I can hardly believe three months have passed since I returned to Australia.
The last few months of my working holiday were very busy with work and meeting with friends so I didn't get much chance to write much on the blog about what I did in Japan. However, earlier in the year, I went to Umeda and visited the Alice in Fantasy Land restaurant with my friend. We had a wonderful day together and I would recommend the restaurant so I am writing a detailed review for the benefit of other people who may be thinking of going there.
I can't remember quite how I found out about the place but I do remember that after seeing some pictures on the restaurant's website that I knew that I could expect a professional atmosphere with enjoyable food.
For non-residents and non-Japanese speakers this may be the biggest hurdle but do not give up!
The language barrier may possibly be the biggest hurdle for non-Japanese speakers who would like to go experience any of the Alice's Fantasy Restaurants. I reserved a table through the online booking system but the system was only in Japanese and required a Japanese mobile email address. If you don't have either a Japanese speaking friend or Japanese mobile, it would be a better idea to book a different way. Although there is English on the Alice's Fantasy Restaurant website, (albeit seemingly done via Google translate) unfortunately, the menu is only written in Japanese.
A convenient location but it still took a while to find even with the basic map provided.
Alice in Fantasy Land is one of the installments of a series of Alice in Wonderland themed cafes called "Alice's Fantasy Restaurant". The restaurant is located very close to the main stations in the Osaka area: JR Osaka train station and the Hankyu Umeda Station, which is great for people who have little knowledge of the Umeda/Osaka area. A basic map was also provided on the site, however, it still took us a little while and a few walks up and down the road before we found the restaurant. In the end, we got there by passing through the Umeda JR hotel lobby; the restaurant was placed just out the other side.
|Map from the official site|
The outside was lit very brightly with a big card soldier statue and a composite murals of pictures from Alice in Wonderland. Although the mural was obvious, the sign with the restaurant name was quite small so it took us a while to realise that we were in the right place.
|The front of the restaurant was bright and colourful but it took us a while to see the sign above the door.|
Restaurant Layout and Interior
Black interior walls lend themselves to a theatrical experience. There are many different areas catering for both intimate and large gatherings.
The restaurant seemed very focused on creating an atmosphere; as soon as you walked in the door it was as if you had stepped out of the real world into somewhere a little different, a little stranger.
When we went in, there was a desk where we were greeted by a gentleman in a top hat and asked if we had a reservation. To the left of the reception there was a giant Alice in Wonderland book, which was actually a door and the entrance to the restaurant. There were some hats behind the counter as well and it seemed that you could wear them as I soon saw the restaurant patrons wearing them however I'm not sure whether you had to pay for them or not.
Very soon we were led through the door by the gentleman and arrived in a much bigger room with dark black walls, like a black box theatre. There were a few long tables in the main restaurant area for very large groups, to the side of the main area were some exciting looking booths on the side covered with transparent shiny material for two or three people and then in an elevated area separated from the main restaurant by a wall were some more tables for small groups. Four or so waitresses dressed in identical blue Alice costumes and stripey socks were attending to the customers in the restaurant. The gentleman in the hat called out something along the lines of "Welcome to Alice's fantasy land!" in Japanese and the Alice waitresses all echoed the same back to us. The ones that weren't serving at a table even faced us and curtsied politely. The greeting reminded me very much of a maid cafe "Maid Dreaming" that I had visited in Tokyo once before.
Service was attentive and interactive with waitresses that could speak simple English.
Much to mine and my friends delight we were led to a booth off to the side of the restaurant with the shiny material over it. It was a very nice, private atmosphere for me and my friend with a little bit of whimsy. It wasn't too soon before we were given menus. The waitress who served us was very kind and spoke English for us but when I mentioned that I could speak Japanese we switched over. The waitress explained we had to call "Alice" if we wanted someone to come to our table. I was reminded of the maid cafe again, however, the atmosphere was very different to a maid cafe. The Alice's Fantasy Restaurant is more about allowing the customer to enjoy the atmosphere with their friends with an "Alice guide" rather than enjoying the company and service of a maid.
We ordered our drinks first. I ordered a Happy Unbirthday cocktail, which was extremely tasty and came out with a light in it! We were also given complimentary drinks in a bottle with "drink me" cards. When we had drunk them, the waitress came over to each of us saying that we had shrunk very small and we should be careful on our journey. It was a wonderful touch and really made us feel as though we were experiencing our own Alice adventure. I did get the feeling that some who may not enjoy such a theatrical experience would feel it was a little childish and embarrassed, however, my friend and I very much enjoyed ourselves.
|The drinks were first to come out and, boy, did they make a good impression.|
The Food and Drinks
Very high points for presentation, taste is good but not gourmet.
If you are planning on going to Alice in Fantasy Land or any of the Alice's Fantasy Restaurants I would recommend looking at the menu via the website so that you can see what the food looks like. It is, like the entire experience, rather theatrical. This, and, apparently the menus differ from restaurant to restaurant so take at look at the page specific to your restaurant if you can. There are two options for eating at the restaurant: a set course or a la carte. We asked to order al carte and had a difficult time choosing as the dishes all seemed delicious.
The food was very well presented, often in the shape of an animal from the Alice in Wonderland story. The taste was not excellent but it was at least as good as a family restaurant. Some people may feel it is overpriced because of this but I consider the effort of the staff and the presentation of the food to be well worth it.
|All aspects of the cafe tie in with the Alice theme, even the playful dish designs|
A very satisfying all-round experience. We were well looked after from the moment we stepped in the door to the moment we stepped out.
At the end of our meal an Alice waitress saw us to the door and thanked us for coming. The waitress even offered to take our picture at the entrance to the restaurant. We went home both feeling very full and very pleased with our experience at the Alice in Fantasy Land restaurant.
The fact that the menus differ between each restaurant and there are many different spaces to sit means that the Alice's Fantasy Restaurant doesn't have to be a one-time visit. In fact, I would love to go again. Next time I would love to go there with a bigger group of people and sit in a different place in the restaurant to enjoy a different atmosphere.
Thank you to all the staff at the Alice in Fantasy Land Restaurant for a wonderful evening and to my good friend for a fabulous day that day.
|The lead up to the Alice in Fantasy Land Restaurant included a pancake lunch and bubble tea with my friend.|
I had a fantastic day with my friend and would love to do it all again someday soon.
Until next time...