The Pinnacle Afternoon Tea Experience at LA MAISON DE LA BERGERONNETTE GINZA

What culinary heights could be achieved if there were no limits on ingredients or dedication? This is the aspiration pursued by a new restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza, which focuses exclusively on desserts and afternoon tea.

Ginza, which was eerily quiet during the pandemic, is now bustling with people once more. It’s become a challenge to even find an available seat at the cafes, with long lines forming outside most establishments.

Amidst this vibrant resurgence of activity in the heart of the city, a new specialty shop for afternoon tea and desserts has opened its doors – LA MAISON DE LA BERGERONNETTE GINZA. Located at the intersection of Miyuki-dori and Namiki-dori, prime real estate in this cosmopolitan district, it remains relatively unknown to the general public.

Typically, afternoon tea parlors are easy to stumble upon. However, this establishment with its French-sounding name that may not be immediately familiar even to Japanese speakers, is tucked away in a discreet location. Moreover, it operates on a reservation-only basis. Even after checking the website, detailed information about the shop is scarce, and there is little presence online. The fact that such a place has chosen to set up shop in the renowned Ginza area is a bold move and a testament to the quality of its offerings.

Why not pay a visit and see what this hidden gem has to offer?

Step inside, and you’ll feel transported to another realm, with an atmosphere evoking the sophisticated club or salon. One entire wall is made of windows, offering a sweeping view over the Ginza streetscape below, while the remaining walls are adorned with a design that, while not strictly traditional Japanese in style, exudes a refreshing and bright ambiance. This is achieved through the skillful integration of artisanal Japanese techniques – hand-crafted metal frames filled with a combination of plaster and washi paper. At strategic points, the application of white leather further contributes to the tranquil acoustics of the space, hinting at the exceptional nature of this establishment.

As you take your seat, you’ll notice that the tables are also clad in the same leather, seemingly for additional sound insulation. And then, the afternoon tea set is presented before you – a truly remarkable sight to behold.

One of the dishes currently features in the afternoon set

Celebrating the Essence of Natural Ingredients

The origins of this establishment can be traced back to the Barneys New York flagship store in Ginza. The team behind the highly acclaimed and top-priced afternoon tea at the store’s café have now branched out on their own, determined to push the boundaries of uncompromising cuisine. This endeavor has culminated in the birth of LA MAISON DE LA BERGERONNETTE GINZA.

The name itself is evocative, translating to “the house of the wagtail.” This reference to the pied wagtail, a bird that thrives in clean, flowing streams, beautifully encapsulates the establishment’s guiding principle – to use only the finest natural ingredients.

Now, while I’m eager to share more about this intriguing concept, I’ll refrain from revealing too many specifics about the afternoon tea menu. The element of surprise is crucial here – the more unexpected the experience, the greater the impact on the senses. That said, those with extensive culinary knowledge may be tempted to think, “there’s nothing that can truly surprise me when it comes to food these days.” I can understand that sentiment. After all, our innate ability to perceive flavors like saltiness, umami, and sweetness is a fundamental part of the human experience. In the culinary world, similar to the field of contemporary art, intentional rule-breaking can be intriguing at first, but if overdone, the deliberate nature of it can eventually become tiresome.

It is only natural that the focus would shift to highlighting the pure flavor of the ingredients, and over the past 20 years or so, fine dining has placed considerable emphasis on the quality of the raw materials.

However, just as grapes growing in the mountains do not naturally become wine, cooking is something that requires the touch of human hands to transform. For example, if one were to simply add salt to a rare, high-quality egg, would that truly be the work of a culinary professional? Perhaps it would be acceptable on an occasional basis, but taken to the extreme, one could argue that anyone could become a ‘professional’ in that sense. So, what then is the role of the culinary professional? In this context, we may be able to glimpse one possible answer to that question.

‘The Black Knight’s Picnic’ – this is a sandwich item that is part of the afternoon tea set. It can also be ordered à la carte. The sandwich consists of grass-fed roast beef, an egg salad sandwich, and a seasonal vegetable sandwich (subject to change depending on the season). The bread used is black in color, achieved through the use of bamboo charcoal, which not only adds complexity to the flavor, but also provides detoxifying benefits.

Chef Satoshi Seki of LA MAISON DE LA BERGERONNETTE GINZA is the type of person who can talk for around 30 minutes about how exceptional the eggs are that he encountered from a farmer deep in Niigata Prefecture. Whenever the topic of eggs comes up, he means business. However, even with such meticulously sourced eggs, he never treats them as a substitute for the craft of cooking itself. His reverence for the ingredients is demonstrated through the way he minutely adjusts his recipes to accommodate the unique balance of yolk and egg white in each individual egg.

Chef Satoshi Seki

Regarding the salt used, Seki has entrusted the master salt maker Tanoya Enjiro to create a custom blend for him. Remarkably, he even treats the water as an integral ingredient, using different natural spring waters from across Japan – one type for the cookie dough, another for the jellies – waters that most people have likely never even heard of before.

First image: Jellies that are frequently featured in the The Afternoon Tea menu.
Second image: Cookie Tin Assortment ‘Heriter’ which is available in the online shop.
Across all of their food offerings, this establishment adheres to the principle of completely avoiding artificial coloring, flavoring, chemical seasonings, preservatives, and white sugar.

In a typical recipe, water is just water, and an egg is just an egg. But for Chef Seki, this is not the case at all. In other words, Chef Seki’s cuisine is made so delicately and precisely, that even these subtle differences become significant to the final creation.

Culinary Artistry and The Ultimate Afternoon Tea

No matter which dish you sample from Chef Seki, you’ll gain an understanding. His cuisine is like a tapestry, where every fine thread has been meticulously woven together, forming a cohesive and captivating whole. There is simply no room for anything remotely rough or unrefined in his creations.

This luxurious precision evokes a similar reaction to tasting a top-tier Champagne or Super Tuscan wine – a sense of awe at the level of complexity that the human hand can produce. It could be likened to the grand complication of a mechanical watch, or the complexities of a multi-layered perfume. The development of aromas and flavors over time is calculated with the same level of meticulous care.

Since his younger days, Chef Seki constantly pursued perfection, although he wasn’t always understood by those around him. Then by chance, a gourmand entrepreneur came across his restaurant and recognized his talent and dedication. From there, Chef Seki was given the opportunity to shine at the Barneys New York flagship store in Ginza, and his reputation has been on the rise since.

‘The Sky Garden of the Cocoa Kingdom’

While we’ve primarily discussed the exceptional afternoon tea offerings, the real signature item here is the “Sky Garden of the Cocoa Kingdom” – a decadent chocolate banana parfait featuring rare Amazon cocoa and halaya (a jam made from the macambo, a relative of cocoa), as well as a special wild banana sourced from the remote regions of the Philippines.

You’ll also find seasonal parfaits and desserts that are almost culinary works of art in their own right, made with the freshest, most vibrant ingredients.

So after enjoying a more casual lunch or dinner elsewhere, it would make for a truly memorable experience to cap off your day by indulging in these gastronomic delights.

While it may look like a savory course from a multi-course menu, this is actually a summer dessert that celebrates the interplay between cheese and watermelon. This is a new creation that tantalizes the senses with its expertly balanced touches of various spices – a novel and delightful twist on the classic pairing. And the best part is that you can enjoy this culinary artwork as part of the establishment’s renowned afternoon tea service.

It’s worth noting that the owner, who has been collaborating with Chef Seki for many years and is deeply enamored with his work, previously operated a separate coffee business. This means that you can enjoy some truly exceptional, globally rare coffees here as well – an added bonus to the already remarkable culinary experience.

The ‘Organic Matcha Chocolatine’ is available for purchase as a souvenir. Organic cultivation of Japanese tea is extremely challenging. For this item, they have procured rare organically grown tea leaves through a Kyoto tea merchant, and then painstakingly baked them over an extended period to achieve a complex flavor profile and a velvety smooth texture.

Business hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00 – 20:00, reservation-only
Closed: Mondays
Tel: 03-6264-5536


Fumihiko Suzuki

Graduating from Paris-Sorbonne University with a focus on 19th-century French literature, Fumihiko worked as a translator and writer before becoming CEO of LUFT Media Communication, publisher of WINE WHAT. He is now editor-in-chief of JBpress autograph.