With so much culinary variety on offer in London, amongst a plethora of restaurants, I’m finding it more and more hard to be truly swayed by a dining experience. The inventiveness of a menu can only get you so far. As a foodie in London, I want bang for my buck and the way to successfully achieve this, I believe, is to us diners something they truly can’t get anywhere else. And so it seems increasingly that the way to leave a lasting impression on guests is becoming more and more about thinking outside of the box, or the plate so to speak.
One such force in London that has certainly nailed the latter concept, giving diners an unforgettable experience is Sake no Hana on St James’ Street. I’ve visited their celebration of Sakura (the cherry blossom season in Japan which is duly recognised every March or April) over the past three years and each year they seriously outdo themselves. The showcase has become so popular that other Japanese restaurants are even giving it a go (See here). But at Sake no Hana, the experience is two-fold with a dedicated, limited edition Sakura menu.
From the outset, Sake no Hana is clearly setting you up for a mesmerising stay and attention to detail is evident with hanging blooms of blossoms adorning the outer entrance to the restaurant. Well-presented, polite waiters, an eye catching bar selection of expensive whisky’s and beautifully decorated poetry at the table are noted but dwarfed in comparison to the lush green faux-grass we step onto from the street and the canopy of gorgeous blooms that rest above us as we perch on the tall stools in the downstairs bar.
As in Japan, Hibiki, where cherry blossom are appreciated at night, is also recognised here, with twinkling lightbulbs noticeably peeking out amongst the flowers as dusk sets in and night-time falls. This added detail was a real delight and made me feel like we were dining in a sort of mythical universe, one where pixies and other whimsical creatures might call home!
So Sake no Hana secured an enchanting setting but things get better. The cocktail on the Sakura menu (Gin with Yuzu Sake, Cherry Liquer, Peach Bitters, Grapefruit and Agave) is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. With three perfume diffusers all holding different alcoholic liquids the drink is yours to alter, adjust and enhance with as many sprays as you wish. This really was such a fantastic addition to the dinner and we really felt like we got to create and mould our own personal experience here to enjoy.
A delicious bowl of Miso soup was followed by two large trays each for the main course: one consisting of a selection of sushi and sashimi while the other is your choice of Salmon Miso Yaki, Chicken Sumiyaki or Kisetsu Yasai Agemono. The presentation is impressive, and equally so too is the food. The Chicken Sumiyaki was tender, juicy and full of flavour while the Kisetsu Yasai Agemono (vegetable tempura to you and I!) remained crisp and crunchy avoiding that woeful soggy batter coating which can often arise.
The fish dish was heavenly, fresh and exotic including hamachi, ama ebi nigiri, salmon kizami wasabi and even a piece of seabass wrapped in an aromatic bamboo leaf!
Again, proving an astute eye and dedication to attention to detail, dessert here follows the cherry blossom theme with Cherry Chocolate Sake Mousse served on a plate painted with the cherry blossom tree as the mouse with Sake Jelly represent the leaves. Despite looking too good to eat, the flavours are perfectly balanced, sweet with a hint of tartness thanks to the sake, while the accompanying Macarons are delectable, larger than classic size and bursting with delicious cherry blossom tea ganache. Utterly faultless!
As we packed our things away, getting ready to get back out into a land not adorned with gorgeous cherry blossoms, or where intricately prepared and curated dining is not wholly the norm, I’m already looking forward to seeing what this innovative restaurateur has up its sleeve for next year! Until then, do check out this fantastic concept which is only running until Saturday June 18th!
The Sakura menu (£34 p/p) includes the cocktail, miso soup, the sushi and sashimi box, and the choice of main course.
Visit: 23 St James’s St, London SW1A 1HA
View: http://www. sakenohana.com