Tucked away behind rows of old houses and a small, unassuming shopping street in suburban-trendy Setagaya, is Chubby café. Much like a chubby baby, the café itself emanates wholesomeness, relaxation and play. Established in 2005 by former art gallery curator Hiroshi Takagi – who turned it from a dusty factory warehouse into a spacious café with soft, comfortable sofas – Chubby truly invites customers to kick back and relax.
Takagi spent two years in London working at galleries, and before that was involved in restaurant front-of-house operations in Japan. He wanted to create a space in Tokyo where art, music and food could be appreciated in an unpretentious way. In his view, there’s the feeling ‘that visiting a gallery in Japan is often seen as something only meant for art experts,’ and hopes that Chubby can be a place where anyone can enjoy and buy art.
Takagi certainly encourages artists from all walks of life and all parts of Japan to showcase their work, offering no charge to exhibit, with the option of holding a promotional event during the exhibition period. The popularity of the café and this system has meant that their wall space is booked solid at least a year in advance.
Chubby's decor is understated, preferring to blend into the background, letting the regularly changing art on the walls stand out. The art often provides a good talking point if on a date, with friends, family or clients.
The café's clientele range from young families, through to students and business types, with both counter and table seating. Its ground floor location also makes the space easily accessible for those with baby strollers or wheelchairs. Chubby is also very child-friendly, with coloured pens for drawing with available upon request.
In keeping with the café's 'at home' atmosphere, the menu at Chubby consists of an assortment of local and international home style dishes with a twist. Chubby's chef is Cordon Bleu-trained, and the precision and thought that goes into each dish is present in every eyeful and mouthful. The café sources its vegetables from an organic farm in Tochigi, while its meat and fish come from suppliers in the cosy neighbourhood. ¥1,000 gets you a voluminous lunch from several options, two of which – the daily lunch special and the quiche plate – change every day. À la carte options for dinner or lunch range from ¥400 to ¥1,200.
The unpretentiousness of the café shines through in its sincerely friendly staff, menu and approach. The café does its part for the environment without needing to trumpet it from the rooftops. Waste oil from the kitchen is recycled into candles available for purchase, and customers who buy Chubby's reusable drink bottle can come in for free water refills.
Chubby often fills up in the evenings, especially during the weekend when the café is often booked for events – it may pay to call in advance to check if events are on.
The café allows smoking, so be prepared for a smoky night if things look busy.
By Samantha Loong
2-27-9 Ohara, Setagaya-ku
|Opening hours:||12noon-2am / closed Tue|
|Transport:||Daitabashi Station (Keio line)|