Super Strict Score [understand my S3]: 6
Petits Fours: 7.5
In 1 word : scrumptious scones
The luxurious boutique hotel Kobe Kitano Hotel is a famous institution in Japan, widely renowned as offering the best breakfast in the whole Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe Kansai region. Being part of the standard-setting Relais & Châteaux association [homepage], Kobe Kitano Hotel, unlike most Japanese architecture modeled in Western fashion, actually looks like something you might encounter in Central Europe.
This theme is carried on to an even higher level inside with special order furniture imported from Europe.
Head chef [& GM] Hiroshi Yamaguchi used to work under late former 20/20 Gault & Millau chef Bernard Loiseau. His most sophisticated creations can be enjoyed at Kobe Kitano Hotel’s fine dining restaurant aʃ, but there’s also a less formal but upscale café where anything from the famous breakfast over a sweets-centered lunch, cakes & sundaes to dinner &, of course, afternoon tea can be enjoyed.
- Cucumber, egg, salmon sandwiches
The thinly sliced cucumber on white bread sandwich is certainly of the traditional English kind. A good dose of pepper & the springy bread elevate it above average. The egg sandwich is a bit of a twist, as instead of the usual egg mayonnaise salad it contains a scrumptious savory omelette with or without tomato. The third sandwich, usually salmon, tomato on economical days is a considerate no-meat replacement for the indicated ham sandwich.
- 3 kinds of scone, housemade condiments
The scones are hands down the best so far in all of Japan, which due to their usually abysmal nature doesn’t say much about their actual quality, but those plump, buttery & flaky scones would make a Victorian era English butler proud. A huge plus on top is the fact that they always give you 3, whereas at all other places you only get 2, & more often than not not as big ones to boot. igrek likes to mix things up a bit, but stays on the conservative side of things, with variations such as tea or raisin occasionally featured.
The housemade jams & honeys are igrek’s hallmark products. Almost every pastry shop in Japan makes their own jams, but Hiroshi Yamaguchi at igrek’s are in a class of their own. Finely tuned flavors can include combinations such as apple-cinnamon-raisin, mango-orange-pepper, or grapefruit-lime, but even boring-sounding confitures like plain ol’ blueberry will astonish with their layered levels of lush taste. They are extremely popular gifts & can be purchased online: [in Japan only].
The only issue I have with the scone side of things is that igrek don’t do clotted cream, which is a big minus, literally reflected in the S3 – although it has got to be said you won’t be left wanting.
Hailed as being subject to seasonal change, almost every time wattwurmnashi has legged it to her favorite afternoon tea haunt in Kobe the pictured above baked cheese cake & chocolate cake were on the menu, the latter being just another chapter in the disappointing chocolate cake saga, the former being enjoyable enough without being anything near a standout. The very occasionally substituted mousse based cakes such as passion fruit-mango or chocolate-mint tend to be somewhat more enjoyable.
- Petits fours
The petits fours usually beat the crap out of the cakes, with items such as far-above-average tea cakes, far-above-average pound cakes, pâtes de fruits, fruit & veg chips, & others.
The tea is the one big igrek café afternoon tea liability & considering it’s called afternoon TEA, it’s a major one. There’s only 1 variety of tea – generic black tea – to choose from, & it’s invariably oversteeped. It comes in a pot containing approx. 2 1/2 small cups’ worth, but I would advise against bringing company, because in that case it’s one such underwhelming pot for the 2 of you.
The fact that the tea is sub-par & not free-flowing will deter hardcore afternoon tea lovers as well as cheapskates, although this afternoon tea does head towards the cheaper range. For foodies as in actual foodies, not drinkies, afternoon tea at Kobe Kitano Hotel’s igrek café brings it to the table.