What you see isn’t necessarily what you get when you eat with Sake No Hana. Situated at a corner of St James’s Street, the restaurant is a classy, modern-looking building, which from the outside can easily be mistaken for a swanky office or expensive hotel. Inside, the bar is stylish and has a taste of the exotic; the use of bamboo sticks as a wall covering is not only creative, but invokes Japanese culture. Upstairs is where nicely-dressed people eat, look around in awe at the patterned window shades and Kengo Kuma designs, and are taken good care of by the waiters. The premises are very luxurious, including the toilets.
This is how good Sake No Hana is. There is a friendly atmosphere and the service was very professional. Diners are made to feel comfortable in their surroundings (and the leather seating certainly makes sure of that!) and the waiters were helpful, staying close to our elbows to ensure we weren’t wanting in anything. Which, hilariously, makes the diner look lazy for not topping up their cup of Sake or glass of water every five minutes.
On arrival, my plus one and I were handed a complimentary glass of prosecco, which we liked for its fruity and floral tones. A few sips later, a drinks menu was offered so we could choose a bottle of Sake from a long list. I’m new to Sake so tasting it was an interesting experience. Even when drunk warm, the Sake was very dry, strong and tasted like a mixture of wine and whisky. Initially, it was hard to drink but as I drank more and ate more, it became easier. I would definitely drink Sake again.
Food – starter
Soup was the starter and we were to choose between mushroom and seafood. I chose the Asari Akadashi, a red Miso soup with clams and deep-fried tofu. (My plus one opted for the white Miso mushroom soup.) I hadn’t experienced either clams or tofu so it was my first time trying both. The clams were chewy – and difficult to pick up with chopsticks – and the tofu was very soft. Overall, I liked the soup; the tomato and pepper flavours made it very tasty and I enjoyed trying something new.
I have a bit of a thing for fried food so I selected the Mixed Katsu – deep fried, breaded prawns and assorted vegetables – with wasabi sauce, whereas my plus one had a Tori Sukiyaki Toban (chicken with a range of green vegetables and tofu). Both meals were served with a small bowl of rice each. The Katsu was divine, although for the most part, I didn’t know what vegetables I was eating. Carrot, sweet potato and onion were among my guesses. The prawns were delicious.
The extra dish
It wasn’t exactly an ‘extra’ dish. Our menu, ‘Taste of Sake No Hana,’ had four courses. The third course was Futomaki and Gomoku Inari Sushi. Looking back on the evening, I suspect the purpose of this dish was to clean our palates a little bit and to prepare us for a colder dish. I love sushi so I dived right in. The Inari, on the other hand, was not at all what I expected; the rice was sweet and its coating even sweeter. My plus one thought that the Inari could be considered dessert. It was nice – very nice.
The last surprise was dessert. The desserts of the day were not printed on our menus so I assumed we would be offered a different menu to pick something. Instead, we were given what looked like chocolate mousse with a ball of cream. (The only words I heard from the waiter were ‘jasmine’ and ‘honey’.) It was sensational. Beautifully presented, the mousse was thick and very chocolatey and one bite offered a mouthful of popping candy – seriously! – and the cream was sweetened by the honey. An absolute delight!
There is barely anything I would say against the restaurant, other than they need more signs pointing towards the toilets and exits. The service was first class, the food excellent and the Sake very unique. The portions were the right size for us – we were comfortably full by the end, and the staff were very accommodating. It was a great experience and I’d love to go back there again.
I would definitely recommend Sake No Hana, but I’d suggest it particularly to those who want to try a different cuisine, and to anyone who enjoys sophisticated dining. If you like sushi, you’ll love Sake No Hana.
Telephone 0207 925 8988
Address Sake no Hana, 23 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HA