Sake No Hana, St James’s
‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, said Kate Moss in 2009, opening the floodgates to a boring and predictable backlash from mothers, campaigners and everyone on the payroll of Ultimo lingerie. Well it turns out Mossy has a penchant for very good Japanese food and was just as mouthy in the media about St James’s Sake No Hana. Unlike its sister restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, this place is light and bright, no nightclub vibes here. Ascend a long and elegant escalator and you enter a high-ceilinged and deeply sophisticated room. There’s more window than wall, with beige Japanese style blinds shutting out just enough sunlight and adding Oriental touches to an otherwise modern dining room. Lunch dates here are good for celebrities travelling in cognito or Yacht businessmen taking out refined clients who don’t just heckle for Nobu. But for dates, there are two options. Either a formal-ish Saturday brunch which delivers bang for your buck, or a buzzier evening meal which also delivers [insert obvious jape].
The hand rolls are phenomenal, and exceptionally large. Spicy tuna, ebi tempura, salmon avocado, YUM. Everything is fresh to death and beautifully presented, as you would expect from a place of this calibre. The set brunch is reasonable (£38) and a real tummy filler, from the 11 tasting bites at the start, to the 3 hand rolls, to the grilled beef or miso halibut and the explosively delicious jasmine cake. As my booze-wise companion said, the cocktails are ‘quite possibly the best I’ve had in London’, which I took for gospel (while wondering what the hell platinum rum was). And, at £10 each, a comparative steal for a place like this.
Brunch is a great way to sample a place that may be out of your budget. Trial it first with a friend and, once you’re sold, book dinner for your date. It’s tempting for those who work near St James’s to date here on a week night. Unlike Hakkasan, you don’t need to look as shiny/slick, just clean and crisp. Gents, offer the bench seat to your date. Ladies, suggest two different cocktails to start. Try each other’s and joke about preferences. Nominate one person to do the ordering – perhaps the one who chose the restaurant- and sit back. Chatter will flow easily, occasionally interrupted by staff who are gracious and humorous – a morsel left on your plate may incite a playful ‘so you didn’t like it??’. Nothing like faux awkwardness to take the focus off the date. Order a bottle of crisp white wine with the meal, eat till almost full, share a dessert and then get the waiter to order you two taxis. Wander onto St James’s Street and sit on the stone staircase on the corner. Cuddle up to your date and go in for the kiss. Then part ways.
Potentially too formal/sparse for a daytime date, unless very comfortable with that vibe/person.
2. Fantastic food, classy joint.