Late Sunday morning in Tokyo. Yesterday’s black suits-filled streets are empty. But this emptiness breathes another life into the alleys. My fingertips are craving to feel the touch of natural linen in Shimokitazawa’s Fog store. The nostalgic ‘made in Lithuania’ label shortens the distance between Europe and Asia in seconds. The sun reaches its peak and I start wandering around quiet streets of Setagaya. I settle in a minimalistic café, which offers me a cup of heart-warming coffee and homemade years-mastered anpan*. Wake up. You are not in Tokyo. You’ve just found a small patch of Japan in Ealing Broadway.
Tucked away in West London, Ealing has become popular with Japanese community. Loads of Asian restaurants offering sushi and bento are cheaper than Central but still too pricey for my pocket. But when it comes to coffee and sweet delights I always manage to loosen my budget – those are my ‘money can’t buy’ little moments of happiness.
My radar is always ON searching for Japanese atmosphere. Café in Japan is unique as it provides you with tranquillity, quality, gratefulness and at the same time isolation. Café space is not based on profits or number of customers. It does not chase for national popularity. Every guest is sincerely appreciated from kokoro no soko**.
London has tried to recreate the Japanese space quite unsuccessfully. While Soho offers a number of Japanese restaurants, the quality has let down anyone who has visited Japan at least once. High Kensington is home to the first authentic matcha bar but don’t fall easily for that. The word ‘authentic’ is just a false alarm. Traditional Japanese high-grade tea is not treated with respect as in chado***. However, Ealing is like a ray of sunshine preserving the true spirit of Japan with the arrival of the patisserie WA Café and bakery Tetote Factory.
* sweet bun with red bean paste. ** bottom of the heart. *** Japanese tea ceremony.
The fusions of French patisserie with Japanese twists presented in elegant minimal decorations are worth to die for (or at least to take a train to Ealing Broadway). WA masterpieces include white sesame cheesecake, matcha roll cake and absolute winner – choux trio (t.a. 3.60) infused with green tea, sesame and azuki flavors. The latter one is like a journey though Japanese specialities in one bite. WA café has embraced patisserie with the strong attention to delicate flavours and presentation.
While sweets are a mixture of East and West, savoury offerings are strictly Japanese. One that is really worth a mention is egg and mayo doughnut, which is extra crispy from the outside with the creamy egg filling inside. At the time I had a chance to try it I became speechless. After gobbling doughnut down, I went to the counter straight away to get one to take away as I was scared they would be out of stock pretty soon.
While I wouldn’t consider myself a big foodie, I am very fussy about drinks. Especially when it comes to matcha. Japanese green tea has a significant history that shaped the whole philosophy of Japanese thinking, including the understanding of beauty in wabi sabi. WA café has deserved to be praised for their approach to matcha. Their matcha latte is made with soymilk, which embraces softer and sweeter side of green tea but does not taste too milky.
The tableware is authentic and hand made. The presentation of food and drinks lets you take in the beauty of the moment. Either ceramic espresso cup, or a small wooden spoon to mix up your matcha, every small detail has been thought about. There are a lot of meanings under Japanese word ‘Wa’ but my guess that translation ‘harmony’ or ‘consideration’ suits best to describe this cafe and the dedication to quality pastries.
But the biggest surprise and relief is to find specialty coffee behind the counter. London-based microroastery Nude espresso supplies WA café with their kicking espresso blend. Ealing habitants don’t need to make a one-hour trip to East London as they can get a nice caffeine fix now in Japanese patisserie.
Let’s say for a second you are walking down the street somewhere in Japan. Pupils have just finished their classes and all rushing to get a melon pan to treat themselves for a hard day at school. Businessmen are quickly gobbling down anpan during their short coffee break. Mothers are bringing freshly baked walnut loafs home to serve later on a dinner table. All these baked goods that you can find on every corner in Japan are still quite difficult to find in London.
Tetote Bakery feels like it was somehow teleported here from Japan to London as it manages to preserve that mentioned above unique Japanese atmosphere so perfectly. Simple design tiny bakery has a loyal local Japanese clientele. By the afternoon most of the stock is low or completely out of stock. Best sellers – baguettes – are completely sold out by the time of my arrival.
Minimalism is not the term strictly applied just to interior. Japanese desserts are created to be minimalistic – only few flavours in order to enhance each texture and taste. Tetote bakery’s rolls are fluffy and, when filled with cream cheese or red bean paste, are hard to resist.
Unfortunately, bakery does not have a café space but there is a small bench to sit down for a second while admiring little baked creations. There is also a take away coffee service. A lovely Japanese woman prepares a heart-warming cup of latte. She reveals that Tetote Bakery uses Camden House Coffee special roast that compliments Japanese sweet treats.
Currently I cannot find any comparisons to Tetote bakery and WA Cafe in London, which would provide all three – warm service, Japanese baked goods and some bloody good cup of coffee. At least not yet. Any suggestions?