Swan & Lion British Deli & Bakery, Ichigaya
Just two blocks South of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Ichigaya lies the “Swan & Lion” – a freshly opened British Deli & Bakery that gracefully roars out the message that British food can, contrary to popular belief, be pretty tasty too.
The brainchild of Ian Gibbins – a highly amicable former lawyer from Bristol UK - Swan & Lion offers an exciting range of British food and drink that, frankly, most Japanese people will probably never have seen before, even those who have been to UK.
How come? Well, to put it simply, it is because the food that is on sale inside the Swan & Lion is the kind of thing that many Brits would have eaten at their granny’s or aunt’s house on a Sunday afternoon. It is not the kind of thing a Japanese tourist would usually stumble across on London’s Regent Street or Piccadilly.
The kinds of food we are talking about here are cottage pie, pork pies, Welsh rarebit, crumpets, apple crumble, treacle tarts, lemon curd, and chutney etc. Classic British comfort food. The kind of food that The Observer food writer and comfort food afficianado Nigel Slater would get very excited about, but in an understated British way of course.
Swan & Lion don’t just do classics though. There are also a number of innovative Anglo-Japanese fusion items – such as “natsumikan” marmalade, which is centered around an obscure Japanese citrus fruit and a sublime ginger cake which consists of Japanese ingredients such as slithers of fresh sho-ga (ginger), and black sugar from Okinawa.
Alongside Ian is Luke, a calm and collected professionally-trained chef from South London, whose culinary dexterity in the kitchen is also matched by his dexterity around a blues guitar – which has led me to refer to him as Cool Hand Luke. Typically, Ian and Cool Hand spend much of their working day creating a range of exquisite pies and cakes in the kitchen at the back of the store.
In addition to the food that is made in-house, Swan & Lion also sell several items that are brought in, such as marmite, elderflower cordial and twiglets – which are perfect for the British expat in Tokyo, who will inevitably experience occasional cravings for British food.
But for Western tourists who are coming to Japan for just a fortnight, some might look at Swan & Lion and think, “OK, it looks really great but… when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. In other words, if you are going to go to Japan on holiday then perhaps you should try to eat sushi, ramen, tempura, soba, miso soup etc. Of course, affirmative. But by about Day 8 of the itinerary why not pay a visit to the wonderful Swan & Lion in Ichigaya, and take a break from the daily Japanese food experimentation schedule? Because as far as I can make out, everything in Swan & Lion is very much shipshape and Bristol fashion.
For more on Swan & Lion click here.