Why? Sake no Hana certainly must offer the most sumptuous-yet-sensible solution to London’s blustery and unpredictable ‘hanami’ season! Literally ‘flower viewing’ in Japanese – your springtime celebrations can be brought inside under the delightful display of ‘Sakura’ cherry blossoms in the bar area, enjoying the seasonal menu ‘Sakura at Sake no Hana’. On from April 20th, until June 20th 2015, this annual event lets you savour the elusive Hanami season for longer!
When? A sunny Saturday lunchtime in early May.
First Impression: The two sliding automatic doors entrances to Sake no Hana are both frothing with artificial sakura branches by the renowned florist Veevers Carter. It makes for a pleasing contrast of the modern and the traditional; the urban and the natural.
Ambience: The bar area downstairs was bedecked with the authentic-looking Sakura. With the sunshine flooding in through the branches, it feels like stumbling across a sheltered, secret garden.
The restaurant upstairs offers a different ambience. Gliding up the sleek and narrow escalator to the dining room, the mystery is what awaits you at the top (except for a smiling server positioned to welcome you). Intriguing.
Greeted with an ‘irasshaimase’ as you enter, you can’t help but notice the beguiling bamboo blinds. They really are wonderful, effortlessly diffusing the light from the ceiling-to-floor windows to create a serene, Zen-like atmosphere. Wooden structures are suspended from ceiling. Designed by esteemed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the interior manages to capture an intangible, peaceful essence of Japan.
Clientele: Mostly couples treating themselves and well-heeled families with older/grown-up children. Part of the Hakkasan restaurant group, founded by Hong Kong born restaurateur Alan Yau OBE (of the Wagamama chain), this up-market option is definitely more appropriate for a date or meeting with clients. My friend Helen and I enjoyed the intimate setting of the bar downstairs for a three-hour chinwag!
Description of food and drink: We choose the seasonal ‘Sakura Gozen’ menu which is available until 20th June 2015. Other lunchtime special bento boxes are available throughout the year, served in the ‘crystal’ bento boxes. The ‘crystal’ boxes are of type a clear plastic, but their effect is simple and striking.
The ‘Sakura Gozen’ bento set comes with a intriguing ‘Violet Risshun Two-Part Cocktail’ – comprised of a carafe of a fresh, gin-based grapefruit drink and a miniature jug with a sweet, rose vermouth and maraschino cherry concoction. First, drink two glasses of the zesty green liquid, representing early spring, then add the cherry mixture to ripen up the flavour, moving you into later spring. What a delightful concept!
The bento also includes a starter of white miso soup and a portion of sesame spinach with cassava chips. We found the classic sesame spinach really juicy and mouth-watering. Bring on the bento!
The ‘Sakura Crystal Box’ is made up of sashimi (plain raw fish), nigiri (fish on rice) and maki (rolls). As any sushi lover knows, the simplicity of the dish requires top-end ingredients. When you are eating nothing but a piece of raw fish, with a mere splash of soy and lick of wasabi, the quality says it all. And this quality bento said EAT ME. Of particular note was the otoro and chu-toro nigiri. The best part of the tuna, it is the fat in the belly of the tuna that causes it to melt-in-your-mouth…mmm. The bento box was surprisingly filling – thank goodness, as the cocktail was potent!
We ordered dessert – ‘Sakura Tea’ with ‘Sakura Cotton Cheesecake’, as well as the sensational ‘Cherry Blossom Macarons’ – which are beautifully stencilled vanilla macarons with cherry blossom tea ganache. We were blown away by the flavour of the macarons.
Service: The service was discrete and friendly. The staff knew the dishes well to explain the ingredients of each, and checked when they weren’t sure. Clearly, with the restaurant closed on Sundays, servers are more accustomed to weekday business meetings, and I am confident that their service is very much appropriate to their target market.
Toilets: ‘Smells like a spa’ reported Helen.
Prices: The set menus, and the bento boxes, can be affordable, and offers are available online. These are an excellent way to try the restaurant and experience the fabulous interior. To really discover the variety of the menu Sake no Hana offers, it would be advisable to splash out! It is a relatively expensive option in the crowded market of Japanese restaurants, but the unusual ambience does make it a unique destination.
Come again? The sakura event at Sake no Hana is sensational and deserves to be an annual treat!
After thoroughly enjoying the lunch time tranquility, we would be interested to try the restaurant vibe in the evening.
Thanks to Sake no Hana for inviting us – we’ll be back.
Sake no Hana http://sakenohana.com/
Sake no Hana
23 St. James’s Street,
London, SW1A 1HA
Tel 0207 925 8988