Sake No Hana is a Japanese restaurant nearby London's St. James Park, which boasts market fresh seafood, a plethora of sushi and, unsurprisingly, a great sake list to accompany. I couldn't wait to treat my tastebuds to their variety of signature dishes, and so went for their five course Taste of Sake No Hana menu, which is accompanied by a bottle of sake to share for £29 a head.
A relaxed ten minutes later and a polished waitress beckoned us up the escalator to the dining area, helpfully taking our drinks and arranging for our coats to be put in the cloakroom. A nice touch to begin the experience. You're first met with a vast open kitchen of busy sushi chefs slicing away at sides of salmon and delicately putting together nori rolls. It was hard not to take our eyes off the skilled chefs working away.
The ceiling and use of light in the restaurant is captivating too. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the bamboo walls and criss-cross wooden ceiling is said to have to concept of a futuristic forest. It was a sunny September evening and the daylight shining through was perfect, transforming into a mellow candlelit vibe when the sun went down.
There is a choice of vegetarian, meat or seafood through the menu, and we were asked about dietary requirements beforehand. Both options start with Shiro Misoshiru, which is a white miso soup with slices tofu and spring onions dancing through the dish. A very savoury soup with deep flavour, it was the perfect start to whet our appetite. The waiter was incredibly knowledgable and friendly. In fact when I craned my neck to watch one of the chefs effortlessly slice up fresh yellowfin tuna, he gestured towards the dish on the menu in case I fancied ordering it.
The sake alongside was served cold and was lightly sparkling with pear-like, floral notes. Apart from the sake tasting at Hyper Japan, I haven't had much experience of sake. This was most definitely drinkable and light, although very alcoholic at 16% abv.
Following that was the course I'd been waiting for - the sushi. Don't worry if you aren't sure about taking the plunge into raw fish just yet - the vegetarian option was just as appealing. Plus, you're always reassured when the chefs are slicing up fresh sashimi just metres away from you.
On this occasion, the seafood option featured a Masu of salmon, tuna, white fish, salmon roe and Spicy Salmon Maki with shiso, cucumber and mango. The masu was a mix of inviting seafood and complementary flavours in an adorable wooden box - something I've not experienced before. The spicy salmon maki had just a kick of chilli with minty hints of shiso throughout. I actually wouldn't have said it was spicy at all, to the point where spice fiends may have been disappointed. My boyfriend went for the veggie option, which was a masu of asparagus, shitake mushroom, avocado, cucumber and shiso accompanied by Spicy Vegetable Maki of kinpira carrot, avocado and cucumber. Again a very colourful dish that was well received.
For the main event it was teriyaki everything. Catering to all tastes and diets, you could choose from chargrilled salmon on hoba leaf, organic chicken with pickled courgette or tofu and aubergine dashi. Going for the salmon and chicken, our eyes lit up at the inviting glaze made up of soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. When I asked the waiter what the favourite dish was amongst clientele, he replied that it was undoubtedly their teriyaki. And I can see why. The only thing missing I felt was a sticky, short grain rice, a must for lapping up the thick, sweet sauce.
We'd enjoyed the sushi course so much that we couldn't resist ordering a little extra. This came in the form of their Salmon and Avocado Maki (£9.50 for six pieces) which we chose to have as cut rolls rather than hand roll. This is one of my favourite combination and did not disappoint. The soft buttery salmon melted on the tongue along with avocado and beautifully seasoned sushi rice. So pleased I had room!
But we were in for a treat yet. Last to come out was their signature dessert; Sesame Pannacotta with a mango compote, passionfruit curd, tropical sorbet and sesame shards. Again with stunning presentation, this dessert summed up the contemporary Japanese vibe of the whole restaurant experience. Experimental but minimalist, colourful but cool.
As we only had the table for two hours, we happily went back to the downstairs bar to enjoy the rest of the sake. The restaurant had totally transformed in a few hours, with quirky lights to illuminate the well stocked bar.
Overall it was a fantastic meal which I can't recommend enough for sushi lovers and first timers alike. As I was invited by Bookatable, I booked the tasting menu through their website which was a pretty impressive £29 each for 5 courses and sake - especially in Mayfair. The current star deal for October is five courses and 1/2 a bottle of wine per person for £35, in celebration of London Restaurant Festival.
With tasting menus and starting from just £29, £35 or £37 and rising all the way through to premium wagyu beef at £85 a plate - you really can just take a dip in the ocean or go all out for a special sushi experience. their new festive menu starts at £70 and looks like a real treat - and something different too.
Have you been to Sake No Hana? Where is your favourite sushi or Japanese restaurant in London?
sake no hana
23 st james st
Nearest tube: Green Park
Note: Post in collaboration with Bookatable and the restaurant did not know I was reviewing the experience. All writing, opinions and photographs are my own.