Restaurant Review: Sake No Hana, London

I recently visited Sake No Hana, London on a Wednesday evening with my wife. We’ve previously visited the sister restaurant, Hakkasan and had thoroughly enjoyed it. We both love Japanese food, and were both very excited for our visit. We’d seen they were offering a set menu deal, ‘Taste of Sake No Hana‘, four courses for £31, and booking this online we qualified for some free drinks with the meal as well.

The restaurant is located in upmarket St James, just around the corner from Green Park station and close to The Ritz and Fortnum and Mason. The building is a strange 60/70’s concrete monstrosity (from the outside), with the bar located on the ground floor and restaurant on the first.  Arriving at the restaurant involves a trip up an escalator and a walk around the central core of the building to find your table. It’s an odd setup (more to come on this later), but the inside of the building is decked out in wooden shutters and Cherry Blossom flowers (mostly fake). It’s a really nice ambiance, with an open kitchen to watch the chefs preparing the fish and sushi.  We were there at 6pm when it opened but the restaurant quickly filled up, so it’s obviously a popular destination, even on an early weeknight.

We found that the menu came with half a bottle of wine each. As we didn’t fancy drinking that evening we were offered a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails to replace this. Cocktails were lovely – with the normal high prices for London and really complimented the meal.

Our menu started with miso soup, drunk straight from the bowl (they will bring you a spoon if needed!), which was nice but not very different to any other miso soups I’ve had.  Fairly swiftly after this our appetiser came. We both opted for the tuna tartare, but there is a vegetarian alternative if you prefer. The best part of this dish actually turned out to be the ginger rice balls, crispy rice balls served with a sweet ginger sauce. As usual with Japanese cooking, the dishes looked beautiful, which always helps with the taste!

Next up came the most exciting dish as a selection of sushi. Again you can go for with fish or without (we both opted for with), and the selection includes salmon with avocado, salmon with tuna, and mushroom (2 pieces of each). Our favourite was definitely salmon where the sushi had been finished ‘tempura style’ i.e. fried in breadcrumbs. This left a lovely crunch on the outside. The sushi was served in an imaginative clear plastic box, with the waiters making a ‘reveal’ and removing the lid at your table.

The final savoury course is a choice of main course. My wife opted for a traditional tempura, with vegetables and seafood. There was plenty, all served lovely and crispy. I opted for chicken in a mustard sauce. Overall it was a lovely dish, but didn’t really remind me of Japan. The chicken could have done with slightly more cooking for me as well as it was a little pink for my liking. The chicken was also served on its own, which is an interesting choice, although after the rice from our sushi course before we did not go hungry!

Desserts have never been a Japanese speciality (at least not desserts that westerners would eat!), but the signature dessert with this meal was an apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice-cream. The tart included many, extremely thin, layers of apple on top of crispy pastry, all caramelised. My wife really enjoyed this and it ended the meal well! I’ve been trying to cut down on gluten, so I opted for the sorbet selection. Three, large scoops of sorbet (raspberry, mango and coconut) were presented to me. There was actually a little too much for me, but all were tasty!

Service throughout was professional and friendly, but not quite up to the level of the michelin star places we’ve visited. Nothing was massively wrong, it just didn’t feel quite as slick. I mentioned earlier that the building design is strange and this continues to the toilets, located in the basement, and only accessible by a life in the middle – fairly unique!

Overall, I’d definitely visit Sake No Hana again and would love to try some of the other dishes on offer.  If you’re after high end Japanese food then there aren’t many places you can get this for less than £50 per person and this is really where Sake No Hana shines.  Personally I enjoyed the appetiser and sushi the most, with the main course and dessert not living up to the same standards and I’d like to see what else they offer in this area!