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It’s time for some real British food and drink in Tokyo

70 Comments

It is to be hoped that Japan might, finally, start to overcome the general disdain for British cooking. The success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the vast positive exposure the UK has received this year surely cannot have been for naught.

The quality, choice and skill levels now present in almost all areas of the UK’s blossoming food industry continues to push UK cuisine up the steep path of improvement. This is being helped by a handful of influential celebrity chefs and the UK’s hugely popular MasterChef TV series. Perhaps it is time for a few great British restaurants to open in Tokyo.

Tokyo has over 200,000 restaurants, bars and cafes that serve up everything but the kitchen sink—surely there is some space left for more of what is British.

Forget about food for the moment, what about cutting-edge design, decor, atmosphere and attention to detail? It cannot have gone unnoticed that the levels of grandeur, glamour and excellence found in many of London’s best restaurants are truly world class. Or can it?

Tokyo’s huge population of young, cash-rich, brand-obsessed consumers are always eager to snap up the must-haves of each season. As a result, one would have thought some of London’s slick, ultra modern restaurants would have appeared in Tokyo by now, purely as a fashion statement.

But what is modern British cuisine anyway, and why would Japan enjoy it, “if they could just get it?”

Believed to have started in the UK after rationing ended following World War II, modern British cuisine did not find a strong foothold until the late 1980s.

This style of cooking uses high-quality local ingredients, prepared in ways to combine traditional British recipes with modern innovations. It has similarities with the Slow Food movement that preserves traditional and regional cuisine.

In addition, most modern British cooking draws heavily on influences from Mediterranean cuisines and, more recently, those of the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia and South-East Asia. The traditional influence of northern and central European cuisines remains significant, but is fading.

I believe this farm-to-table attitude would work very well in Japan, and would certainly combine well with the country’s recent eco-friendly boom.

Lastly, lets not forget the poor old pub. Do we really have to endure the same mediocre, predictable working-class pubs in Tokyo for the foreseeable future? At least one pub in Japan should show what a modern day establishment can be at its best—offering not just limp fish ’n chips, beer mats, darts, quiz nights and large-screen TVs.

How about some style for a change? Something similar to an old gentleman’s club from the London suburb of Mayfair would be appropriate. It could even specialise in fine beverages—something in which the UK certainly excels (forget the bad beer).

Given London’s unrivalled excellence in creating chic cocktail bars, world-class mixologists, and the UK’s love affair with fine wine, Scotch whisky and the recent boom in crafted spirits such as gin, the UK surely would have an advantage in Japan.

The pub—even without considering food—is still a concept that has much more to offer. Include some decent, relevant food and any investor would be on to a sure winner.

As both a chef and a Brit, I would love to take on such a challenge.

In Tokyo, let’s have one or two decent modern British restaurants or world-class pubs (Gordon Ramsay at the Conrad Tokyo excepted), for crying out loud!

No need for more French chocolatiers, Michelin-starred Chinese restaurants, molecular gastronomy concoctions, and certainly no more predictable and bland Japanese interpretations of wine bars, cafes or pasta joints.

Gordon: you have the entire UK food market here to yourself … for now. Enjoy it before it changes!

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70 Comments
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Ha. The last time I ate British food, was at the Keio Plaza. I tried for months to get my money refunded due the horrible taste. But they wouldn't hear of it. The "general disdain for British cooking" extends far beyond Japan, I'm afraid.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

The source of the "disdain for British cooking" mostly comes from the Americans in my experience. When asked what British cooking actually is they generally reply, "Fish and Chips", It's just ignorance, pure and simple. Anyone who has sunk their teeth into a genuine cornish pasty, or eaten Angus beef (which some people in the U.S. somehow mistakenly think is an American beef), or eaten shepherd's pie... well, they'd see the appeal. Of course British food doesn't end with traditional dishes, these days there's a lot of "fusion cooking", and some of the world:s most famous chefs, like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, are English.

... anyone who thinks that English cooking is just fish and chips clearly has no right to comment.

14 ( +16 / -3 )

Bangers and Mash anyone? Cornish pastie perhaps? Fish and chips with mushy peas? I'm British and that is about as far as you can go on food being essentialy British. Curry has even overtaken fish and chips as the most popular takeaway. Never eaten a half decent banger in Japan so I guess they will have to come of thge rather short menu.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Do we really have to endure the same mediocre, predictable working-class pubs in Tokyo for the foreseeable future?

I object to the wording of this question. Was it necessary to include the phrase "working class"?

I get the impression that the author is a frightful snob and looks down on the rest of us plebs in much the same way as Andrew Mitchell.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Forget about food for the moment....

There's your problem in a nutshell.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

All kinds of scrumptious pies, stews, soups, puddings are real British food, not to mention the best breads and cheeses in the world. Them wot distain British food must have palates made of cardboard.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

It infuriates me, when someone who only ever had a half-hearted, half-heated pub lunch, and maybe some soggy chips, when they were in the UK in the 90s for some 3-day tour of Europe, churns out this old cliche about British cuisine being crap. because it really isn't.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Loads of Indian Curry here..Fish and chips too....oh wait is there other British food ?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Someone I know went to London this summer and commented that before she went she was fully expecting the food to be bad even though she had no idea what british food is! When someone asks me what they should try when in Britain the list is something like...Haggis, Toad-In-The-Hole, Sausage(s!), a full roast, a full breakfast, rice pudding, mushy peas with mint sauce, homemade gravy, black pudding, ploughmans lunch, pasties, pies, sheperds pie, cottage pie, cheese, the list is practically endless. And the writer mentions "bad beer".....idiot snob...."working class"....snobby idiot...."old gentlemans club"....blahblahblah.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If you want real British food you'll have to cook your own. When the wife is away it's egg and chips time.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

sidesmile, I get the pride an all but you just mentioned large amount of diff flavour pies .. so is british food is pie , mashed potato ,sausages and fish and chips ? That said, the most common food eaten in UK is still Indian Curry :-)

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

the most common food eaten in UK is still Indian Curry

The popularity of one doesn't negate the quality of another. Are sushi, sashimi and onigiri less relevant because lots of people in Japan eat ramen, burgers and sandwiches?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

the most common food eaten in UK is still Indian Curry

It may be the most popular take-away, but that doesn't make it the most popular overall. Do you really think the average Brit spends hours in the kitchen knocking up curries?

so is british food is pie

That one word 'pie' covers a multitude of different taste experiences.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Do you really think the average Brit spends hours in the kitchen knocking up curries?

They buy them at Tesco and then "cook" them in the microwave.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

so is british food is pie , mashed potato ,sausages and fish and chips ? That said, the most common food eaten in UK is still Indian Curry :-)

The most popular curry eaten in the UK is chicken tikka masala, which originated in the UK. Just because something came from one country doesn't mean other countries can't adapt it and make it something different. Same as how deep dish pizza is American and not Italian. Its kinda silly to say British food is stuff like steak and kidney pie and mashed potato because no one under 50 actually eats stuff like that.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

They buy them (curries) at Tesco and then "cook" them in the microwave.

Funny, the last time I was in the UK the shelves in the local Tesco were full of stuff that wasn't instant curry. Can't have all been just decoration, either - people were buying it. The people I was staying with didn't buy any instant curries the whole time I was there.....maybe they changed their diet just to confuse their Japanese relatives.

no one under 50 actually eats stuff like that

Mind, those over 50 do account for a good third of the population.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"It’s time for some real British food and drink in Tokyo" places selling overpriced fish and chips and beer have been around for a long time. time to add some porridge?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The only way British food will work is if they open up a flashy restaurant in Omotesando, buy out lots of TV time on shows like Oosama Brunch. And finally cook up French food and just call it British food and hope people can't tell. It should work because the people that can spot the difference know how horrible real British food is and wouldn't go no matter how hyped up a place is.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

I really wish I could find some decent British sausages in Japan.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The author should open such a restaurant if he is so sure the Japanese will like the food. To be sure there would be more than a few if he was correct. Markets tend to make the right decisions over time.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I really wish I could find some decent British sausages in Japan.

Me too. The Meat Guy comes close, though.

I miss a proper English fry up for brunch. Would need proper sausages and bacon, black pudding etc.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

British food is Unbelievable and it is something that Tokyo needs!!!!!!!!!!!

I was in a little British pub in Kent about three years and I was forced to rethink my attitude towards British food!

I grew up in cooking in Oz before I moved to Japan. Got the trade papers etc and with my wealth of cooking experience and skill came to Tokyo to teach English (ha ha ha!) and have been for over ten years. Back to the story. It was recommended by a friend that I try a little pub out of town. With a taxi fee of about 16 pounds I was a little nervous. But I got out there and the first thing that anybody noticed was my Aussie accent. Once that was discussed the owner of the pub took me and my travel buddy for a garden tour. All sorts of GAME and meters of fresh veggies growing out there! The chef recently (at that time) moved over from London to take on a new role in the country. As a chef I was stunned! What do I eat when it's all right in front of me? One look at the menu, and a question from the owner, what would you like to order for lunch? Everything! I replied. But that's just impossible. Or is it? The guy brought out everything that he could fit onto a little wheelie cart and served us for about 2 hours. It was F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C.

To the writer. I would also be very interested in taking Tokyo by storm with British food (even though I'm an Aussie)...

I have fallen in love with it and have been cooking it for my slowly fattening family ever since I returned!

Good luck to you

From one chef to another

3 ( +4 / -1 )

To all those who say, I really wish I could have a British this or a British that! Try to do it yourself... You will be so happy you did. I make my own cheese, sausages, smoked meats, pastas, sauces and breads, and I am currently working on building a brick oven in the garden. I was inspired to do so by the experience I mentioned in my previous post. The Internet has it all. Also check out: the meat guy Japan. He is a good resource

4 ( +5 / -1 )

real british cuisine here would be a godsend!

oh what i would give for a real shepherd's pie!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

We could do with more British cheese too. I don't me mass-produced cheddar, I mean, for example Shropshire Blue, Perl Wen. Cheese in Britain these days has a great variety . It competes well with French cheese. The British soft cheeses , often like brie but better, are wonderful.

In Tokyo now there are loads of kebab stands. In Britain kebabs, especially doner, have become part of the national cuisine, but unlike in Japan, they are usually made with lamb.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

People who rubbish British food are probably the same ones who think we all have rotten teeth, are downtrodden masses who touch our forelocks to the master, call everyone 'guvna' and only eat fish and chips.

Never heard of a steak pie? How about Scotch Broth? Haggis? Bannocks? Yorkshire Pudding? How about lovely salads? We also eat the same type of food as most Europeans, they're just called different names.

Strangely none of my Japanese friends have complained about food they've had in the UK.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Foreign food in Japan too often gets overly tarted up, or turns into cheap junk. Take the sandwich.

High quality, natural home-style cooking, whether traditional or modern or fusion, should not have a hard time getting a market here (there's plenty of Japanese and maybe Asian of that sort), but unfortunately I think it wouldn't sell. Something like a real cornish pasty, for example, would not generate enough buzz.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

cleoOct. 24, 2012 - 09:55AM JST All kinds of scrumptious pies, stews, soups, puddings are real British food, not to mention the best breads and cheeses in the world.

How could I forget the cheeses!! I'd kill for a good, nicely aged, slightly crumbly cheddar right now. All I can find is the New Zealand Red cheddar (not bad, but not aged properly).... and the American "cheese"... well, the less said about that the better... it's white and has all the character of tile grouting.

As for the breads, well the Japanese do need a wake-up call here. There are sweet breads, but that's all you can get in Japan. There are also a MASSIVE number of savoury breads that seem to just have passed Japan by. I made a German bacon, cheese and herb loaf for a "bring and share" dinner with some of my Japanese friends and they were blown away. Apparently the idea of putting things apart from sausages into bread was an entirely new concept to them.

... also, the next time I see a sausage covered in dough and labelled as a "sausage roll" I may well lose it. A sausage roll is spiced mince in a pastry cover, not an american style hot dog covered in dough and baked until it is close to jerky.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Unfortunately there are many who post here who believe that the chemical soup called budweiser is beer, that hersheys corn syrup plus chemicals is chocolate and that macdonalds is haute cuisine..... so of course they will knock british food.....

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I make my own cheese

What kind of cheese? How do you make it? How does it compare with the stuff from home?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ian Tozer cooks up some good food at Roti. I recommend their rotisserie chicken and Greek salad.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Strangely none of my Japanese friends have complained about food they've had in the UK.

They know you are Brit and totally unable to take criticism. Like they wouldn't tell you the Gangman oyaji sucks if you were South-Korean.

As for the breads, well the Japanese do need a wake-up call here. There are sweet breads, but that's all you can get in Japan. Apparently the idea of putting things apart from sausages into bread was an entirely new concept to them.

Surely. Frungy, your modesty is astonishing. And next week, you should show them what sushi are. Nobody seems to have had the idea to serve rice with fish in Japan.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Unfortunately there are many who post here who believe that the chemical soup called budweiser is beer,

Was not the saying : "If it's warm, it's beer. If it's cold, it's soup. " ?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Oh no... please spare us... There is little memorable about British food... Yes, it's filling, it goes with ale, and it has a lot of potato, but otherwise, no thank you...

Staunton cheese and curry are two good things coming out of the mess.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

This is total nonsense. Tokyo is littered with "pubs" serving British beer and spirits. And plenty of restaurants serve British staples - full english breakfast, Sunday lunch, cottage and shepherds pie, sausages and mash etc. Restaurants in London are among the world's best.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

No thanks British food tastes like week old wet cardboard. Even Mcdonalds tasted bad when I went there. What is the British obsession with burning everything?

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Of course there is rubbish food and bad cooking in Britain - just as there is in Japan, France, Italy and most of all in the USA (where I've had some of the most disappointing food). But in Britain there is also some of best food you will ever experience - just as there is great food to be had in those other countries I've mentioned.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

cierzo98: Where? British food in Japan tastes great, British food in the UK not so much.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I:m sick of fighting the stigma against British food- most likely propegated by those countries who had an agenda to try and sell their own food to the global market. Japanese love their brand names etc, whereas much British cuisine has little to do with branding and more to do with what is locally available, so it may not appeal to brand hungry Japanese. There is fantastic British food - I don:t care if some people don:t believe it, it is their loss. The only thing that I lament is that the lack in popularity leads to a lack of availability of ingredients. I think if you want a good guide to british food, try watching something like The F Word series, entertaining and useful.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

the indian food in england is good!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

All these horrible generalisations about British food are about the equivalent of saying that American food is all McDonalds and Grape Soda and nothing more.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

y3chome: I had no idea there was stigma about British food, I had eaten it in Japan and loved it, I looked forward to trying all the food in the UK, I found out myself first hand that was extremely bad, I asked around and found out it was a common thing, I had no idea going there.

This is what I ate in the UK:

High street Fish & chips, the oil that cooked the chips must have been months old and the chips had been reheated 2-3 times and were dry as you could get.

Steak, high street, burnt to hell and back, I asked for medium rare.

McDonalds, old veges and burnt meat.

Kebab, the lettice was so old it was no longer green it was white.

Sunday roast, was the only thing close to food I ate that was okay, but only because I had to dump a bucket of gravy on it.

I think people in the UK think eating food with gravy / sauces and A1 is normal, it is not.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

y3chome... it's snobbery. People from certain countries are always knocking the UK... so food is just another target for their ire.

To those who say all British food has in its favour is that it's filling... here's a little bit of history for you: Britiain lies off the coast of Europe, quite far North. Back in days of old people didn't have central heating, double-glazing and cavity wall insulation. So meals were hot and filling, warming the body and allowing for a store of energy to keep the body going. So yes a lot of potato and pastry is still in the British diet....

Better that than greasy, additive-filled burgers, mustard-covered hot dogs, etc....

Oh, and where do think the Sunday roast came from?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A good cup of breakfast tea, two rashers of bacon, one sausage, a fried egg and a slice of toast - breakfast.

A ploughman's lunch and a good, strong cup of tea - lunch.

Steak and kidney pie, black pepper creamy mashed potatoes, baby carrots and garden peas - dinner.

What's not to like about traditional British food? And if you want to go upmarket there's always game in season - venison, pheasant and whatnot. When in London, try Rules, London's oldest restaurant (1798). They must be doing something right.

http://www.rules.co.uk/home

3 ( +4 / -1 )

oh what i would give for a real shepherd's pie!

Would you give 1200 yen? That's about what it would cost you in easily purchased ingredients, and in terms of technical difficulty, shepherd's pie is at the lower end of the scale. It's the kind of thing someone who's hardly ever cooked before could take a decent stab at.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No thanks British food tastes like week old wet cardboard. Even Mcdonalds tasted bad when I went there.

There's a lot of bad food in Britain, and I mean a lot. But if you had nothing good, and still found time for a manky kebab and a "meal" at McDonald's then you went badly wrong.

Double that if you were in London.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

And let us not forget British puddings/desserts. I believe that even Americans love that most English of desserts, the apple pie.

British cheese is the best in the world, although the French might incorrectly disagree.

(High quality) British sausages are beautiful. Infinitely superior to bland Germanic sausages, and unlike cured salami-esque sausages, you can make a meal out of them.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Gordon Ramsay, are English

He's Scottish actually.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Heaven:

House: British

Salary: U.S

Wife: Japanese

Food: Chinese

Hell

House: Japanese

Salary: Chinese

Wife: U.S.

Food: British

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

gaijinfo - Har!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Who says British food is bad? You just didn't go to the right restaurants!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Don't get me started on english breakfasts, I could have drunk it from my plate there was so much oil on it.

I'm sure British people love the food, but the rest of the world does not.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

One thing that is true is that the GENERAL STANDARD of restaraunts/eating out in the UK isnt great ; but there still are a good bunch of very good places for a reasonable price if one looks. I do always wonder why the british consumer supports such poor establishments. Gogogo> Highstreet fish and chips; i do agree there are many bad plaices (hoho) but you need to be careful which ones you choose... generally the big city fish and chips wont be so great. I think its hard to find a fish and chip that take pride in their work these days. And McDonalds as a barometer? something wrong there.

So yes eating out in the UK is a bit of a gamble... there are more bad restaraunts than good, but the good ones are outstanding.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The very best UK food ever, a pie size tin of Tipperary Steak and Kidney Pie. The pastry top would puff, the sauce was heavy, dark and full of real beef and kidney. Probably the most dangerous food in the world and delicious.

As others have noted, what is it with the burning and how is it Brits have generally such poor culinary skills while the Japanese are artists in every respect? It's time for real food in Britain too.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@gogogo

Reading your various posts I can tell that you just don't have the ability or taste to choose the right sort of places to eat. You 5 point list of

This is what I ate in the UK: Shows that can't judge anything. Why is McD and a Kebab hut even on your list? What do you really expect there? You could arrive in Tokyo and dive into Yoshinoya, Joyy Pasta and Gusto and comoe away from Japan saying that there cooking is awful. You don't say where you're from, but in my experience in the US (inc Hawaii), Australia, Canada and a hot sof European countrues, I've had good and very bad. But I wouldn;t bother to inclde fast food joints on any list unless I just set out to ridicule. When I'm home in the UK I have freshly caught seafood, perfect cuts of meat and cheese and brilliantly prepared vegetables. I have taken Japanese company execs on investment missions to local restaurants and the raved about them. Maybe you're just on a tight budget. Same goes for Alex Einz who also hasn't go t a clue.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

go go go, you have got got got no idea what you are talk talk talking about!!

Cleo, I think you were asking about my comment. making cheese is not that hard. especially soft cheeses. Basically you bring milk and cream to the boil, add a squeeze of lemon, pinch of salt, and a Tablesoon of vinegar. You can flavor it with anything you like. Let it sit in the pot while it cools and watch the magic happen. it separates. Pour the mix through a fine sifter, with tiny holes so you don't loose everything. The stuff you don't need will run down your sink, the stuff you do need will stay in the sifter. What you do with it after that is up to you. For a hard cheese, strain it and press it, soak it in brine, press it again and dry it in a cloth. You could get cheeky and coat it with red wax. For soft cheese mould it, wrap it in cloth and stick it in your fridge. Easy. Good luck with it

1 ( +2 / -1 )

kiss - many thanks, think I'll give it a try. How do you stop the cheese going mouldy before it goes hard?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Been to the UK 4 times, been to I guess 50 places in that time, everywhere from liverpool to london to bristal, 5 star to burger shop... it's either dry, burnt, covered in oil, old or just plain bad. Although I liked the taste the cornish pastes gave me stomach aches.... black pudding... erk...

Someone prove me wrong, make me something english and I'll give you an unbias answer, if someone can show me some good British food and I'm wrong I'll gladly admit it.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Ha, UK cuisine is only as good as US cuisine!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Hi Frungy.

Don't tell Gordon Ramsey he is English, he will probably eat you alive, and England is not Britain by the way.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hahaha... Tokyo, the world's gourmet capital, with the most Michelin stars, needs...BRITISH food???

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

OK. Some sausages are pretty good, but you invariably get brick-heavy mashed potatoes, overcooked and tasteless peas (on which the locals dump a lot of salt to extract some taste). Even a "top" restaurant in London still comes up with "lightly sauteed fish on a bed of French vegetables and local potatoes", which is essentially still pub-food.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What's wrong with pub food?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Saying you dislike English food because you once ate in a high street shitehouse in London is like saying Italian food is bad because you had a bland pizza once.You juts haven't experienced the good stuff - of which there is plenty.

British food is as good as any in the world, and better than many.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

gogogo - if you look anything like your avatar, I'll knock you up a roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemarywhich will knock your stockings off whenever you like. If you're a bloke, though, you can just take my word for it.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

How I long for a porkpie, at least I can buy English muffins just about anywhere these days, but not a crumpet in sight.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

British food is as good as any food in the world, and better than many, and I will fight any man who says differently.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

//limp fish ’n chips, beer mats, darts, quiz nights and large-screen TVs.

That sounds all too authentic to me. I remember one writer digressing in his book to write about how awful were the ingredients in British food over a couple of pages of his book.

The writer was Karl Marx, and it's the bit about how the really cheap bread was made in "Das Kapital".

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

British food is as good as any food in the world, and better than many

Nothing gets a brit more riled up than saying their food sucks. I know, I know, you have good curry right? LOL

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The famous Branson pickles which makes all food taste good is bought out by a Japanese company and coming to a shelf near you!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

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