Part 6: An English Tea House in Takarazuka
The Takarazuka matinee of For Whom the Bell Tolls that I went to see happened to be an early matinee—while most start at 1 or 3 pm, the day I went, the show started at 11 am, which is just early enough to make getting lunch awkward. It turns out, of course, that at the Grand Theater, there are restaurants inside and plenty of bento sellers and snack stands that open in time for people to eat before and after the shows. Not knowing this, I had decided to get brunch outside the theater, and as I was passing from Hankyuu Takarazuka Station (阪急宝塚駅) to Hana no Michi（花の道), I noticed a cute coffee shop with a big bilingual sign advertising scones and morning service (モーニング・サービス).
The café Tea House Sarah, it turns out, is a branch of the English pub Sarah’s Count. While Sarah’s Count specializes in sandwiches, dinner platters, and beer, Tea House Sarah is more of a café, specializing in tea and coffee, serving breakfast sets and sandwich lunches.
The atmosphere of the two restaurants is quite similar—wood and wallpaper; framed pictures, postcards and memorabilia from England; big windows. It’s very cozy and charming.
I opted for the “cream tea set,” which was a scone set. (The regular “morning service,” which goes till 11 am, was a toast set with the option of buttered toast or cinnamon toast.) The drink options for the set were hot or iced royal milk tea or Ceylon tea. I had a hot royal milk tea, which was much larger than I had expected, and choose the caramel banana scone and the tea scone (scone with black tea in it). The other option was the plain scone. The scones came with strawberry and blueberry jam and clotted cream or whipped cream on the side. There’s a lot of debate about what a real scone is—that is, not that stuff Starbucks serves—but what I was served was what I have come to understand as a proper English scone—a bit dry, not very sweet, and rounded. This, of course, is the perfect accompaniment to tea, especially with a bit of jam. It cost 940 yen.
The lunch sets run about 1000 yen, and there is Guinness at this location, too, for about 550 yen for a half-pint. The morning service sets run about 500-900 yen.
On one hand, going to the Tokyo location of the Takarazuka Theatre is nice because Yûrakuchô is so close to other theatres, the Imperial Gardens, and all the amazing restaurants of Ginza, However, even though it is thankfully not in the neon-soaked urban jungles of Shibuya and Shinjuku, Hibiya is still most definitely in the heart of Tokyo. The thing I love about Takarazuka City and the Grand Theatre area, and the reason why I love it more than Tokyo Takarazuka, is that the environment is like a secret garden—a road lined with flowers; cute pubs and cafes tucked into the Hana no Michi building; the many gift shops inside the theatre; and the feeling that you are removed from the rest of the Greater Osaka Metropolitan area. (Which is true, considering Takarazuka Station is the end of the Takarazuka line from Umeda.) Takarazuka City is not part of the hustle and bustle of a major Japanese metropolitan area, and Tea House Sarah is an English-style oasis within the oasis of the theatre area. Sitting down to a quiet cup of tea and some scones seems perfectly natural in this setting and was the perfect start to a day in Takarazuka.
Tea House SARAH ティーハウス サラ
665-0845兵庫県宝塚市栄町2-1-1 ソリオ宝塚 １Ｆ
665-0845 Hyogo-ken Takarazuka-shi Sakae-machi 2-1-1 Sorio Takarazuka, 1st floor
Located at the Hana-no-michi entrance (花の道) to the Sorio mall (ソリオ).
One-minute’s walk from Hankyuu Takarazuka Station (阪急宝塚駅); 3-minutes’ walk from the JR Takarazuka Station (JR宝塚駅).
Open daily from 9:00-20:00.
Breakfast 9:00-11:00; lunch 11:00-15:00; dinner 15:00-21:00
Closed every third Wednesday of the month.
Menu is mostly bilingual.
Smoking and nonsmoking sections available.
Drinks and desserts are around 500-700 yen; meals are around 1000 yen. High tea and dinner sets are more expensive at 1750 yen.