Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I love retreating indoors to curl up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate as I gaze out the window watching the leaves turn. So, when I heard one of my favourite restaurants, Sake No Hana, was also embracing the season with an installation and a menu celebrating the Japanese maple leaf season, I had to visit.
The last time I popped into Sake No Hana was to try their Sakura menu, which featured a gorgeous installation celebrating the beloved Japanese cherry blossom season, so I was interested to see how they’d transformed the space for autumn. From now until 24 November, the front entrance of Sake no Hana is bedecked with a striking autumn leaves installation, inspired by the ‘momiji-gari’ (the Japanese tradition of viewing the maple leaves).
The experience continues indoors with food and cocktails, which also nod to the season with a focus on seasonal ingredients and autumnal flavours.
One could easily forget they’re in the heart of London’s bustling West End once they step inside to this sleek space. The striking interior – designed by esteemed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma – is stunning thanks to linear bamboo that covers the main walls and bamboo blinds that help to create a cocooning shelter from the outside world.
We reckon this has to be one of the nicest places to escape from the pre-Christmas shopping crowds, giving you a sense of smug satisfaction for discovering such a chic space away from the madness.
The limited-edition menu created by Executive Head Chef Hideki Hiwatashi includes a variety of mouth-watering dishes such as: kinoko misojitate; shitake tofu (shiitake mushrooms filled with homemade tofu and wasabi sauce); salmon kurumi miso yaki and tori sumiyaki.
The starters were fab. I particularly enjoyed the crispy truffle rice balls with seasonal mushrooms, which were a bit similar to Italian arancini, and the comforting wild mushroom and chilli yuzu miso soup was the perfect cure for warming the cockles on a chilly autumn day. Surprisingly, the tofu, which despite its reputation for being bland and joyless, was also delicious thanks to seasonal mushrooms.
For mains, we had the pan-fried Loch Duart salmon with walnuts and Kyoto miso, which was really scrummy thanks to its melt-in-the-mouth texture and sweet caramel-like sauce and the chargrilled miso chicken with sesame chilli, was tender and juicy, while the charred peppers gave a bit of oomph to the dish. Greedily, we accompanied the meat dishes with a large bowl of sticky rice, which given how much we’d already consumed, wasn’t necessary, but we couldn’t help ourselves!
After the mains we devoured a selection of sushi. A real box of delights, the sushi arrives in a beautiful plexiglass box, with the waiter lifting the lid to unveil the treats within. Beautiful little morsels of joy, each lovingly prepared piece of sushi was seriously moreish. A special shout out goes to the Waygu beef with asparagus and caramelized onion and kizami wasabi, which was rich and flavourful (I could easily live off these).
The star of the show, however, was the hazelnut and chocolate parfait with a mascarpone mousse, which is quite possibly my new favourite dessert. In fact, I think I might weep if it disappears from the menu! Delectable and delicious, it had a lovely balance of textures thanks to the liquid chocolate centre, which is set off nicely by the delicate crunch from the base.
The limited-edition drinks
For those who like their cocktails toasty, there’s a limited-edition maple toddy (a warming cocktail comprised of Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Akashi-Tai Umeshu sake, ginger, maple, chocolate and topped with edible rice paper art) and for those who like their cocktails sweet, there’s the Shisho 54, made with Belvedere vodka, Midori, lime, shisho, Fever-Tree slimline tonic and Prosecco. Our favourite cocktail (and the most beautiful), however, was made with Belvedere vodka, cardamom, mandarin, yuzu and edible rice paper art fashioned in the shape of a maple leaf.
If you want reasonably priced sushi in swanky surroundings, then look no further. Priced at only £40pp the limited-edition menu (with the option to add a sharing cocktail flight for £23.00), means you really can’t go wrong for such great quality Japanese cuisine smack bang in the middle of London.
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