Moto, Covent Garden
Small and sleek, this Covent Garden bar specialises in Japanese artisan drinks — including craft beer, vodka, absinthe, and tea — but there's a focus on sake. For many of the bottles 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 — comes with a lot of backstory and education from the very expert bar staff — and Japanese snacks. The fried chicken tempura has sake mixed into the batter, if you want to keep it on theme. Read more about our visit to Moto.
Moto, Covent Garden.
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A Shoreditch take on an izakaya, Apothecary takes in delicate tiraditos and ceviche; sticky, smoky teriyaki skewers; loud DJ sets; mood lighting and big curved booths. There's a plentitude of good carbs, too — fluffy hirata buns, kimchi rice, spicy salmon sushi rolls — ideal for soaking up some of the short, carefully-judged sake list. Prices run from £24-£32 for a carafe.
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 — where Japanese dishes, Nordic influences, high design decor, and a sommelier dedicated to sake matchings for your food await.
If you want to dabble in the higher reaches of the Nobu sake list (and it's an alluring one; the drinks list's been created with the same balance of precision and indulgence that the Nobu food menu is known for), you'll be paying a chunky price for the privilege. But the sake selection spans a breadth that'll also let you have the Nobu experience at a less triple-figured price: several sakes — including the sharp, peppery Hokusetsu Onigoroshi 'Devil Killer' — are at £10-£15 a glass, £38 a carafe. Our recommendation? Share a carafe and some popcorn shrimp sitting at the NAMI bar counter (attached to the main restaurant, with a little secluded terrace for warmer evenings) for a date night or catch-up-drink that feels both high-luxe and low-formality.
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 10 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.
For something to soak up your sake with, 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. If you're just in the market for drinks, skip the main restaurant and take a seat on the heated roof terrace instead for views across the city.
Bisushima, Covent Garden.
Yatay and ZOKU, Chinatown
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. 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 10, 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
This 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.
They don't just serve sake at Kanpai, they make it here. London's first sake brewery is flagged by an incandescent geisha mural slathered on the side of a warehouse, in the increasingly-trendy Copeland Park (home also to the famed Bussey Building). Up a flight of industrial stairs, you're greeted by a library of sake bottles, plus taps of draught sake, which, if you didn't know where you were, you'd assume was craft beer. Sip your way through small, seasonal batches brewed on site (absolutely adored a sparkling cherry number we had here lately), as well as the core range. There's plenty to keep your taste buds busy for the evening. The small Kanpai Kitchen across the way makes gorgeous okonomiyaki savoury pancakes to go with.
Back in 2017 we went to visit Kanpai, at their original Peckham industrial unit — read about our visit here.
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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.