Celebrating Sakura at Sake no Hana might just be one of the most magical dinners I’ve had in London in a long time…
Though I’ve visited Sake no Hana before the special Sakura menu really was something else. Set in the bar downstairs in this beautiful St James restaurant in a truly spectacular cherry blossom installation that helps you think you’ve been transported from London straight to Japan. With falling petals, grass floors and more cherry blossom than you can imagine, you really will feel like you’re sitting underneath cherry blossom trees in a Japanese park.
Even as you’re walking down the street you can tell that something exciting is going on in one of my favourite London restaurants.
Sakura is the Japanese celebration of cherry blossoms, and though it’s actually a relatively short period of around two weeks in Japan, Sake no Hana has extended the celebrations in London until the 18th June.
In Japan, Sakura is celebrated by feasting and drinking sake under the boughs of the blooming sakura trees. The celebration started thousands of years ago when Emperor Saga hosted parties underneath the branches, and poets would write about the delicate flowers which were seen as a metaphor for life itself: luminous and beautiful yet ephemeral.
Georgina, a fellow sushi-addict, and I had been excited for our meal and all the cherry blossom all day, so sat down and admired the room and perused the menu.
The special sakura menu starts with a Kaori Arpège cocktail made with Beefeater 24 gin, yuzu sake, cherry liqueur, peach bitters, grapefruit juice and agave. But this isn’t a simple, ordinary cocktail; it’s served with three perfume atomisers which each contain different alcohol based scents for you to change the flavour of the cocktail.
You could add flavours of red cherry, black cherry and cinnamon, elderflower and jasmine and violet to your cocktail, though our favourite of the evening was the cherry. I was a little worried that the tastes would linger and all be mixed up, but we needn’t have worried as we could interchange and mix and match as much as we wanted to.
We really enjoyed the slightly bitter taste of the cocktail; it was the perfect refreshing post-work drink.
I was so taken with every little detail of the restaurant; there has been so much thought put into transforming the bar, down to every little petal. It’s the reason I love the Hakkasan group so much (which includes Hakkasan, Sake no Hana and Yauatcha): everything has been taken care of and every little detail thought of.
We started with white miso soup which we both adored. The salty flavour is always so comforting that I could drink it for days!
Our waitress recommended that we try some of the special sake that is being served for sakura; it’s a light, slightly sparkling sake which was perfect for us as we’re not accustomed to the strong flavour that sake has.
The main part of the meal is served in bento boxes and is so beautifully presented, as I’ve come to expect from Sake no Hana.
Georgina and I ordered the chicken sumiyaki served with spicy shichimi sauce and the salmon miso yaki to share (the best of friends know that dishes are always ordered to share!). We also had individual bento boxes of sushi and sashimi that contained hamachi, akami, salmon sashimi chu toro caviar, salmon kizami wasabi, ama ebi nigiri, okura shiso maki and suzuki sasazushi.
I loved the tender chicken and the spicy sauce and the thick chunks of salmon that flaked apart so perfectly.
Georgina hadn’t had the chance to visit Sake no Hana before and I was so pleased that she was loving her first experience! It was really great to catch up and not have conversation about studying for a change!
The sashimi included salmon, a medium fatty tuna and sea bass, all of which were wonderful.
The sushi was as gem like as its presentation. I loved the presentation of the sea bass sushi, all wrapped up like the gift that it was. If this is what Sakura at Sake no Hana is like I can’t wait to experience it in Japan someday!
Neither of us had had the okra maki roll before but loved the vibrant colours and flavours that it had.
It was almost a symmetry dinner!
Dessert was just as beautiful and flavoursome; I discovered that Georgina is the biggest fan of macarons I’ve ever met, so she was delighted to see two beautiful macarons on the table!
I was really taken with the cherry chocolate mousse and cherry sake mousse, served with chocolate crumble and sake jelly. The presentation of the plate have me such vivid images of Japanese cherry blossoms and gardens that I was almost reluctant to eat it… And then I remembered there was chocolate in there!
The way that the dish is served you don’t know which is the cherry chocolate mousse and which is the cherry sake mousse so it makes for one final surprise in this very special menu.
I let the macaron queen have the first taste of the beautiful macarons and it’s safe to say she was very pleased and impressed. Crisp vanilla shells with beautiful cherry blossom tea ganache; they were every bit as good as they sound.
And every bit as beautiful, too.
Sakura at Sake no Hana is a really special experience and one that I’d highly recommend. Priced at £34 per person it’s a fantastic offer for one of my favourite London restaurants. The menu is available until the 18th June, so make sure you get a booking before then!
Sake no Hana
23 St. James’s Street
0207 925 8988
We were guests of Sake no Hana.