Located in the heart of Shibuya’s frenetic and rather youthful Udagawa-cho shopping district, The Aldgate couldn’t be further removed from it’s London namesake. And yet casting such locational idiosyncrasies aside, The Aldgate is actually a fantastic replica of a British pub. The atmospherics, the fizz and the vege-friendliness of the food all conspire to make this place well-worth a visit. With 21 kinds of draught beer and (apparently) over 6,000 albums on the boombox, it’s a dream come true for an otaku of the best that Britland has to offer. Add to the mix an impromptu stabbing, rampant swearing and/or the theft of a phone and one could almost imagine being back in Ingurando. Almost.
With a resplendent Union Jack fluttering from a makeshift flagpole outside, and an olde English map of my birthplace (Canterbury) inside, it didn’t take long for me to begin to feel a sense of belonging. Add to such geographical identifiers the tasty-yet-obscure range of ales and ciders on offer, the abundance of sarcastic signage, and the dark and fuggy atmosphere, and it soon became clear why 95% of the clientele had a genetically white face. A home away from home this place most certainly is.
If all this isn’t enough to pique your interest, then the food also deserves a mention for being uncharacteristically vege-friendly. There is an impressive (by Japanese standards) array of vegetarian options on the menu – salads, jacket potatoes, vegetable chilli, cous cous – not to mention an expansive “tapas” menu (by which they mean “fingerfood”). Opting to choose variety over depth, we stuck to the patas. I mean tapas.
To start, the falafels (¥500) were heavily cuminated and came slathered with a pungent mustard dressing. They were safe, predictable, and very, very moreish. Whilst the dim lighting probably helped to make them appear tastier than they really were, this was probably the best dish we tried.
The mushroom quiche (¥500) proved to be a bit of an exercise in deception. It looked passable – being sprinkled with freshly chopped basil and stuffed with both shimeiji and button mushrooms – but the base was, unfortunately, served cold. Sort of gives the game away! Even for an Igirisu-jin like I.
The chips (¥700) turned out to be another good choice. Large in size, well-roasted and very filling, they were brought to life by a generous dousing of Sarson’s malt vinegar. An iconic British brand that was acquired by Japanese condiment firm Mizkan in 2012, I couldn’t help but rejoice in the cross-border connection. A perfect fit for the setting.
Finally, the Welsh rare bit (¥500) also turned out to be quite disappointing. It was touted as being “made with beer, milk and mustard”, but all I could taste was dry baguette and processed cheese. The overall effect was one of scratchy blandness that, if nothing else, only served to reinforce popular stereotypes about British food (whatever they may be…).
Clearly The Aldgate is the sort of place you would go to for the nostalgia-value. It’s warm and cosy and very, very British. Whilst the selection of vegetarian dishes is rather impressive, the overall quality is not. If nothing else, it serves an important reminder not to confuse serious drinking with serious eating. I’m quite sure that i’ll be back.