A Koenji cafe straight from a story
If you walked into a room in which the walls were painted with a forest scene of bunnies, pandas, girls licking lollypops and koalas holding onto trees you would immediately think that a pregnant lady has gone crazy in preparation for her child. That is, unless you're in Tokyo. Koenji is a much-loved suburb of Japantourist and a favourite of many looking for a spot of culture and vintage shopping. Tucked away in Koenji's backstreets is Hattifnatt, a cafe which combines illustration all the way from the walls to the top of your matcha latte (which, side note: is creamy and delicious).
The front door of Hattifnatt is like something out of Alice in Wonderland as you almost enter an alternate world after bending down and through its quaint little opening. After being greeted by the open kitchen a flight of steep, wooden stairs awaits you. There are seats surrounded by illustrations, art and flowers on this first floor. However, if you're in a group or couple and wanting to settle down for awhile, go up one of two ladders which take you to your own secluded landing. All the fun of hiding in a tree-house as a kid comes rushing back to you.
All of Hattifnatt has this unique, rustic feel. The stools and spoons are unpolished wood, the menu wrapped in a hand-stitched cover and meals served in the large, home-style ramekins they are baked in.
Serving plates often have a little crochet circle slipped underneath, a little reminder of the creature comforts of winter. Equally as warm and comforting is the food, best described as Japanese-Italian fusion. I only say this because, although delicious, the meals are obviously not traditionally Italian but based on Italian flavours and style. The tomato and mozzarella side dish is pretty close to a traditional Genovese salad with a rich, tasty pesto sauce.
Hattiffnatt's lunch menu comprises mostly of baked rice dishes and curry and in the evening they move onto Pizzas, some with simple, traditional toppings like Margherita, anchovy and black olives, Genovese and fresh vegetables and other more adventurous options such as Cheese curry pizza and Bacon with potato.
While the matcha tea latte and praline hot chocolate are my top picks, Hattifnatt also make some traditional cocktails for those celebrating or feeling like proving their adulthood in this kawaii setting. Some available are an Italian Ice Tea (Ameretto, grenadine and cold oolong tea), Cuba Libre (white rum and cola), gin and tonic and good old Bloody Mary. Hattifnatt also have another store in Kichijoji, an equally adorable suburb further down the Chūō local line. To find their Koenji location leave the North exit of Koenji station, cross the road and keep walking North/North-East until you find a 24-hour Jeans Mate store and large Pachinko. Turn right and continue down until you reach a T intersection, Hattifnatt should be almost immediately after you turn right. If you're heading to Hattifnatt you undoubtedly like cute things. Next door is an adorable little shop front selling handmade crafts (jewellery, wallets, toys, art etc.) which is also worth checking out.