Hanami and Yozakura for Sakura at Sake no Hana:
At the bottom of my garden, in the park, there is a cherry tree which comes into blossom about this time of year. It’s not quite there yet – there are just a few blooms showing, unlike the tree a little further round the park which gets a bit more early summer sun. Once it does bloom, my garden looks like a fairytale, the pretty pale pink flowers framing the back wall and fence. I wish I could keep it that way for ever. Sadly it lasts for just a few week. Like me, the Japanese love the cherry blossom season and celebrate the spectacle, feasting and drinking sake under the blooming sakura trees. It’s a tradition that goes back to Emperor Saga, of the Heian period, who used to host parties under the branches.
Sake no Hana bring Sakura to London by decorating their restaurant and bar with cherry blossom and by serving a special set Sakura men. It is one of my favourite events of the year and I was thrilled to be invited back to try this year’s menu and cocktail. Hanami is apparently the name for the Japanese tradition of enjoying the sakura.
The Kaori Arpege, this year’s cocktail, was delicious in itself, a mixture of beefeater 24 gin, yuzu infused sake, cherrry liqueur, grapefruit juice and agave. I like citrussy cocktails and this one worked particularly well for me. But, the little atomisers to the side of the cocktail mean that if you happen to want to re-invent the cocktail, you can add a spray of cherry infused vodka, or more citrus notes or even more floral notes. Of course we happily played around with the perfumes. I added more citrus, Simon preferred a more intense cherry.
The Sakure menu lets you choose your main course. Mine, a Chicken Sumiyaki and Simon’s Salmon Miso Yaki both sounded delicious, light and healthy. There’s a vegetarian option too of a vegetable tempura.
In the meanwhile a small cup of soup, Shiro Misoshiru, Uguisu Tofu, arrived. It looked light but the tofu made it a comforting way to take the edge of my appetite.
The crystal box of sushi and sashimi arrived alongside our main courses and is apparently intended to be eaten as a kind of ‘feast’. Certainly, our table looked stunning by now
I found it hard to eat from both the hot dish and the sushi and sashimi box simultaneously. So, I started with the sashimi – a few delicate morsels of hamachi (yellowtail), akami (blue fin) and salmon. All very delicious. I’m not going to try and pick favourites from the sushi, suffice to say that there was an excellent range and I might just have ordered more chu toro with caviar.
My chicken main course was small morsels of chicken thigh meat, carefully deboned and served with a delicately spiced sauce.
Simon’s salmon looked perfectly cooked and since it all vanished in an instance I guess it was very good.
Dessert is one of the prettiest parts of the meal – there’s a cherry chocolate sake mousse and cherry sake mousse duo served with tiny crystals of sake jelly and chocolate crumble. We also indulged in a cherry blossom cacaron each, delicate vanilla macarons with a delicious cherry blossom tea ganache filling.
And we sipped delicately on a fragrand sakura sencha tea.
All very beautiful and, at lunch time at least, quite tranquil. I got the impression that in the evenings things were a little livelier. In addition to the delightful cherry blossom decor, Sake no Hana has some rather special lighting during sakura, intended to mimic the falling blossom. Yozakura means ‘night sakura’ and is the custom of viewing the cherry blossom at nnight when the parks are deorated with lanterns hanging from the trees to illuminate the blossoms.
We should, apparently, return in the evening – and with the Sakura menu at just £34 per person including the cocktail and three courses, I might just do that. The Sakura menu is available for a limited period only in April, May and June, so I’d suggest booking soon!
We dined as guests of Sake no Hana
Sake no Hana
23 St. James’s Street,
London, SW1A 1HA