The City Bakery, Hiroo
Maury Rubin, two-time Emmy Award-winning producer and director, took a six-day pastry course in 1986. This led to an obsession with pastry and, consequently, a baking apprenticeship in Paris. He returned to New York and spent three years developing an updated model of the classic American neighborhood bakery. Rubin then went on to open The City Bakery in 1990 in New York City's Union Square—part bakery, cafe, coffee shop and cafeteria.
The bakery is now recognized as one of the most popular food destinations in New York City and attracts customers from all over the world. The maker of New York’s favorite hot chocolate as well as the one and only Pretzel Croissant—a pastry that’s sweet and salty and holds hypnotic powers over legions of pastry lovers—opened its first Tokyo branch in November 2013.
The franchise now has branches in Osaka, as well as Tokyo’s Shinagawa and Hiroo districts. While the Shinagawa location is much bigger and includes a Maury Rubin restaurant and bar serving light lunches and New York-style meat and vegetables at dinner time, it is the Hiroo branch to which I find myself returning again and again.
Conveniently located on a quiet section of Meiji Dori, the bakery makes fresh croissants, muffins, cookies, pretzels, sandwiches, breads, baguettes and much more on site each morning. This brings a delectable smell to the cafe, and everything can be purchased to be eaten inside or taken away. The easily accessible location means it’s a great place to sit and watch the people and traffic go by, whether early in the morning on your way to work or later on in the day. The open kitchen and bakery allows customers to watch the chefs at work while baking the delectable goodies, while cafe staff prepare the drinks. Music fans will appreciate the soothing sounds of modern and classic jazz quietly playing in the background together with soft lighting in a relatively small space, giving the cafe a great cozy vibe and making it a relaxing place to meet a friend for a chat, read a book, or even do some work.
The interior has a timeless feel about it: stainless steel kitchen features with solid wooden tables and chairs, and counter seating. With only space for about 20 customers inside, there is also a small seating area outside along the pavement where you can sit and enjoy your coffee, although this may be best for Tokyo’s more temperate months when the trusty air-conditioner isn’t needed!
As well as the vast selection of baked goods and hot and cold teas and coffees, The City Bakery also has an interesting choice of other drinks, including a tiramisu latte, fresh fruit juices, and non-alcoholic sangria. On my last visit I ordered a small pear and ginger muffin (¥250) and a small iced cafe latte (¥460). This was perfect for a light brunch; the muffin was light and not too sweet, with subtle flavors of ginger and pear coming through. The texture was as a good muffin should be, bouncy and crumbly, while the big chunk of caramelized ginger on top gave it the extra zing it needed.
While appearances are important, the proof of the pudding is in the taste. For me, the coffee here delivers on both fronts. Presented in a snazzy glass jar, the coffee is strong and aromatic, and delivers taste as well as that much-needed caffeine hit. Made using a professional-looking coffee machine, this is some of Tokyo’s better coffee, although definitely not the best the city has to offer. I must admit, as a cafe-latte fiend, I haven’t yet tried any of the other coffees served at The City Bakery, but I may have to cave in to that tiramisu latte on my next visit.
Looking for a bit of retail therapy, too? The City Bakery sells a selection of freshly made juices and jams, as well as branded t-shirts and cotton tote bags if you want to take home a piece of the revered bakery or attract some admiring glances from those in the know.
Address: 5-4-21 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 8 a.m.–8.p.m