Kyoto Arts Center is an interesting spot to visit, a converted elementary school with its rooms now serving as exhibition spaces and an information center with details of hundreds of events and exhibitions across Kansai and beyond. One of the rooms was turned into a cafe, and after a look round the Center I stopped off there for lunch.
The style inside is very elegant, with furnishings of dark wood, small tables around the walls and a larger one in the middle. It reminded me somewhat of an old-school English high street teahouse, with its lace curtains, ornately colorful lampshades, silver tableware, waitresses in aprons and white blouses. However, the atmosphere is warm and casual rather than stuffy: the background music is unintrusive soft jazz, and there was a lively mixed lunchtime crowd of office staff, grandparents with toddlers, university students, and ladies on a break from shopping. Only the cushioned benches around the sides and some wear on the walls hint that it used to be a schoolroom, one where my waitress told me she had used to study before it became the Arts Center.
For my lunch I chose an extra-large 'beef gristle curry', which I assume sounds more appetizing in Japanese. It was worth paying the extra ¥100 to increase the size, because it really did fill me up, with plenty of vegetables mixed in with the meat in a typically mild but tasty Japanese curry sauce.
They have a comprehensive English menu with a good range of dishes and something called a 'Lady's Healthy Lunch', which has smaller sizes of dishes served with a side salad. There's also a beef curry for ¥680, which like mine can be made bigger or, for a ¥50 reduction, smaller. With most dishes you can add a drink for ¥200 or a salad for ¥100. Spaghetti dishes at around ¥700 include Vongole (clams in a white wine sauce) and chicken cream, and sandwiches cost ¥700-¥800, or ¥1250 for the roast beef. Coffees cost between ¥400 and ¥700 (for a Blue Mountain Mix), and there's also an intriguing-sounding Uji Green Tea Caffe Latte. Also at the entrance there's a display case full of fresh cakes; on the day I visited there were a cheesecake, a tiramisu and a strawberry cake.
It's right in the center of the city, just a couple of minutes from Shijo station on the Karasuma subway line, or Karasuma station on the Hankyu line. If you're in the area, it's definitely a good place to stop off for lunch or an afternoon tea and cake.