はちはち Infinity Cafe is a hidden-treasure of a 町家machiya café tucked away in a wooded area off a maze of 路地roji in 西陣Nishijin. It’s in one of my Kyoto café guides, so I’ve always been interested in visiting sometime. However, it seemed to be somewhat hard to find, so I just kept putting it off (also, my list of cafes to visit has always been quite long).
In mid-June last year, I asked Mason to go with me to an exhibition at 遊空間Yu-Kukan u (an art gallery), My Charm Les Fèves 7e, where Mica-san and 薔薇Bara hime-san‘s charming handmade accessories would be displayed (for purchase as well). I had been to Yu-Kukan u once, almost a month before, with Iori-san but he had led me there quite quickly (we had been late) and from a different starting point, so I wasn’t too confident about getting us there without trouble. We asked an old man outside his home along the way and it turned out that the path leading to the gallery was right in front of our eyes.
We had arrived half an hour before we would be admitted, so we decided to explore the area…that’s when we stumbled upon Hachi Hachi next door.
the exterior of the renovated 100-year-old machiya café…it took two years to renovate before they opened their doors in 2003.
the foyer where we took off our shoes before going up…no one came out to greet us, so we went right in, just like home.
the view of the dining area and the garden outside from the entrance
looking back at the entrance with the kitchen area beyond and the counter of German-style 自家製天然酵母homemade natural-yeast bread to the side
There is only one communal low table where we sat on cushions; we took seats across from each other near the entrance. The owner (and the only staff) came out to greet us quietly with cups of water; a middle-aged man, he seemed of a calm nature. While we checked out the bread, he informed us with a smile that if we wanted to buy bread, we should choose quickly because it tends to disappear before the afternoon; yeah, sometimes people come only to buy bread. Sounds like the best bet in leaving with bread when one visits would be to reserve some, which is exactly what regulars may do; however, the orders take anywhere from two days to a week depending on what kind one reserves.
The owner wanting to share his fondness for good German bread with the locals as well as anyone who visited was the start of this café. The popular breads are made using two kinds of natural yeast (some of the ingredients found in the surrounding woods) and available the five days a week that the café is open. Unfortunately, the café closes early when the bread sells out, so one must take that into consideration when visiting on a whim.
The only meal is the オープンサンド＆スープランチopen-sandwich & soup lunch, ￥1080. The original open sandwiches are made with four kinds of homemade bread and topped with various combinations of vegetables, cheese, homemade jam and other natural or organic ingredients; although lamb appears to be used as well, it wasn’t an option for us that day (good for vegetarians and vegans). The soup was made of a simple broth and full of vegetables.
We must have gone overboard with picture-taking because the owner politely advised us to eat before the soup got cold…we apologized and dug right in.
Each topping went well with its bread; sometimes the bread tasted sweet, other times savory. The soup was delicious and the perfect palate cleanser. We’re both slow eaters, so we definitely took the time to chew and relish in each sandwich.
We were the only customers until near the end of our meal and we basked in having the place to ourselves. Surrounded by nature in a homey environment, we definitely got a pleasant café experience. A couple came in just as we were finishing up our meal and we ended up leaving not too long after that since another party arrived (we got a premonition of all 10 seats filling up).
I would have ordered coffee and sweets but there were other Nishijin cafes on the agenda after the exhibition. Next time…
Update: I heard the news from Mica-san before I went to their homepage to confirm it: as of December 29th last year, they closed the doors after 12 years of business. Currently, the owner is preparing to reopen in a new location near 下賀茂神社Shimogamo Shrine, perhaps as early as March.