Last Monday was Mewby’s birthday and every year, on her birthday, I take her out to a restaurant that must fit two criteria: it must be somewhere new (for us) and it must be super posh! This year it was Épice, a French restaurant in an old wooden machiya townhouse not far from the Imperial Palace Park.
It’s a pleasant spot, and the food could best be described as sumptuous. Épice prides itself on using local produce and the freshest vegetables from Ohara and Shiga. There is no a la carte however, so you have to choose a course menu and if you choose the more expensive dinner options you will need to book it in advance. Here are some pictures from our multi-course meal:
We were very happy with the food here. The drinks menu however, was very disappointing: a limited range of insipid wines, and very few options for cocktails, spirits or liqueurs. Really in a French restaurant you would expect a wine list to match the quality of the food, but on this point Épice sadly falls down. I wasn’t even able to fall back on beer, as all they had was Asahi Super Dry, which I absolutely refuse to drink with food of such high quality. Just calling it La bière doesn’t make it taste any better now, does it? I actually found myself drinking water. Imagine that!
We did however get two deserts. A pre-desert desert:
And then the real desert which put a big smile on Mewby’s face.
You can find a booking form for the restaurant here but if you have special dietary requirements it would be best to call them and explain exactly (and very clearly) what you do and don’t want to eat. I explained in advance that though I eat fish and dairy, I don’t eat meat, and they altered their course menu especially to suit me. They were doing very well too, right up until the point when they placed some whale meat in front of me. That surprised me. It was very red. They did take it away though, when I pointed out that whale meat is in fact meat, and not just fish that happens to taste a little beefy.
Strengths: fine French cuisine in a pleasant machiya ambience and a great after dinner coffee selection.
Weak points: a rubbish drinks menu (if you like booze) and a surprising ignorance of certain culinary taxonomies.
More renovated machiya locations:
Cafe Bibliotic Hello (cafe and bakery), Omuraya (izakaya style restaurant), Salut Ya (cafe/bar/diner), Hale (vegan restaurant), Quarirengue (cafe & cake shop), Nest (dog friendly cafe), Ushinohone Anaza (izakaya style restaurant), and Goya (Okinawan/Asian style eatery). Kyoto Cycling Tour Project also does a machiya tour and you can read up about machiya history, culture and architecture here.