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Sakagura offers Japanese dining at its formidable best

Sakagura is a relatively new addition to London’s thriving Japanese restaurant scene. After a summer’s evening spent succumbing to its charms, Matthew Benger is convinced it will prove a welcome one

There are few greater pleasures than to dine al fresco on an early summer’s evening; and few finer places in London to do so than Heddon Street, the secluded little avenue of restaurants and galleries that somehow manages to be connected to Regent Street yet offer a passable impersonation of a quiet continental suburb. Sakagura, the Japan Centre group’s elegant new restaurant and sake bar, has certainly got the location right.

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More importantly, it’s got a lot of other things right as well. The interior, for one, an intimate little space with barrels of sake hanging like giant pieces of ornate fruit. In normal circumstances it would be a pleasure to eat there; but with a long summer evening to enjoy, it would have been churlish to sit indoors.

The service is impeccable. At one wince-inducing point in the evening, three diners on the adjacent table decide to share their views on the order Japanese dishes should be served. “We want the hot food first and the cold food later – take the sushi away.” Fortunately, Sakagura is run on the principle of omotenashi – hospitality at all costs – and our waiters proved as courteous as the customers were crude.

Our food is judiciously paired with a selection of light, resonant sakes and rounded off with a superlative cocktail

The food itself proves delicious, and impeccably presented. In particular, the palate-cleansing tsukemono (‘pickled things’) includes a delicate plum which luxuriates in the hinterland between sour and sweet. Equally elegant is the chef’s sashimi selection, subtly flavourful and served on blocks of ice that offer a passable imitation of a sculpture. We once again had to avert our eyes as our fellow diners doused the carefully nurtured delicacy in the amount of soy sauce that you’d put on a Boots meal deal.

Sakagura also holds a formidable reputation in the drinks department, with an array of stunning cocktails, sakes and whiskeys. Our food is judiciously paired with a selection of light, resonant sakes and rounded off with a superlative cocktail – the ‘Hibiki Moyasu’, a woozy, smoky concoction in which bathes a giant globe of ice. It looks as though the waiter had captured the moon in a glass. You’ll almost feel guilty for drinking it. But you will.

Next time you find yourself hungry and harassed by the central London crowds, fix your compass to Heddon Street, where a place of sanctuary, sake and Michelin-quality cuisine awaits you.

Sakagura, 8 Heddon Street, Mayfair, W1B 4BU; sakaguralondon.com

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