It's hard not to feel a little sorry for Tolo, an attractive but hidden eatery just a skip from Setagaya-Daita Station. It's the kind of bespoke café that would do extremely well on a backstreet in somewhere fashionable like Daikanyama, but here – with the hipster shine of Shimokitazawa a tantalizing station out of reach – it feels a little lost. 'Lunchtimes are fairly busy,' explained the unfailingly friendly waiter, 'but evenings, there's nobody here.' Indeed, walk-in custom must be fairly dismal at a place few people are likely to stumble across.
From a punter's point of view there are plus sides, of course. After an afternoon in bustling Shimokitazawa, the sudden change in pace was refreshing. That it's located right next to the Odakyu train line may seem a hinderance to some, but it's strangely unimposing – on a sunny day with the roses climbing the walls above the terrace, the occasional clackety clack adds to a pleasing rural delusion. Add in the tiny lane, too small for cars to squeeze along, and you could almost be on a Miss Marple film set.
The menu is brief enough to fit on two small blocks of wood, accompanied by three laminated drinks cards – alcohol (Premium Malts on draft, a collection of cocktails, and the usual shochu offerings), coffee and soft drinks. In keeping with the café's name, most of the food items can be prepared or mopped up with bread. We went for a ham and mascarpone pizza, and took a daring chance on a serving of moules mariniere.
Neither dish had much to recommend it, the pizza served on a flat bread base, easily and successfully burnt around the edges. However, the lashings of mascarpone worked well to counteract the singed aftertaste, and as a snack to get you through the afternoon, it did the job. The moules, on the other hand, were something of a disappointment, mainly because fans of this dish expect so much that it's hard to live up to expectation. Our main gripes were to do with quantity: not enough wine in the broth, not enough mussels (five) to justify the name. Even the bread basket it came with was a little pedestrian. At ¥750, the price should have been warning enough.
We skipped dessert and went straight for coffee, which – somewhat predictably – turned out to be Tolo's forte. For ourselves, a cinnamon cappuccino that brought a little bit of Christmas to a late spring day, and for our partner, a hot chocolate so thick and rich that she was stunned into a brief and rare silence ('the trick is the fresh cream,' beamed the waiter proudly, as we thumbed a pencil from our bag and took notes). Neither were enough to prompt a revisit, but if you happen to find yourself on this particular Daita corner, place your bets on a hot beverage.
|Venue name:||Tolo Coffee & Bakery|
5-3-1 Daita, Setagaya-ku
|Opening hours:||10.30am-7pm / closed Tue|
|Transport:||Setagaya-Daita Station (Odakyu line)|