Private Lodge, a cozy cafe in central Kumamoto, certainly lives up to the first part of its name. Tucked away at the end of Kamitori "Street" (the first part of which comprises one of the city's main covered shopping arcades), the sign for the second floor eatery is easy to overlook. Even once you find the entrance, the empty event space that greets you at the top of the stairs is slightly misleading. Open the door and step past the inner garden, however, and you'll know at once that you've managed to locate one of Kumamoto's most relaxed cafe spaces.
At first glance, not a lot of effort seems have been made on the decor. The tables are plastic, the chairs mismatched and worn and scant attention paid to the wall decorations. Yet the vibe here is mellow, a few couches are scattered about and the lighting - a mix of low lamps and sunlight from the abundant windows - serves to relax even the tensest of souls.
If the decorator was having a rough day, the kitchen certainly was not and the food was incredibly filling. Private Lodge focuses mainly on vegetarian and vegan friendly dishes. Lunch sets average around ¥850 and include appetizers and a drink; for an extra ¥200, you can add on the dessert of the day (a pumpkin and sweet potato cake with tofu cream on the day I was there). The pasta lunch with autumn vegetables looked good but I opted for the brown rice special. The plate's main focus was - indeed - a large portion of brown rice with flavored salt and herbs on top. The highlight of the lunch, however, was a serving of fake meatballs formed from crushed lotus root and sweetened with a syrupy ginger sauce. The entire meal was rounded out with two small vegetable dishes, a salad and a thin soup. My included drink of choice was grapefruit juice, though caffeine addicts will be happy to see the standard coffee and tea options (hot or cold) on offer. Two other lunch sets that day were spicy tomato curry and a tofu hamburger.
Private Lodge is more than just a lunch spot. Musical performances are often held here and their (Japanese language only) website and calendar mentions yoga classes macrobiotic cooking seminars.