Here’s a nice quiet place for coffee and cake. Mewby and I found this cafe one Saturday and spent a pleasant afternoon there enjoying the tasty fare and the cosy mood and burying ourselves in our books. Tucked away down an old residential machiya alleyway it’s not a place you’d find by chance. It’s word of mouth that gets you there, and Quarirengue has clearly earned its reputation as a place of quiet retreat and fine confections.
Let’s take a look at those cakes shall we? This chocolate cake (自慢のクラシック・ショコラ – Classic Chocolate Pride) will set you back 750 yen. And yes folks, those are real blackberries you see on that plate.
But Mewby went for the poetic 淡雪バニラ風味の珈琲 or Soft Snow Vanilla Flavoured Coffee. I believe it has marshmallow in it.
The name of the shop 「火裏蓮華」 (actually pronounced karirenge) is an old Chinese expression meaning “A flower that blooms strong and beautiful even amid the fires of adversity“. It is a graceful name for this charming spot.
Quarirengue is located down a little lane that leads off of Yanaginobanba, midway between Aneyakoji and Oike streets. From Sanjo head north on Yanaginobanba. Cross Aneyakoji and keep your eyes peeled on the east (right) side of Yanaginobanba. Beside the 梅乃井 (ume no i) eel shop you will see the opening to an alleyway. Go down there to the cafe and treat yourself to something special. A limited lunch menu (either beef pilaf or Japanese style curry) is also available but it’s the coffee and cake that you really ought to try. Check out their Instagram account for more pictures from the menu and of the interior. Here is a map showing Quarirengue’s location.
Opening hours are from around 12.00 till 18.00 with last orders at 17.00.
Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Update 2023: Quarirengue’s menu has undergone some changes since we first visited in 2010. In particular, the drinks listed above may no longer be available. However, the cakes are still on the menu – and are highly recommended!
Here are some more renovated machiya locations you might want to try:
Cafe Bibliotic Hello, Omuraya (izakaya style restaurant), Salut Ya (cafe/bar/diner) and Hale (vegan restaurant). Kyoto Cycling Tour Project also does a machiya tour. If you would like to learn more about Kyoto’s traditional machiya buildings you might consider investing in a copy of Machiya Revival in Kyoto (京町家の再生) – a good basic (bilingual) guide to their history, destruction and revival.
Text and images by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.