Going out for Japanese still feels like an occasion amongst various other meals out in London. There are a number of amazing high-end Japanese restaurants, each with their glamorous interiors and delicious black cod specialities - Nobu and especially Zuma being very good examples.
So I was really looking forward to trying Sake no Hana in Mayfair, not least because it belongs to the same group as Michelin-starred Hakkasan and Yauatcha.
We turned up on a grey and wet Saturday in February for lunch and as soon as we walked through the door it felt like a fabulous experience. The staff on the desk at ground level greeted us warmly, took our coats and wished us an enjoyable meal before ushering us up the narrow, shiny black escalator where a waiter was stood waiting for us at the top.
The dining room at first floor is simply beautiful. Designed by Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma, a mass of linear bamboo beams wrap around the walls and interlocking, criss-crossing Cyprus beams seemingly float high above the elegant tables and chairs. It feels as though you are sitting under a canopy of trees in an exotic forest somewhere very far away from St James.
This creates a very calming atmosphere aided by the rippled blinds over the windows which provide a soft light and block out the street beyond. It is a really comfortable, relaxing place to sit for a long, leisurely lunch or dinner.
The menu is a good mix of dishes and prices too; for £29 there is a set menu offering a 'taste of Sake no Hana' which consists of miso soup, a main dish, sushi and dessert.
The cocktail menu is pleasingly extensive and is a must. I chose the Ginger Mojito being a Mojito lover. This was honestly one of the best Mojitos I have had - perfectly minty, gingery and sweet.
To start we chose some 'small eats' - spicy edamame beans, Horenso Gomaae (sesame spinach with cassava chips) and Ebi Tempura (Prawn tempura).
All were delicious, especially the spinach - which although so simple (and healthy...and spinach!) tasted so good!
To follow we chose the Sake no Hana lunch plate, which was a plate full of salmon, fried snow crab, roasted duck, scallop, egg, vegetables, rice and a variety of pickled ginger. It also came with a miso soup. This was smaller than expected but was good - especially for fish lovers as the large piece of grilled salmon was cooked to perfection. The fried snow crab and the scallops were our favourites. There were a lot of flavours in this beautiful-looking plate of food.
We also shared Beef Tareyaki which came with a fresh and really delicious green salad, pickled ginger, rice and miso soup. The chargrilled beef was accompanied by an incredible citrus and ginger dipping sauce which cut through the richness of the beef perfectly. This was our favourite dish of the whole meal and luckily there was a good amount of it to go around.
The food was very good, Japanese fine-dining. Not the most exciting or innovative Japanese food in London in my view, but still delicious.
The whole Sake no Hana experience definitely impresses though. The restaurant is very stylish in an unpretentious way and the clientele oozes laid-back glamour – think lots of understated designer items subtly on show. The staff could not have been more polite and professional and the atmosphere of the restaurant was fantastic.
This combined with good food, more reasonable prices than similar restaurants and their delicious cocktails means that I would definitely go back to Sake no Hana and recommend it. I mean it would be rude not to go back and try the black cod.....