Japan · Wondering

Swallowtail-Butler Café-Tokyo

Outside of the Café

Pretty much the only kind of picture you are allowed to take

I thought I’ll do a post about expectations and disappointments but I was invited  to go to a Butler’s café  and since the experience feels still fresh in my mind, I decided to write about that first.

Recently, a uni friend learning french asked me if we could meet to speak together so she could practice. After trying to find a time that would work for both of us, we settled for today and she invited me to join her at the Swallowtail Café.

To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve known about this particular place for a while now. With some friends here, we’ve been to maid café (pretty disappointing maybe because we were a group of foreign girls coming in the late afternoon?) and to the Kuroshitsuji themed event at Namja Town (bunch of Kuroshitsuji themed food+one special attraction for which people lined up for one hour minimum when we went there so we did not do it+some videos and promo for the upcoming OVA).

Each food item came with a special postcard (which made one of our friend choose the food depending on which card she’ll get :3)

So before today we actually looked into the Swallowtail’s webpage and all its weird regulations (reservation required, no pictures of the butlers themselves etc…) and did not do much about it. Therefore, when my friend asked me to go with her, I was really happy and accepted with great enthusiasm.

On the day, I was a bit nervous. I knew basically what I should be expecting and was looking forward to it but the whole idea of being treated as a princess was a bit foreign to me.

The café itself is located in Ikebukuro and you need to go down a staircase in order to enter it. It’s rather discrete and I don’t think I would have really notice it if I was just walking around by myself.

When doing the reservation, you have to select a time slot. It seems that since this place is rather popular, it’s a bit tough to get a spot. Plus, you can’t stay indefinitely, you have 80 minutes maximum.

Our time slot was 13h05-14h25

Looking at the classy girls coming out of the Café, lightly giggling and a little red with excitement, I had this “I’m-not-really-fitting-in-but-I-don’t-really-care” feeling. At the bottom of the stair, one of the Butler was standing with a big registry and asked my friend very politly if she made a reservation and if we would like to be served in English. At this point, I thought it would be funnier to have the whole experience in the language it was meant to be from the beginning and I declined the English service. Being unable to understand more than 60% of the conversations after that actually reinforced the eerie feeling of weirdness this whole experience created.

After waiting for a while, the registry guy  called us in and in the anteroom, we were greeted by two other butlers who “welcomed us home!”, introduced themselves (of course, I did not get any of their names), took our bags and coats. One of the two was the sort of “butler-in-chief” and the other one was the one who would served us during our time at the café.

The café itself, is very bright despite the lack of windows and consist of a big rooms with different tables and alcoves. We were sited in one of the later and it was very cosy and pretty.
Our butler put a sort of towel on her knees, covered our bags with a towels (“because we may splash them with tea and make them dirty” ==> made me actually laugh because my bag is probably more dirty than their floor) and gave us menus. He then explained us that we could not take any pictures and that we will spend 80 minutes in the café. Then, he went through most of the menu with us, explaining us what each set included(he just stoped once to applause with everyone else because it was someone’s birthday-in total we happened to applause three times during our time there, is it a popular location for birthday parties?)

After this, he left us a little bell for us to call him when we would be ready to order. After bowing, he went away, leaving us time to giggle.

Since I’m lacking pictures of the actual place I’ll keep putting picture of the Namja Town sweets.
This particular ice-cream had a ten meters long name…

 

At this point, another butler came and gave us a key that was supposedly our closet’s key. He added that “the key would open any room in the mansion but that we should not go around looking into the master’s rooms because the dogs may bite us”. I actually needed my friend to translate that for me but it took much more self-control not to roll on the floor laughing.

We then decided to ring the bell to ask someone what menu included the sort of bird-cage-looking-plate-tray-holder-thingie (Three tired tray?)  Another butler came over, explained us and when he could not give us the exact name of the device, he called over our dedicated butler who started to explain more. After that, we settled on the two afternoon sets (Victoria for my friend and Anna Maria for me). And for each of our sets, we ha to choose each particular items we wanted to eat: from the different jams and other cream to put on our scones to our teas.
I settled on 本日のスコーン (which I actually read as “日本のスコーン”)some sort of duck Quiche, and a Cinnamon tea (because I asked our trusted butler what kind of recommendation he could give me and that was one of the only think I understood…-_-‘).

The tea arrived first and we were lectured about the particular cup that were chosen for us. Then he poured the tea… and made it dribble on the table…Not very professional ? But if he noticed he did not show any hesitation. He then covered our respective teapots with teapots warmers and told us (very seriously) that poring the tea was his job and that we should call him (or any other idle butler for that matter) to pour it for us once our cups would be empty.

The Ana-Maria set

Food arrived shortly after. Here again, he insisted in giving us our plates (in the order we chose) and reminded us that giving the plates to us was his job and that we should called him in order to get the next one…
The Quiche was quite good (and small :3) and when our Butler came back, he asked us if it was to our liking and when we said yes he said he was happy because “maybe French quiche and this one could not be compared”. He also asked us at some point what we thought about the place (I said it was interesting and he replied “thank you very much”) .

It took us a bit of courage to actually ring the bell and ask for our next plate but we did it and we both got the scone. And it was really good! We had to choose two toppings and I picked fresh cream and darjeeling jam that was really good.

Then, my friend wanted to go to the washroom, a simple thing that turned out to be rather complicated. First, you don’t say “going to the toilet” because it sounds bad. Instead, she went “picking flowers” (!). A butler had to lead her there and she had also to wait for him to bring her back at our table (even though it was just across the exit of the washroom) so we had this weird moment where she was looking at me, I was looking at her but she could not move.

While she was away “picking flowers” our Butler came over and made the effort to speak a bit with me (he asked me the usual “how long have you been there”, and “your Japanese is good, how long have you been studying” ) which I appreciated. He also told me he was studying English. I wanted to ask him why he was doing this job but it seemed rather stupid to ask at the time so i refrained.

When my friend came back, she got our special dessert plate (which came with a “Papagano cake” from the Magic flute. Our butler asked us if we knew about it and since I assumed it was a special type of cake and not a reference to Mozart’s Opera, I said no but then he went on in explaining that he was named after the bird catcher). The butler also spoke about the chandelier in our alcove (something about making a mistake between “swarovski” and “swallowtail” which I did not get).

It was then time to pay and we were given a temporary membership card. If we return it, filled up next time we’ll come, we’ll get a real card and some benefits if we come often.

Then we got to finish our tea and before I had time asking to go visit the garden, we were told it was time to go. Which was really disappointing because on the website, you could normally ask for them to give you a reason for your departure ( my friend choose ” It’s time for your ridding lesson” but there is also “Time to go to the ball” and other music lessons to choose from) but they did not use it. On our way out, we were given farewell greetings by all the other butlers who happened to cross our path.

Our coats were given back to us and the “butler-in-chief” commented on my muk-muk bag-charm and asked me if I could explain where it came from. They even bowed when I was done with my little word about the olympics and told us that “since it was so cold outside, we should hurry up and come back quickly!”

And then we were out, a little too red, a little too happy, not really too sure what really happened but definitely glad it went that way.

After going there, my friends asked me some questions and I thought it would be interesting to address them here too.

 

1)Was it expensive?

Yes it was!  I took the 2800¥ set and it is pretty pricey for what we get. The food is good and well plated but I’d say you pay more for the service then for the food.

2)Were the Butlers cute/handsome/hot etc…?

Well, I guess it depends on your own taste :3 I’d say that you can get lucky and be matched to someone really good-looking and I guess if you come often, you can probably ask one specific person to serve you.

3) Is it worth it ?

Since time passed a bit since then, I had time to reflect on this experience a bit. I guess it’s like seeing Avatar in a cinema: you are super enthusiastic at the end because of the technology and all the  feelings you went through the movie but after a while, when you think about it, you find the scenario pretty basic. The same could apply there. On the spot you feel really good (and a bit embarrassed) but after a while you realize it’s pretty short and expensive. I think it was a very nice experience and i’m really glad (and lucky) to have been invited. But will I go there every month? I don’t think so…

Websites:

+The Swallowtail Café webpage

+Article on the Tokyo Time(2006)

+Article in Fusion View (2006)

+Article in the Time

Songs:

Chatmonchy-Koko Dake no Hanashi

IndicaWuthering Heights (A Karaoke Favorite…)

 

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6 thoughts on “Swallowtail-Butler Café-Tokyo

    1. (Sorry to reply late to this comment X_X)

      You should go to this place in Hong Kong! It looks very cozy and it seems that give much more food! So you did not try going to a Maid Cafe neither? :p

  1. Interesting post! When you go to an expensive restaurant, cafe, etc… it’s almost sure that you will pay more for the service than for the food, and that applies all the countries.

    I’d feel embarrassed with all that too; so, it’s funny how different we are from asian people. I guess being there by the first time it’s AN EXPERIENCE itself lol xD.

    I hope one day i can go there and experience it by miself :). Good post again, take care.

    1. Thanks laura! 🙂
      I think everyone would feel a bit embarrassed in this situation :p Because we are not used to be treated that way (such a shame! 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed your write up of Swallowtail. Will have to visit next time I’m in Tokyo. I had to laugh when you were talking about “picking flowers”and how your bag was probably dirtier than the floor 😛 Cheers!

    Karen Olivia

    1. Thanks for the kind comment 🙂
      I hope you’ll get the opportunity to go there and feel like a princess 😀

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