Mr Silver and I will be heading to Japan just after the famous cherry blossom season but fortunately I could still enjoy some beautiful blooms at Sake No Hana, one of my favourite restaurants in London.
The restaurant in St James has got all dressed up to celebrate the bloom of sakura in Japan, a period of around two weeks when the beautiful cherry blossoms flower all over the country.
The downstairs bar has been totally transformed into a cherry blossom garden with pretty petals all around it and grass on the floor. By night fairy lights glitter in between the flowers in homage to yozakura meaning night sakura.
As well as the floral decorations, the restaurant has a set menu running until the 18th of June. Inspired by hanami or ‘flower viewing’ a long-running tradition of Japan of enjoying the transient beauty of the cherry blossoms.
Joining me for lunch was fellow sushi lover, my older sister, Jen who soon arrived and we took our seats in the cherry blossom garden in eager anticipation of our feast.
Immediately we were both very taken by the fact that we each had our own haiku on our tables setting – I love the fact that Sake no Hana and it’s sister restaurant Hakkasan always adds such lovely detailed little touches. Printed on a paper petal, the poem represents the tradition of sitting under the sakura trees and writing haikus about the transient beauty of the flowers. The cherry blossom is seen as a metaphor for life; so beautiful but delicate and ephemeral.
The set menu begins with a Kaori Arpège cocktail containing Beefeater 24 gin, yuzu sake, cherry liqueur, peach bitters, grapefruit juice and agave. Another gorgeous little touch was the accompanying perfume atomisers each containing a different scent to be sprayed into the cocktail, altering the flavour. With the choice of red cherry, black cherry and cinnamon; elderflower and jasmine; and violet we were in floral heaven as we sprayed and sipped. The cocktail itself had a beautiful finish, the sweet cherry was tempered with the grapefruit achieving the perfect balance of flavour.
Chef Hideki Hiwatashi has created a special set menu especially for the sakura celebration and we kicked off with the customary white miso soup. I always find the salty, warm miso so delicious it’s also super low-calorie and apparently boosts the immune system.
There was also a little surprise in the bottom of my soup, tofu in the shape of a flower! Such a lovely way to tie in with the theme.
As it’s traditional to drink sake under the cherry blossoms during Hanami, it would be rude not to try some. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big sake lover as I find it too strong but our waitress suggested trying their cloudy, lightly sparkling one which was easier on the palate.
Next our thoroughly gorgeous bento box arrived to the table.
On the cold side three perfectly prepared slices of sashimi including sea bass, a beautifully buttery medium fatty tuna and utterly divine salmon.
The sushi pieces were tuna with caviar, salmon topped with wasabi and a lusciously sweet prawn nigiri like perfect little gems in a jewellery box. There was also a okra maki roll – something I’d never had before. And like a special gift wrapped inside a banana leaf was a perfect piece of sea bass sushi.
The set menu offers a choice of main courses and we opted to share two; salmon miso yaki served with egg mustard sauce and chicken sumiyaki with spicy shichimi sauce. If neither of these appeal there’s also tempura vegetables, which I can certainly vouch for as I’ve tried them before. The salmon flaked apart beautifully and was absolutely melt in the mouth while the chicken was succulent and the spicy sauce was the perfect enhancement.
Jen sampled a glass of dessert wine alongside our gorgeous desserts…
Ending on a sweet note was our cherry chocolate mousse and cherry sake mousse with chocolate crumble and cubes of sake jelly, pretty as a picture the dessert formed the shape of a tree on the plate. It was so light and as delicate as the blossoms themselves.
We also had a cherry blossom macaron each – vanilla-flavoured with cherry blossom tea ganache – could there be anything better than that?
And as we enjoyed our coffee, I admired the sugar bowl which also had the pretty Sakura print on it, before going upstairs to watch the sushi masters at work in the open kitchen.
Needless to say, I loved the Sakura menu at Sake no Hana, but like the cherry blossoms themselves, all good things must come to an end. Hurry down before the 18th of June and try the set menu for £34 before the blossoms fade.
Sake No Hana
23 St James Street
Our delicious sushi feast was complimentary.