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Tombo Cafe – A Japanese Oasis in South Kensington

BY Boon Koh
Published 28 February 2011

Sometimes, the most gratifying foodie experiences are those that you stumble upon. Backpackers and adventure travellers do this all the time – and we see it exemplified in mainstream movies such as Eat, Pray, Love.

I had one of those moments on Sunday, although I have to say that the surroundings of my find were not very exotic. It was down in South Kensington, on Thurloe Place (home to Kulu Kulu Sushi) where I stumbled across Tombo. a new Japanese deli and cafe.

Tombo, which means dragonfly in Japanese, had a mouthwatering cake display at the window that made my mind up for me, and when my friend turned up for our afternoon coffee & chat, I pushed her through the door into Tombo before she could suggest Le Pain Quotidien next door.

Tombo is a bit unique, in that they not only do teas, coffees, and cakes, but also serve a wide range of hot food. Its not a deli in the traditional Western sense of bread, meats, and cheese but rather quick Japanese eats such as bento boxes and noodles.

Being the adventurous foodie I am, I immediately went for the matcha latte (£3.90), which actually didn’t contain any coffee at all, but was green matcha powder mixed with hot frothed milk. Quite a unique combination – but it was extremely good, not too bitter from the matcha but not too thick or sweet either.

My friend went for a traditional Japanese green tea, sen-cha, which is green tea that has been deep steamed to make the tea taste sweet. To our surprise, the tea was served with a one-minute hour glass- and she was instructed to wait for the timer to finish before pouring her tea out. She was more adventurous with her dessert, and went for a really cool sounding cake, which I have now forgotten the name of! It was part of Tombo’s special cake range, which you can get in a package with one of their teas for only £4.50 during tea time (3pm to 5pm).

I went for one of my favourite tea time treats, a macaroon. Only this wasn’t any macaroon, it was a giant sized sesame macaroon (£3.20). I was in a bit of a fix at the counter as I couldn’t decide between the green tea macaroon and the sesame macaroon, but I thought that two tea-based items would be too much, so I went for matcha latte and sesame macaroon – which turned out to be the right choice! The macaroon was crispy on the outside, light on the inside, and the filling was slightly sticky and sweet, with a refreshing taste of burnt sesame seeds.

Overall, tea at Tombo isn’t cheap – our two drinks and two desserts ended up costing £11.90. But its a unique experience, the cafe is very cosy, and the desserts are great. The only pity is that the staff didn’t seem to be very well trained, as we had to stand there for a few uncomfortable moments before they realised we wanted to order. But I will definitely be going back again – and trying their hot food from their menu the next time!

Tombo Deli & Cafe
Address: 29 Thurloe Place, South Kensington, London SW7 2HQ
Enquiry Tel: 0207 589 0018
Nearest Tube Station: South Kensington (3 minutes walk)
Website: www.tombodeliandcafe.com