Bars of the week
The sister shop of Kyoto-based craft beer and sake bar Before 9, Another 8 landed in the capital in April 2017, opening in posh Meguro in a space that used to be a garage. A place for laidback drinking, it’s got tables and benches both inside and out front, in addition to a stand bar that tends to get very crowded on weekends. Although beer is the speciality at Another 8 – the place is equipped with eight taps – there is also a small but very nice selection of sake. The bar snacks are pretty good too – we’re big fans of the marinated octopus and celery, while those looking for something more substantial will want to try the shirasu (whitebait) and daikon omelette.
Established 40 years ago, the aptly named Grandfather’s started out with a playlist style that was uncommon at the time, blending together rock LPs one song at a time. Today, the tunes are a selection of popular music (mainly AOR and funk and soul) from the ’70s, when vinyl records were mainstream. However, the owner is constantly on the lookout for new music and if a modern artist wins his favour they’ll get some ‘airtime’ too. (We recently heard him spin a few tracks by Joss Stone and Rumer.) After all these years, the interior is still well maintained, giving off a rich ambience that’s appropriate for such a venerable bar and that lends an extra level of charm to the music.
When we visit Bar BenFiddich, Hiroyasu Kayama gives us an unusual souvenir: a bag of dried senburi root (pictured above on the left of the bar counter), a virulently bitter herb that’s normally used to relieve indigestion. ‘I’ve got loads of this stuff sitting around,’ he says, as he grinds a section of root with some red wine, brandy, orange peel and an array of spices to create his own version of amaro, the potent Italian digestif. When a regular customer comes in, Kayama whips out a vintage bottle of Suze that he just bought online – ‘it’s from the ’30s or ’40s’ – and invites him to do a taste test. A first-time visitor’s question about making the perfect gin and tonic leads to a lengthy discussion about the surface temperature of ice cubes. He’s like the hippest chemistry teacher we never had. ‘Oh, I wasn’t into science at high school,’ he says. ‘I was too busy playing baseball.’ Kayama opened BenFiddich in 2013, after working for years as the head bartender at Nishi-Azabu mixology bar Amber. It’s given him free rein to pursue a longstanding interest in traditional elixirs and herbal liquors, often using ingredients – anise, fennel, wormwood – grown on his family’s plot in Chichibu, Saitama. The bar has an impressive whisky selection too, but Kayama’s apothecary style cocktails are the main attraction. Jars of spices and housemade infusions line the shelves behind the counter, and he’s as likely to prepare your drink with a pestle and mortar as a cocktail shaker. He wa
More bars in Tokyo
Best tourist-friendly gay bars in Shinjuku Ni-chome
Whether it be dancing the night away at a club or drinking and meeting new people in a tiny dive bar, Shinjuku Ni-chome offers some of the best nights out in Tokyo. No matter if you’re straight, gay or non-binary, the capital’s LGBT hub will deliver. If you want to experience one of the best parts of Japanese bar culture – talking with and being entertained by the staff – but don’t quite know where to head for English-friendly banter, these five bars will fit the bill.
Food and drink news and events
Matcha Hi Festival
We’ve seen plenty of beer gardens and lemon sour festivals draw huge crowds with budget-friendly boozy concoctions and food trucks for snack pairings, but this matcha highball fest is a first. Organisers are convinced the matcha highball will become the next lemon sour, a drink that goes well with any kind of meal and something you can easily down before ordering another round. Seeing as the ‘Matcha Hi’ is two of Japan’s most popular beverages combined into one, it’s almost surprising that it’s not a bigger trend. Nonetheless, try spending an afternoon here and you might just find it’s your new go-to drink!