Sakura at Sake No Hana, St James’s
St James’s is the last place you’d expect to find a pop up in London. Most high street shops are always popping up and down, mainly to make room for chicken shops, while W1 is preserved in aspic; a still small enclave of calm for the purveyors of Christie’s, the customers of Berry Bros. and the members of Brooks’s. This rarefied set will have no use whatsoever for bento boxes at £28 a pop but that’s OK: St James’s is infinitely accessible to seekers of instant gratification with no fortune to preserve, but ready cash once the rent’s been paid. Look no further than the cherry blossom of Sakura, the bar below the Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana. And hurry! Sakura at Sake No Hana is a bona fide pop up: the decorative (fake) cherry blossom will shed on 19th May, making way for summer and your return to more familiar, less transient, pop ups in Dalston.
The chef has created a menu so well thought out that the waiters become quasi-philiosophers as they recite the symbolism behind each bite.
Start with a two part cocktail – the first half welcoming Spring with a sharp dose of Prosecco, gin, cherry liquer and sake, the second half being mixed in to warm the drink with Marashino cherry liquer, more sake and bitters.
Then the bento arrives, with some of the best sashimi you’ll eat in London (my loquacious date was silenced), plus some familiar bedfellows like Spicy Tuna and California rolls.
Finish off with vanilla macaroons and an artful cherry-chocolate dessert with fresh cherries, nashi pear, almonds and ginger, and cherry blossom tea ice-cream made from the leaves of cherry blossom trees.
This sort of delicate, light and whimsical dining is what dating’s all about.
If you work in Mayfair, take a colleague or client you wish to know more intimately. From the outside, it’ll seem reassuringly corporate and professional, but the high stools and abundant cherry blossom will overwhelm with their scent of romance.
Poke fun at how they handle their chopsticks, discuss which bento delight is your favourite and knock knees as you crowd the little table. Shamelessly Instagram the food and take a pic of them for your private collection. Then when the taste of vanilla is in your mouth, lean over for the kiss.
Leave after an hour and skip to Brown’s hotel for a nightcap at the Donovan Bar. One Churchill martini down and it’s a steamy Uber Exec home.
It will have popped off within the month.
3. Sleeping with colleagues, clients or the after-work-crowd is a no-no, but you’ll leave behind the cherry blossoms feeling wistful.