It’s like slipping into a whole other world.

On my recent trip to Kyoto to check out the wildly popular Kichi Kichi omurice restaurant, I had a couple of hours to kill. Luckily, just up the street was a perfect place to do that, called Soirée.

It’s discreetly nestled among the many big-name shops in the area, but this cafe that dates back to 1948 has a commanding presence.

There are a lot of intricate features to the building, such as an engraved poem by renowned writer Isamu Yoshii which roughly translates to: “Full of the aroma of coffee since the evening, I seem to have become a dreamer.” Yoshii was once a regular at this establishment and often walked through this engraved door that has since been modified to automatically slide open.

There was a line outside the door, but since this is a cafe that only serves drinks and small foods, the customer turnover is rather fast. I was third in line and only had to wait about ten minutes.

The inside of the cafe was even more elegant looking and almost entirely lit in shades of blue. This design detail has been around since the cafe opened at the advice of a friend of the founder who was a specialist in cloth dying. He had said that blue light makes women look beautiful and men look younger.

I’m not sure about that, but it gave a feeling of perpetual twilight and felt especially soothing during this scorching hot afternoon. Also, if you get a seat on the second floor, the contrast between the dim blue of the room and vibrant green of the trees outside is really beautiful.

The interior is also heavily decorated with an array of paintings, glassware, and carvings.

The other notable feature of Soirée is that they don’t play any music inside. I actually didn’t even notice it at the time, but I think it did make everything feel more relaxed.

The founder knew many prominent artists and works by Seiji Togo can be found.

▼ This one is displayed in the front window.

The logo for the cafe even seems to be based off of a sketch by Togo.

I ordered their signature drink, the Jelly Punch for 750 yen (US$5.20). There are also varieties with yogurt mixed in or ice cream on top, but the basic version seemed like it would look best under the blue lighting. I also got a matcha mont blanc on the side for 450 yen ($3.10).

The Jelly Punch is a rainbow of jelly cubes floating in a glass of lemon-lime soda.

This soda, however, is locally produced using a method that’s been unchanged for over 100 years. Soirée recommends drinking it quickly because the carbonation doesn’t last as long as other sodas, but the taste was amazingly fresh and on a whole other level from a store-bought bottle.

The mont blanc was also extremely fresh and soft. The sweetness was balanced perfectly with the mild bitterness of the green tea flavor.

But I think I was most impressed with the service at Soirée. Despite, having an extremely classy atmosphere, the staff were very kind and welcoming, even to a schlub with a neck beard like myself who came alone. I could feel really at ease there among all the fancy tea cups and generations of high art.

▼ This is the closest I’ve ever come to a tea party.

So if you happen to be hanging around the bustling area around Sanjo Station in Kyoto, I can’t imagine a better place to stop by for a quick break than Soirée.

Cafe information
Cafe Soiree / 喫茶 ソワレ
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Nishikiyamachi Dori Sanjo Sagaru,  Shincho 95
京都府京都市下京区 西木屋町通四条上る真町95
Hours: 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. (7:30 p.m. on Weekends)
Closed Mondays

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!