Mayfair is not for the faint-hearted diner, where even a sandwich can punch a fist-sized hole in your wallet. But I was persuaded by a friend last week to have lunch at Sake no Hana, off the millionaire strip St James’s, to see their temporary cherry blossom garden. It is spring after all.
Sake no Hana is a smart Japanese restaurant in the Economist building, an imposing concrete 1960s construct by architects Alison and Peter Smithson. With a ground level bar and a more formal dining area upstairs, it opened to mixed reviews, despite coming from the maestro of London’s Asian food scene, Alan Yau. But eight years on it has survived, a pleasant and airy space not unlike a hotel. Like its Hakkasan and Yauatcha sisters, it’s now owned by the Abu Dhabi-based Hakkasan group.
From now until June, the downstairs bar has been shrouded in cherry blossom to celebrate these trees, as is traditional in Japan this time of year. Known as sakura, people enjoy the pretty clusters of flowers by eating and drinking underneath them during the spring. So the same now goes for anyone in Mayfair, as two cherry blossom trees create a really quite pretty garden.
We sat among a well-groomed crowd eating sushi, grills and salads. It’s very LA, and I have to say the garden is very cute for these parts. Two big trees spread out from the bar, so the handful of dark wood tables nestle under a canopy of pink. A special sakura bento box has been put together for the season, with white miso soup, sesame spinach, nigiri and maki, and a blossom-infused cocktail.
To finish is a lovely cheesecake, with cherries and cherry sorbet, light as a cloud, and a sakura tea, perhaps the one instance the cherry blossom is too sweet. We also tried some memorable small plates from the main menu, such as a satisfyingly sticky aubergine and fig, excellent seared beef and a good but not as light as some tempura.
Overall I liked the tranquil space and the well-executed food. My only gripe is that like a few stubborn Japanese restaurants in London, their tuna is blue fin, an endangered species. Something for the spring clean perhaps?
by Vicky Paterson
The sakura bento box and blossom garden are available until 20 June, Monday to Saturday, £32.
To book a table call 020 7925 8988 or email: email@example.com
Sake no Hana, 23 St James’s Street , London SW1A 1HA