Monday, 7 April 2014

Swanlake Pub Edo @ Cafe de Tete

So, here it is. A momentous day. I have been complaining on this blog for a long time that there were no good beer places in Uehara, and now Swan Lake have opened their second Pub Edo pretty close to the station (you can read what I thought of the initial Pub Edo near Tokyo station here). I wonder if this will be the first and only Ji-Biru incursion into Uehara or if it will be the trailblazer and soon it will become be a beer paradise here. Time will tell I guess.
It seems that before Swan Lake took over the place Cafe de Tete was already open and already serving Swan Lake beers at this location. This might go some way to explaining the slightly unwieldy name of the place! However, the takeover/merger/collaboration/whatever it was has intensified the beer focus. They have potential for quite a few beers, as they have 18 taps. However, when we visited they only had 11 on (fair enough, as the place is new and finding its feet). These 11 included seven Swan Lake beers and four guests, so even if you're not a fan of Swan Lake beers there is something here for you. The guests were, in my opinion, well chosen as well. The Swan Lake beers were the usual offerings, but I will keep and eye out to see if they start including seasonals in their line-up. When I visited, the guests were from Shiga Kogen, North Island, Fujizakura Kogen and Minoh, so a decent selection.
Beers are served mainly in two sizes, 250ml and 500ml. For the Swan Lake beers, these come in at ¥550 and ¥950 respectively. The four guests were a little more expensive, ranging from ¥750-¥800 for the 250ml and ¥1250-¥1350 for the 500ml. Stronger beers were served in 150ml glasses and prices ranged from ¥750-¥950. (Update: see below for new prices) So, the initial impression is that the prices are a little on the high side, but given the lack of competition in the area, I guess this is to be expected. Also, 500ml is a bit more than some places give when they serve a large, so you have to take this in to account too. Some of the beers were served in big wine glasses, which was really good for getting a decent sniff in. I think the lager was in a shaker glass though. I was very impressed with these big glasses. It definitely improved the drinking experience for me.
The place itself is pretty nice. It feels kind of classy, and I imagine that they are looking to attract the dining and drinking crowd more than people like me who just want to drink. The food looked good though and was reasonably priced. The decor is modern but also comfortable. They must have spent a fortune on importing the variety of interesting chairs they have. There is seating at tables for around 14, a couple of counters (one at the bar and one by the window) which can take about eight, and a couple of tables outside which looked very inviting. Staff were very friendly and the service was good. There is a cover charge of ¥300, but this does not apply before 18:00, so before then it's perfectly acceptable to pop in for just one beer. And this leads me on to what is one of the most exciting aspects of the place, especially given that I live about 10 minutes walk away. It is open all day, every day. This is very much a rarity in Tokyo, and is possibly due to them being a Cafe that has a good beer selection rather than solely a beer bar. In any case, the prospect of being able to have an afternoon beer is very welcome. Not sure how they would react to you turning up just after opening at 9am and asking for a Barley Wine though. And this is not something I'm going to do anyway.
To sum up, I would say that Cafe de Tete is a very welcome addition to the area, as this was a bit of a beer wasteland before its arrival. The prices are a little higher than I might have hoped but given that it is one of a kind in the area, I think it can get away with it, at least for the moment. Daytime opening is great for me, especially with no cover charge, and I hope to often get the chance to take advantage of it. In fact, I am kind of tempted to head down there now but should probably eat some lunch first. It would be nice if they put their tap line-up (or at least the new beers) on their facebook page as they update every day, but only really with the opening hours. I think it would encourage people to pop in if they saw something special that they fancied drinking. I'm not sure it's worth people traveling across Tokyo just to drink here given that there are bigger selections elsewhere and you'd probably have to pass the other Pub Edo, but if you are in the area for whatever reason, it's very much worth popping in for a beer and to enjoy the nice atmosphere.

Update: 9/4/14 Went in today for the first time since the tax increase here in Japan. It seems that the prices have changed to reflect this. Swan Lake beers are now ¥650 and ¥980, and guests ranged from ¥830-¥880 for small and ¥1350-¥1400 for large. I have to say, it has changed my feelings about the place quite considerably. For the small Swan Lake beers that's over a 15% increase even though the tax increase was only 3%. And when you consider these were already quite high prices for their own beers it feels worse! And the guest prices now look prohibitively high. I can't imagine feeling ok with paying these prices and a cover charge if I went in the evening time. It's unfortunate as I had a nice time there sitting outside this afternoon, and the House IPA was great. But these prices are not intended for people like me, so I would imagine I won't be here much anymore and I don't think I can really recommend it unless you have very deep pockets and no concerns about value for money.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Swan Lake
Shiga Kogen
Fujizakura Kogen
North Island

New Opening Hours from July 2015:
Monday, 13:00-23:00
Tuesday-Friday, 09:00-23:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 09:00-22:30

大山町 46-9, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

From Yoyogi Uehara station, head through the barriers, down the first escalator, turn left and down the next escalator to street level. Carry straight on along the street, not going under the tracks and cross the first side street. Follow the road a little up the hill and Cafe de Tete is on the right hand side just before the main road.


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