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Friday, 25 November 2016

Sakagura, Mayfair

The Land of the Rising Sun’s national tipples of choice, saké - essentially wine made by fermenting polished rice - and its stronger cousin shochu - principally distilled from barley, buckwheat, sweet potato or sugar cane as well as from rice - are very much a niche taste among London drinkers. At this chic new Japanese restaurant, knowledgeable (Italian) staff enlighten you on the finer points of the drinks properties, heritage and culture. Sakagura (literally, ‘saké cellar’) stocks over 60 of the country’s finest saké, shochu and umeshu (plum wine) available by the glass, carafe or bottle at up to a sobering £1,000. Matured in cedar casks, creamy-sweet gekkeikan tarusaka, entry level at around £5.50 a glass, works well with assorted sahsimi, one of various bar snacks such as Wagyu beef, fresh velvety tuna tartare and tender chicken and burdock root skewers. Served with daikon (radish) and konbu dashi (savoury) dipping sauce, vegetable tempura that is dense and bland strikes the only dud note. The Japanese are also mad keen on whisky; a dozen or so indigenous distillations the base, here, for various highballs and well-balanced cocktails. At £13, Whisky Risky (Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve, saké, green Chartreuse, mint and yuzu bitters, pictured below) is a risk well worth taking. Saké, rather than gin, in a barrel-aged Nipppon-style Negroni makes for a lighter take on the Italian original. Japanese craft beers and spontaneous origami demonstrations are further reason to prop up Sakagura’s elegant destination bar.

8 Heddon Street W1B 4BS 3405 7230