Already notorious as one of the only Japanese restaurants owned by sake brewery companies in the UK, not only have Sakagura ( another phrase for sake cellar) stocked their shelves with some of the most premium bottles from one of the oldest sake companies in the world, they're one of the only restaurants in London where the food, and not me, did the talking.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Tucked amongst Ice Bar and Strawberry Moons, it was hard to imagine such a bespoke and tailored restaurant, until we turned up. Split between wooden, slatted spaces and small dining tables, Sakagura have taken the current, modus operandi of industrial chic and perked it with Japanese nods. While sake symbols and Japanese drums lined the back bar, our table was a tucked wooden booth with low-hanging hessian curtain. Many may wonder why a table for four needed such a level intimacy, but all it made us think of was the charm of sliding shoji doors.
I found the service at Sakagura unbelievable, in all the right ways. Not only the first place i've experienced such a hands on, charming and credible sake sommelier (my first in 4 years of dining in London), but a staff that are polite, humble and appreciate the time it takes to dine. If i'm hugging staff on my way out the door, it's a sure fire sign that i've had a good night... or a few too many glasses of sake.
The Food and Drink
While we can buy sushi from Tesco, and get our quick rice-bowl fixes at the likes of Yo! it's clear from the off that Sakagura was made for those that care for ingredients, enjoy the history of Washoku dining and appreciate omotenashi hospitality. Trying to up my Japanese game, there couldn't have been a better place to find out how sake and Eastern dining go hand in hand.
Starting with an assorted vegetable tempura, the batter was one of the most delicate i've had. Not weighing down the vegetables and perfectly paired with a konbu dashi dip, this is a light and savoury introduction to meal. Alongside this? One of the most decorative bowls i've ever seen in London. Opting to share the omakase sushi selection (£39), Sakagura promise utter flair. Not only we're the sashimi slices manageable and fresh, the hand-cut garnishes, hand-grated wasabi and ice-laden bown generated the ultimate in Japanese dining theatrics. Boasting an alliance with Gekkeikan, Sakagura's sommelier showed us a selection of bottles to pair with our meal. Starting with a John Sparkling (a champion from 2016) (£17.10 a glass), our sommelier showed us that the drink isn't reserved to warm servings, offering a light and punchy bubble that was perfect alongside the tempura. It was the warm sake with our sushi that stole the show however. Echoing an old fashioned and boasting just the right kick, the denshou was easy to drink and rich on the throat.
Served in a warm, clay iron pot, our rice-based kamameshi dishes were up next. Opting for the kinoko medley of umami mushroom and mixed Japanese mushrooms (£13), these are heavy but more-ish dishes that give rice a whole new name. While I loved the punch of the umami, we added a Robatayaki side to the order, bumping our iron pot up with a stunning salmon teriyaki that stole the show with its glaze. I don't know if you've been on Instagram recently, but raindrop cake has been doing the rounds, and we couldn't close without trying some. A clear umeshu jelly with light touch, those who have indulged at dinner could do no better. My favourite? The matcha gateau with its amicable goo and tea touch.
While if I had a pound for every time a restaurant claimed themselves a 'dining experience', I could finally open the UFO diner i've always dreamed of, it's Sakagura that more than earn themselves of such a title. Bespoke, perfectly geared toward traditional Washoku ways and churning out sake like no other space in London, Sakagura brings a wisdom to sushi and rice wine that cannot be compared.