge

I was excited to learn that since the article had been written, Rose had opened up shop at a few locations in Tokyo with Ginza's new Dover Street Market complex being the most recent, opened just this month. Rose's sister-in-law, Comme des Garcon founder, Rei Kawakubo asked her to take the top floor of the original Dover Street Market store in London in 2005.

It's in the building to the right, with the walkway

Coming up the escalator through six sparsely populated floors of expensive clothing and fibreglass "art" (I can't help it, please forgive me), you are greeted by this row of marmite jars queueing up along the low shop wall. When I visited, the clientele were mainly women, though few of them struck me as being customers from the trendy brand floors.

It's a large open space, concrete floor, white walls and bright lighting. It felt a bit like a muji cafe space with the uniform pine (?) wooden furniture, and little tables lined up closely together.

A couple of things were really unique about the space. First was the door-shaped window round the far side of the entrance. It reminded me of the door from the (photos of the) Paris space that Rose described as "the wonderful door to entice you in." In Ginza, this isn't the entrance to the cafe, if it is a functioning door at all, but it's a nice touch, and you can see the "theatre" of the kitchen and take your pictures much to the quiet amusement of the girls working there.

Oh to have a kitchen that big!

Another thing that catches your eye is the market-style display of veg and produce along the back wall. Along with Rose's recipe book (gets!) there are some teas, fruit, quinoa and organic produce. Unlike somewhere like Bill's in Covent Garden (or perhaps the original Rose Bakery in Paris?) it feels a little just for show if I'm honest, but some of it is priced-up for sale should you be tempted.

Hanami season being almost upon us, I was excited to see take-away hampers lined up at the front of the shop, but quickly calmed down upon being told that these were イメージ "image" - for display only, and not full of real food. The friendly member of staff told me that Rose liked the idea of people being able to take hampers up to the roof of the building, so maybe actual hampers will be in the shop's future. The staff were quite friendly, and were excited about the food they were serving, asking me if I'd heard of "kedgeree" before, well, and "museli" :)

Sadly display only, but you get the idea

Most distinctive in the space was the sweeping dessert counter, an arc of glass and brushed aluminium backed by a large window. I say "dessert counter" there are savoury items in there, but most of the space is cake. Real cake-shaped cakes too! What a treat. That's certainly something I have in mind for my space, that and similar lovely glass domes for keeping cakes fresh.

Reading the introduction in the recipe book, it seems that the original Rose Bakery (and the Villandry deli Rose and her husband started in London in 1988) were firstly savoury food establishments, and the cakes and things came in later. Rose Bakery in Ginza is predominantly sweet, though they do have items in the menu in addition to what's on display (even fish and chips!).

The impression I get reading about the Paris shop is that it is really about community, about good food without being fussy, no fancy packaging and branding - while the simple visual effect is definitely in evidence in the Ginza store, I guess it's hard not to be fashionable when you're based in the Comme des Garcons' Dover Street Market store...

Here's my slice of real cake-shaped cake. Feeling all classic, I went for the victoria sponge, which had cut strawberries in with the cream layer like Japanese 'shortcake' does, and it was lovely.

Note the heels - told you it was trendy ;)

The tea came in a Japanese cast-iron pot, with instructions on how long I was supposed to steep it. That's definitely something I've come across more in Japan than I've experienced elsewhere - the explanation of the correct way to enjoy something when it's brought to your table, almost as a badge of pride.

Pound cakes - easy to slice
No pasty tax in Tokyo (but it is about £2.60) 
Rough and ready scones, served with condiments, unlike at Dean and Deluca

I was heartened to see some rough and ready, honest cake going on, but this branch is clearly a large commercial enterprise (I counted maybe 18 staff?) rather than a small kitchen run for the love of it, and quite different from what I would want to achieve.

All in all it was a lovely afternoon, with the chance to sample some authentic Brit-cake!

Address: Ginza Komatsu building, West Wing 7F, 6-9-5, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03-5537-5038
Closest station: Ginza station, metro exit A2 (map)

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