Moto: The Sake Bar Doing Decadent Snacks And Fish-Flavoured Martinis
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Moto's a narrow sliver of a bar on Maiden Lane, small enough that it only needs 12 people to feel nicely crammed. 14 would make it feel like human Tetris.
The food menu's also small, but perfectly-formed for seeing you through a sake flight or several. A version of karaage with tempura and sake, the chicken fry is a stack of hot, crunchy little pieces of thigh meat for £8. The nekomanma is the Grail: a bowl of rice, sticky with goose fat, gently curling bonito flakes and soy-cured egg yolk wobbling on top. At £5 it's a genius work of richness, mellow umami and carb-loading.
The drinks bounce between fantastic value and eye-wateringly pricey. A sake flight sets you back £15 and comes with three generous glasses, a bit of ceremony — cards printed with poetic tasting notes, delicate maps of the breweries and for the sake connoisseur, details like Rice Polishing Ratio — and a lot of enthusiasm and background from the bar staff.
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On the flip side, we pay £34 for two cocktails (£15 each and service) — which is going to sting in any bar, but the more so for being the same price as you'd pay for the classics in the Ye Olde splendour of Rules, just across the road.
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You know Moto has got you covered in the drinks department, but our food ain't too shabby either. Not to brag (okay, so what if we were) but we've been told our Chicken Fry, cooked with tempura batter and sake, is the best fried chicken in London! Food menu available from 4pm till late ✌️
Still though, the Moto cocktails are complex, precisely wrought things: the Ocean Martini's a divisive beast of vermouth, miso, and bonito gin, garnished with more bonito. It smells like the ocean, but with an earthy, fishy punch, like the ocean where it meets a working harbour. Bonito flakes stuck to the side of the glass curl and flex gently like small anemones. It's hypnotic, a bit sinister, extremely briny and almost-but-not-quite too much. Was very happy with one, would never order two in a row.
The Junemyold Fashion (Junemyo whisky and brown sugar) is the polar opposite, a sweet and smoky crowdpleaser you could spend an evening re-ordering (if your wallet would stretch to it).
Moto's a nice addition to Covent Garden; the bar snacks and sake flights are about the perfect size and price to fill a pre-theatre shaped hole in your evening. Claim a counter seat, arm yourself with some tasting cards and a bowl of sticky, eggy rice, and get ready to Kanpai your way through one of London's largest sake collections.
Moto, 7 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA.
Last Updated 08 January 2020