Le Pain Quotidien could be one of central Tokyo’s worst kept cafe secrets…

An institution for some, yet still unfamiliar to many Tokyoites, Le Pain Quotidien is a small slice of heaven in the midst of our bustling metropolis – with exquisite organic fare and a spectacular view of Tokyo Tower, this cafe is well worth a trip.

Hailing from Belgium and with more than a few branches scattered across Europe and more recently in America, Le Pain Quotidien is notorious for more than just its bread. The concept is centered (literally!) around a communal table, which distinguishes this cafe from most, and places it high on my list of favourites.

LPQ's cuisine

I usually tend to feel awkward sitting alone to have a meal, especially in a huge city like Tokyo, which can make anyone feel quite lonely and self-conscious. Thankfully, LPQ’s large communal table makes me feel a sense of comfort and familiarity while sharing jars of jam and butter with my neighbour.

Le Pain Quotidien doubles as a take away bakery, so you can just run in on your way home to pick up a freshly baked loaf (wheat bread, a scarcity in this country, is available), or you can sit down for a meal at any time of the day: come early morning for the Baker’s Basket, filled with an assortment of warm croissants and breads, or feast on a lunch or dinner of their specialty, tartines (bread topped with a selected spread), along with, perhaps, a glass of bubbly.

I highly recommend the white bean, hummus and tuna tartine, which is served with an aromatic basil pesto, or the ricotta, fig and honey one for those with a sweet tooth (from ¥1100). The meals are best washed down with a bowl of cafe au lait (pictured on the left, ¥600), French-style: somehow these days I’m not as used to such large servings of coffee but it was a comforting caffeine based blessing on my last visit.

The café itself is warm and cozy, with huge windows overlooking Shiba Koen and long wooden tables. They also have the loveliest, friendliest staff, and the unpretentious atmosphere makes it so warm and welcoming. It’s one of my favourite spots in Tokyo and, dare I say it, one of the city’s best secrets. Don’t leave without having a wander around the gorgeous Shiba Koen and Zojo-ji temple.

Le Pain Quotidien, 3-3-1 Shibakoen, Minato-ku. Closest station: Hamamatsucho on JR Yamanote.

*a new location recently opened at Tokyo Opera City, see details on the website.

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by Vivian Morelli