Happy New Year, and here is my first post of 2014, although it actually relates to a visit I made in 2013. Today, a place that I initially had reservations about, for reasons I will explain below, but which is definitely worthy of a place on this blog. The Aldgate in Shibuya is something of a rarity; a British themed pub which actually has good beers on, many of them from Japanese breweries.
So first of all, I should explain my reservations. I am British, and the idea of going to a British pub in a foreign country is something that is quite far down my list of priorities. I normally find theme pubs of any kind a bit of a challenge, but in the case of the Aldgate, there is nothing not to like. If you discount the fact that you have to get in a lift to get to it, and the fact that it is slap bang in the middle of Shibuya, the place does feel quite British. The interior has lots of wood and has a pleasantly lived in feel. They even have some of the kind of amusing pub jokes that people familiar with the now defunct Firkin chain of UK pubs will be all too familiar with. They also show live British football when there are games on (bizarrely, something which a pub in Britain couldn’t actually do at 3pm on a Saturday). A couple of other things that they have thankfully in common with British pubs are that the place is non-smoking, so you can actually taste what you are drinking, and that there is no cover charge. There is seating for around 30 at a selection of tables and plenty of standing room spread around with a larger area by the door. I have been in here when the games are on and the place can get quite busy, but you should still be able to find room. On a weeknight it shouldn’t be a problem finding a table.
On to the beers. They have 20 taps and around 3/4 of them are good stuff. There are a few British beers, some US and Belgian imports and a decent selection of Japanese craft beer. They have a few house beers made specially for them by Japanese micros including the interestingly named Jack the Ripper, an IPA made by Baird. Maybe this will be the first in a series of serial killer beers. Or maybe not. The menu lists only prices for pints and these vary from ¥950-¥1050, so round about what you would expect for Tokyo. Not sure what would happen if you asked for a half. Along with the beer they have a selection of British food items, which I have never tried, but the next time my baked bean craving hits, I am heading there for the jacket potato with cheese and beans. Guess that’s something that appeals particularly to me.
So, to sum up, it is a theme pub, but actually with some substance to back it up. Decent beer at a decent price, friendly staff, and the added benefits of home comfort food (if you’re a Brit) and live football (if that is a benefit for you). It’s definitely something of a refuge in the middle of the craziness of Shibuya. I should really go here more often than I do, as it’s always a good experience, particularly when it is quieter (if you are a misery guts like I am).
Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Saturdays and Sundays, 17.00-02.00
新岩崎ビル 3F, 宇田川町 30-4, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Good luck. Leave the station via the Hachiko exit and go across the scramble crossing in the direction of Tsutaya/Starbucks. Head down Center Gai (the road the goes to the left of Tsutaya/Starbucks if you are facing them) and carry on for about 200m. Best thing is to count the side streets on the right. The Aldgate is on the right-hand side in the block just before the 5th one. Look for the British Flag (check the picture above).