Saturday, 8 June 2013

Brasserie St. Bernardus

Straying slightly of the Japanese beer track again today with what I think is the best of the Delirium/Belg Aube group of bars. However, they are all pretty good if you want to drink Belgian beer and certainly nicer than the Delirium Cafes in Belgium. Belgian beer was the beer that first got me drinking good stuff all those years ago, so it has a special place in my heart. My biggest regret about moving to Japan was that I wasn't going to be able to make my regular six trips a year to Belgium. Admittedly, London is quite a bit closer to Belgium than Tokyo.
So, Brasserie St. Bernardus in Kanda. It's a nice looking place, lots of wood and an attempt at recreating the traditional Belgian cafe feel in Tokyo. It's quite big as far as Japanese bars go, probably seating somewhere in the region of 50 on regular tables, high tables and a long counter area. There are 19 taps, pretty much all Belgian, with the occasional Mikkeller thrown in. Nothing Japanese though, but that's not what you come here for I guess. The taps are pretty well chosen, featuring naturally lots of St. Bernardus beers, but also selections from De La Senne, De Ranke and the like. There is also a substantial bottle list with some great stuff on it from De Dolle and Struise amongst others. However, this all comes at a price. The bottles are go from about ¥1000 up to ¥1500 for some of the more special stuff, but I guess, given the distance it's not so bad. Certainly if you think about some of the higher priced Tokyo beer places where you might pay ¥1200 for a US pint sized glass of something made in Japan, and think that for only ¥100 more you can get a bottle of De Dolle's Bos Keun it's not so bad. The draught beers range from ¥700-¥950 depending on strength and rarity, for glasses around 250ml. Not bad at all to be honest. The St. Bernardus beers are at the lower end of this and most of them are pretty tasty. They also have the St. Bernardus Abt 12 on tap, which you don't even see very often in Belgium.
Along with the beer, they unsurprisingly have a menu full of Belgian style food with a few more familiar pub items on there. The food is pretty good here, well at least the frites are, which is one of the few things I tried. Given that this is a classy drinking and dining establishment, it will come as no surprise to Tokyo bar regulars that there is a cover charge of ¥300. In the past we have avoided the cover charge by drinking in the standing area outside the door, but not sure if this is a regular policy or they were just being nice. If you just fancy one drink it will be worth asking if this is the case.
So, probably not really many surprises here. It's a nice place to drink that serves very nice beers, but is maybe a little bit more expensive than other places. But when you take into account the fact that the beer is Belgian, so has come a long way, and is generally interesting stuff, it's pretty reasonable. I have seen plenty of places offering worse Belgian beers for the same or higher prices. Will be heading back here each time I feel some Belgian nostalgia kicking in, as it is a thoroughly decent place to have a drink.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:

Opening Hours:
Monday, 17.00-24.00
Tuesday-Thursday, 11.30-14.00, 17.00-24.00
Friday, 11.30-14.00, 17.00-02.00
Saturday & Sunday, 15.00-23.00

内神田 3-6-2, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0047

Leave Kanda JR station by the North exit and turn left. Follow the train tracks until you get to a main road. Cross this road and carry on alongside the tracks again. At the second main road turn right and the bar is just round the corner. 


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