Category Archives: Bars

Deep Kyoto on CNN Travel

In case you missed it, my recommendations for what to see, do, buy, & eat when in “Japan’s most photogenic city” are now up on the CNN Travel site.

Inside Guide Best of Kyoto

Everyone should visit Kyoto at least once.

It’s Japan’s best preserved ancient city.

Shrines, temples, palaces, gardens … the city is home to thousands of architectural wonders, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Geisha and locals wearing traditional kimonos aren’t unusual sights.

But Kyoto is a modern city with a dynamic music and arts scene, lively markets and restaurants serving the best Japanese cuisine.

There’s too much to see on a single visit — so we have whittled down the best of Kyoto.

Click to read the rest of: Inside Guide: Best of Kyoto

I had to put this piece together in a bit of a hurry last July, so it was a HUGE help that Jeffrey Friedl, Travis Seifman, and Mario Cacciottolo let me use some of their photos. By way of thanks, I encourage you all to visit their websites:

Jeffrey Friedl’s blog:
Mario Cacciottolo’s photography:
Travis Seifman’s “musings on the arts of Japan and beyond”:

Thanks also are due to Chris Rowthorn who put CNN in touch with me in the first place.

Breaking News: Philippe’s Bar – aka Bar F.S.N. #3 is Open!

This picture by John Gorman

This picture by John Gorman

This news from Mr. John Gorman:

Philippe is proud to announce the long awaited opening of F.S.N. the third!

The bar will be open from tonight!

Opening party Saturday February 21st, DJ’s from 22h.

DJ’s boogie Dan, Rei and Raijin.

The new bar is located between Kawaramachi and Nishi-Kiyamachi, on the north side of Rokaku Dori, on the third floor of the Rokaku Terrace Building.


Rokkaku Terrace Building 3F
Kawaramachi-Rokkaku Higashi-iru

〒604-8032 京都府京都市中京区河原町通六角東入ル 六角テラスビル3F

Tadg’s is back!

Tadg and Mika McLoughlin are opening a new establishment “Tadg’s Gastro Pub” on the site of the former Merry Island restaurant this Friday. Here’s the good word from the man himself via his blog:

Dear Friends,

We have moved and are just a three-minute walk north of or original site at the Empire building. Go up Kiyamachi, cross Oike, it’s right on the right (east) side. It is the same location as the former Merry Island restaurant. We officially open from 5pm this Friday 11th April. We have changed the name to “Tadg’s Gastro Pub”. We are starting off with 5 taps featuring the best selection of Japanese craft beers, We will be stocking 10L kegs, the smaller kegs will ensure we will always have a quick turn over, therefore a greater selection of the best craft beers in Japan in stock. We will be adding on more taps and will also have a great bottled beer selection to complement our taps.

Our food menu, will have some of our favourites as well as some new additions.

It will take a little while to streamline, our goal will be seasonal, healthy, delicious.

…We are now open for lunch running the current Merry Island menu after Golden we will be introducing a completely new menu. More information anon.

As with all new businesses it will take us a little time to familiarise ourselves with our new surroundings. We will endeavour to make it as smooth as possible, so we thank you in advance for your patience if there are any hiccups.

We look forward to seeing you.

Tadg & Mika

New Address: 1F 498 Kamikoriki-cho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-0923 Kyoto, Japan

Tel: 075-213-0214075-213-0214

And here is a MAP.

For menu details and other information please refer to Tadg’s blog.

Philippe’s Bar

February 2015 UPDATE: Philippe’s Bar #3 is now open! Check this link for details: BAR FSN #3

November 2014 Update: Philippe’s Bar #2 has now closed, but will be reopening in a new location as Philippe’s Bar #3 very soon. Check this site for updates!

Frontieres Sans Nations aka Bar F.S.N. aka Philippe’s Bar


Bar F.S.N., more commonly known as “Philippe’s Bar”, was originally opened by my good friend Philippe Goulier, a few short years ago at a small location north of Shijo. It was a cosy little place and rapidly become popular with both Japanese and foreign patrons… But Philippe regularly had to turn people away because he simply didn’t have the space. Some months ago he upped sticks to a new location just south of Shijo. It still features Philippe’s inimitable charm, his own artwork, interior woodwork and design, but it’s a lot more spacious.

Here you can see the bar at opening time.

And here it is when it is busy.
IMG_3995 (Medium)

Philippe loves music: “Mostly underground, or independant, not that famous; reggae, ska, punk, sometimes jazz, sometimes hip-hop but mainly rock and French music… It depends on the customers and the time. At 6 o’clock, if I have a 60 years old customer, I will not play Metallica! If it’s quiet, then something slow. If people look like they are ready to dance, then something groovy.”

At the bar, draft beer is 600 yen, wine by the glass starts at 600 yen, and bottles of wine are from 2500 yen. But Philippe is also a great cook and will prepare something for you, if you’re hungry, from the ingredients to hand. There’s no menu, so just tell him how much you want to pay, (a minimum of 500 yen) and he will prepare something accordingly. Philippe hails from Burgundy in France, so I suppose there is a French influence to his cuisine, but it’s mostly original: salads, curries, pates, soups, omlettes etc. And everything is largely vegan or vegetarian, except for the cheese.

Philippe just happens to be my oldest friend in Kyoto.

But I’m sure many would agree he’s an all-round top chap. I’m very happy to recommend Philippe’s Bar F.S.N. Why not pop in one day? He’ll be sure to give you a very friendly welcome.

IMG_3862Philippe’s bar is 30m south of Shijo on the west side of Nishi-Kiyamachi next to Francois Café. Nishi-Kiyamachi is the narrow road that runs parallel to and in-between Kiyamachi proper and Kawaramachi. Here is a map.

Open: 19:00 – 25:00 (-ish)
Closed on Mondays.

Craft Beer in Kyoto

A pinty at Tadg's

A pint at Tadg’s. Craft beer has become a serious business in Kyoto.

Craft beer is trending in Kyoto with craft beer festivals twice a year, many bars stocking varieties and some bars dedicating their business completely to promoting craft beer culture. There are two craft beer breweries in Kyoto, and another starting next year. Here I talk to Tadg McLoughlin who runs the eponymous Tadg’s: a craft beer specialty bar in Kyoto, about being on the cusp of this trend. Below the video I have posted a list of bars serving craft beer in Kyoto, with links for maps and details. Continue reading

Three Friends @ Craft Beer Bar Bungalow

Messrs. Lambe, Yellin & Taylor enjoying craft ales and good conversation at Bungalow

Messrs. Lambe, Yellin & Taylor enjoying craft ales and good conversation at Bungalow.

Just a quick post to put you in the mood for this Saturday’s Craft Beer Festa. Last Thursday I went to the craft beer bar Bungalow with friends Ted Taylor and Robert Yellin. It is a delightful place and I enjoyed many fine ales and bar snacks. Definitely this is a premier location for craft beer enthusiasts in Kyoto. Here are a few pictures + notes that I managed to take before I became too absorbed in the conversation (or absorbed by the beer)…

Coedo Kyara (Medium)I started with a Coedo Kyara. This  is a Marzen beer, which can mean many things to many people, but this one was light bodied with a slightly malty but clean taste. A perfect starter beer.  I should add that they have ten beers on tap here, so I was drinking small glasses so as to fully sample the variety on offer.

Ted considers an Angry Boy (Medium)Here’s Ted now gazing upon a Baird Angry Boy. A British style Brown Ale, you can’t go wrong with this. Medium bodied with a mild hoppy, nutty flavour. You could easily spend the evening just on this one, but life’s too short and many more beers await!

On the advice of Mr. Yellin, a delicious Kinshachi Imperial Stout


On the sage advice of Mr. Yellin I next tried a Kinshachi Imperial Stout. Not too heavy for a stout, this has a rich cocoa taste with hints of berries. It would be a good beer to finish on – though I have to admit we didn’t. And now that I remember it, there is also a tiramisu made with stout on the dessert menu that I neglected to try. Must remember next time!

IMG_3632Bungalow is on the south side of Shijo just a little east of Horikawa. Here is a map. Everything else you need to know is written right here (just click for the website):


The Vanishing Cafe

For two days only, friends Nana, Riki and Ikko are taking over Sons music bar at lunchtime to host the Vanishing Cafe!

-Khao Man Gai (Thai chicken & rice)
-Al Pastor Tacos
-Coffee by Ikko

Come along and enjoy some great music with some tasty lunchtime treats!

Date and time: August 15th & 16th 11:00 am ~ 17:00 (after which the cafe will magically morph back into a bar)
Location: Sons is situated on the east side of Gokomachi on the ground floor of the Gokomachi Building (御幸町ビル) just south of Marutamachi. You have to walk into the building past  “Dolch” Italian restaurant on your left and the bar is situated at the end of the hallway ahead of you. There’s a Google map here, or you can use the map for the Italian restaurant Dolch.
Address: 〒604-0981
京都市中京区御幸町通丸太町下ル毘沙門町553 御幸町ビル1F
Tel: 075-223-5881.

Choro Canário @ Sons

A few weeks ago, the Hailstone Haiku Circle had a New Year’s party, and talking there to Lawrence Barrow, I asked him what kind of music he liked. As I recall his answer was something along the lines of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead etc… “I know just the place for you,” I said and invited him along to nearby music bar Sons. Sons opened last November, but the owner, Moritani-san (or “Taisho” to his friends) previously ran a music bar called Joao down by Oike/Karasuma. Taisho ran that bar for maybe 16 or 17 years before it closed last September, so he has a lot of regular patrons who now all gather at Bar Sons to listen to his fabulously eclectic record collection. Though the location has changed, the atmosphere is pretty much the same, and I am always guaranteed to meet my friends there if I go. That’s why though it has only been open a short time, it has quickly become my favorite bar in Kyoto.

As it turned out, Lawrence and I were in for a treat that night, as there were two musicians present, Ryoichi and Shinya of Choro Canário, who happened to have their instruments with them and they gave us an impromptu performance. Choro is a type of Brazilian music, light, graceful, intricate and sweet to the ears that I have never heard before. Taisho told me that it predates both Samba and Bossa nova. Listening to the sound of the bandolim (a Brazilian mandolin) and the seven stringed guitar in the soft lighting of Sons bar, surrounded by friends, I was transported. It was a truly magical and unexpected moment. Naturally, when I heard they were playing a live gig proper at Sons last week I was keen to see them again – and this time I brought my camera! Here follow three videos from last Thursday’s performance. More photographs and information are at the end of the post.

For the curious, the head that suddenly appears in this next video belongs to A-chan of Cafe Barbatica.

Continue reading


Jajouka is a Moroccan/French style restaurant and bar on Yanaginobanba that I pop into from time to time. It’s a little bit pricey but the food is good and the owner K-san keeps the place stocked with a very nice range of international beers. K-san was previously co-owner and cook at the diner MoSO in Gion, but after that closed, he traveled some more in Morocco honing up his culinary skills. Finally last August he went independent, opened Jajouka and as far as I can tell he has been doing very nicely since.

tajine des sardines aux légumes

If you come here to eat, you must try a Moroccan style tajine. This dish is named after the heavy clay cone-capped tajine pots in which they are stewed. A typical tajine dish consists of slowly simmered stews of tender meat (or fish) with aromatic vegetables. Above you can see the sardine tajine and below is the lamb:

tajine d’agneau aux legumes

You can also get a chicken or beef tajine and they all come in three sizes:

S – (for 1 person but actually quite large) – 1,700 yen
M – (for 2 people) – 3,400 yen
L – (for 3, people) – 5,100 yen

Here are some more items on the menu; in order we have appetizers, a Basque style maguro steak, a couscous salad, a Moroccan style omelette and the Belgian beer Chapeau Exotic.

There are ten more Belgian beers on offer plus beers from Spain, France, Portugal, Malta, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and of course the Moroccan beer Casablanca. Most of them go for 800 yen a bottle, but the Belgian beers will cost you more. Check out the Jajouka website for more details of the food and drinks menus.

K-san shares a shisha

Jajouka is small, most of the seats are at the counter and it fills up fast, so you may want to call ahead and book your seats in advance. It’s a bright spot though, K-san can speak a smattering of English and French and is clearly internationally minded so if your Japanese is a bit rough he can help you. Most importantly this restaurant has a strict no tobacco smoking policy which K-san himself adheres to by smoking a cigarette outside during quiet periods. The only exception to this rule are the fragrant Shisha water pipes which you can smoke for 1,200 yen. Here are some more shots of the interior.

Jajouka is on the west side of Yanaginobanba, north of Gojo and south of Matsubara. Here is a map.

UPDATE July 2013: Jajouka’s opening hours have recently changed! As Jajouka is now opening at lunchtime, evening opening hours have also changed accordingly. Jajouka is also now open almost every day, but will close irregularly, so please call ahead, or check the information page on K-san’s site for updates. Here are the new opening hours:

Lunch: 12:00 ~ 14:00 (Last Orders)
Dinner: 18:00 ~ 22:00 (Last Orders)
Tel: 075-341-0530

Hitachino Nest Beer Festival

A word from our sponsor!

These beers are on tap at Tadg’s Bar for the first time in Kyoto. Hitachino Nest Brewery has won numerous awards at Beer festivals around the world. This Sunday from 2:00 pm we offer you the unique experience of tasting all these extraordinary beers, only at Tadg’s Bar. Chill out with great Beer, great Food and live Music!

Also (!) coming soon to Tadg’s: Green Tea IPA – a wonderful collaboration between Baird Beer (Japan) Stone Brewery (US) and Ishii Beer (Guam). A limited edition of of one keg only – all profits will go towards Tohoku disaster relief via All Hands Volunteers. Details will follow later!

Thanks Tadg! To find Tadg’s walk straight up Kiyamachi from Sanjo, before you get to Oike you should see the Empire building on your right. Tadg’s is on the 8th floor. Here is a map.