by Anthony Stevens

What is it that makes a ‘good local pub’? Is it simply a place where you can meet friends, feel comfortable, and enjoy a great, laid-back night?

In my view, it’s actually a few things—the first is that it must be authentic: it must look and feel like a public house, warm, inviting and full of original charm, brimming with authentic old memorabilia (not the kind manufactured by a Japanese company to instantly mimic a foreign-style pub). Second, it must have an excellent selection of draft beers, ales, and stouts, as well as spirits and wines. But above all, the food needs to be cooked on site with its own twist on classic grub, and it must go perfectly with the aforementioned refreshments.

What the Dickens! pub in Ebisu was created 14 years ago by a group of British expats who longed for that little piece of home right here in Tokyo—a place to be entertained, fed, and watered without breaking the bank. Add to that the most original layout and furnishings (made by the manager Andy) and a great live band every night, and you have the recipe for a ‘real pub.’

As one might expect, the majority of the fare is hearty, authentic, and very British. Some of the most popular menu items are pies (chicken, beef, or vegetarian), which any Brit will agree are just like those from home. Formality is thrown out the window at the Dickens—just grab a plate, go to the front of the open kitchen and have a look at everything on offer. The real find for me was the cottage pie, which took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in an instant. With healthy sides of chips and baked beans, it was enough to satisfy and then some.

My pie was accompanied by a pint of pale ale and, to aid digestion, the live sounds of an excellent local expat band. For anyone looking for a slice of Britain in Tokyo, head to What the Dickens!