Things change fast in a time of coronavirus. Check on venue websites and social media ahead of visiting for the most up to date details.
They take sake seriously at Pantechnicon — multiple floors of bars, shops, restaurants, cafes and al fresco spaces, all dedicated to Nordic meets Japanese-inspired food, drink, and homeware — with multiple sake drinking spots within its huge, pillared walls.
It's not cheap, but man is it it good-looking. You can take over the Sakaya, a four seater bar and bottle shop on the ground floor, to sip your way across their extensive range of sake with a curated tasting, or you can order from an extensive range of sake in Eldr, their — very pricey, but hygge-ful — rooftop bar. But if you're looking for a truly special occasion, sakecentric dinner head underground, to Sachi — Japanese dishes, Nordic influences, high design decor, and a sommelier dedicated to sake matchings for your food.
Bisushima, Covent Garden
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This tucked-away, rooftop restaurant just off Trafalgar Square wears its sake credentials lightly — not a whisper of it on their website, where the focus is more on their high end, modern take on sushi and traditional Japanese dishes. But a chunky part of the restaurant's drinks list is taken up with sake, with ten options by the glass and carafe, and 23 more by the bottle. (Oddly sake doesn't feature in the inventive cocktail menu, though.) Prices run from £9 a glass to £750 (not a typo) a bottle, and the range on offer's just as sweeping, taking in a creamy, sparkling Dassai 45, and sweet plum and yuzu sake, through to bottles like the Kikuhime yamahai junmai, at the savoury, earthy end of the sake spectrum.
If you want something to soak up your sake, don't miss the rich, thick seabream ankake with its dashi-heavy punch of umami — but be prepared to shell out if you're going to make a meal of it here; it's not cheap — or if you're just in the market for drinks, you can skip the main restaurant and take a seat on the heated roof terrace instead for views across the city.
Bisushima, Covent Garden.
Moto, Covent Garden
Small and sleek, this Covent Garden bar specialises in Japanese artisan drinks — including craft beer, vodka, absinthe, and tea — with a focus on sake. For many of the products on the menu they're the first UK importer, and they offer takeaway and delivery, but we'd recommend grabbing a counter seat in the bar for a sake flight — the most affordable and accessible route through their sake menu — and Japanese snacks. The fried chicken's breaded in tempura crumbs and sake, if you want to keep it on theme. Read about our visit to Moto here.
Moto, Covent Garden.
Yatay and ZOKU, Soho
Trawling Soho for a post-midnight sake fix? Trawl no longer, because basement bar ZOKU has a 2am licence, and a very alluring sake cocktail menu — including the Shibuya Meltdown with sencha infused sake, campari, and white vermouth, and the Chuhai for sharing, a blend of white wine, sake, and red berry tea. Or if you're in the market for a selection of (really fantastic) modern Japanese sharing plates or skewers hot off the robata grill to go with your sake, upstairs restaurant Yatay's the place to be.
If neat sake's your vibe, Yatay and ZOKU share a punchy list of ten, with servings ranging from the glass up to the isshobin (1800ml bottle), and styles from clean ginjo flavours to sweeter umeshu serves.
Issho-ni, Bethnal Green
The neighbourhoody Japanese has a chunky sake section on its menu, with six of them on offer by the (decently priced) glass, and four by the carafe. But for our money the real gamechanger's on the cocktail list: warm mulled sake. Infused with orange, sage, cardamom and nutmeg, garnished with slices of green apple, it feels very wholesome and comforting — but with a little frisson of decadence at the same time. Like all good mulled stuff.
Issho-ni, Bethnal Green.
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Back in 2017 we went to visit Kanpai, London's first sake brewery, at their Peckham industrial unit. Read about our visit here. After crowdfunding in 2018, the team moved to a larger space, still in Peckham. The extra space allowed them to expand their brewing to include small, seasonal batches, on top of their core range, and to open a taproom. Visit Wednesday to Sunday for outdoor seating, guest chefs in residency, and sake on tap.
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The Madam Butterfly's a spicy love letter to lychee, made with sake, vodka, lychee liqueur, and chilli syrup — it's not going to replace the lychee martini in your affections, but it's complex, punchy, and lovely. And just one of the sake cocktails that My neighbours the dumplings is serving out of their neon lit underground bar at their Clapton restaurant. There's also a good list of sake by the glass, for the purists — and be certain to order their roasted peanut potstickers to soak it up.
Matilda's at My neighbours the dumplings, Hackney.
Chotto Matte, Soho
Sake crops up regularly on the menu at Nikkei restaurant Chotto Matte, with sake matchings for desserts, and inventive sake cocktails. If you want to explore the latter, you can drink bottomless sake cocktails at the Harajuku brunch every Saturday, where £85 gets you three courses of Nikkei sharing plates, and an hour and a half of unlimited drinks, including their excellent Tokyo Dreams — a goblet of frozen, sour, refreshing sake slushy — and the Nikkei Nights, like a gin sour, with an extra hit of yuzu and sake.
Chotto Matte, Soho.