Hey, it’s spring! Time to smell the flowers, right? That’s what folks in Japan would be doing right about now, getting all Hamani-ed out and digging on some cherry blossoms. Odds are they’d be chowing down on some kick ass food and drink while contemplating the temporal beauty of life too. So, like, why not here in London too? Well, guess what! Now Londoners can enjoy Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival treats as well.
From the 15th of April to the 25th of May, Akashi-Tai Sake Brewery, along with a number of London-based Japanese restaurants, will host London’s first Hanami (or Cherry Blossom Festival). Each participating restaurant will feature a special Cherry Blossom Festival menu with limited edition dishes, each matched to a specific sake or sakura cocktails. Restaurants taking part in this brilliant excuse to eat and drink traditional Japanese yummies include Bincho (16 Old Compton Street, W1), MeLoveSushi (100 Avenue Road, NW3), Saf (152-154 Curtain Road, EC2), Saki Bar & Food Emporium (4 West Smithfield, EC1), Sushinho (312 - 314 King’s Road, SW3) and Tsuru (4 Canvey Street, SE1). Lucky Londonist got to sample some of these special dishes and corresponding bevies at three of the six participating restaurants and well we’re really chuffed that we did.
MeLoveSushi’s abundant Hanami set menu featuring a sashimi platter, a salmon and avocado temaki and a uramaki duck served with a “Sushi Love” cocktail (all for just under fifteen quid) had us thinking this casual Swiss Cottage eatery has the value-for-money concept down pat. To be sure, this menu is tasty and easy on palettes a little less familiar with Japanese cuisine. As for the “Sushi Love” cocktail, it represents a tangy opportunity to get down and dirty with luxury Japanese spirit, Tokiwa Shochu. By the way, MLS delivers.
Soho’s yakitori masters, Bincho, wowed us with their Hanami offering: pink sea bream, a traditional dish served during Hanami in Japan, grilled to perfection and served with a generous helping of some damn fine Akashi-Tai Honjozo (all for £7.50 - nice one). This was our first venture to Bincho but will most definitely not be the last.
Last, but by no means least, Tsuru (one of our favourite South Bank standbys) had our tongues wagging with a massive futomaki roll chocked full of smoked eel, shitake mushrooms and Japanese pickles. Served with a glass of chilled Akashi-Tai Daiginjo sake for £8.95 or with a shochu cocktail for £9.95, it’s a savoury bargain that shouldn’t be missed at this Canvey Street gem. Londonist opted for the cocktail - the Sakura Blossom. Here’s the recipe:
40ml Tokiwa Shochu
15ml lime juice
10ml sugar syrup
10ml cherry liquor
Sake lovers and Japanese cuisine fanatics, London’s first Hanami gives us reason to rejoice! Sushi novices and shochu noobs, the 15th of April to the 25th of May is your chance to catch a foodie break!
Photography by Chris Osburn