Behind the hustle and bustle of Regents Street you’ll find a street many miss on their trip to London’s shopping central. Heddon Street is a calm oasis tucked away, but if you walk down the narrow alley you’ll find a treasure trove of eateries. Nestled amongst these is Sakagura, a smart, chic Japanese restaurant and Sake bar serving Washoku style dining.
Washoku is the traditional food of Japan. The dishes incorporate a balanced mix of rice, miso, pickled vegetables, fish and meat into each meal which combine the five flavours and stimulate the senses. There is a big focus on seasonal produce and beautiful presentation is key.
The restaurant name translates as ‘Sake Cellar’ and the bar surely lives up to its name. Stocked with some of the best premium sakes sourced from some of the best local producers from across Japan. The bar dominates the far side of the low-lit ground floor dining room.
The brooding, stripped back interiors make you feel like you’ve been transported to Tokyo from the moment you enter. Wooden tables, copper lighting, dark flooring, touches of marble and black leather along with traditional Japanese furnishings.
We were seated outside. Initially there was confusion as to which menu we’d be eating from as the waiter assumed we’d be experiencing the Yakiniku. What’s that? Well, many come for the traditional charcoal barbecue, where you can cook a selection of meat, fish and veg together with an array of Japanese dipping sauces. However, as a vegetarian the options are limited and I was more interested in trying the far wider selection of veggie delights on the à la carte menu.
Although it took a while to actually see a menu. This was not for lack of asking. More that our waiter had an air of Basil Fawlty about him. When it finally arrived there was only one. We were left sharing a menu between us – quite tricky when you’re unfamiliar with the food. Until finally the second arrived and normal menu perusal continued.
Our Washoku journey began with a dip into the incredible drinks menu. Mine was a lychee tini, a gin, shaken with gekkeikan josen sake, violet liqueur, lychee and maraschino cherry liqueur.
Mo ordered the hedonist mojito, a mix of Japanese and cuban rums, fresh mint leaves, umeshu, fresh citrus, gyokuro tea infused syrup and fresh pomegranates. Trust me having a list of ingredients as long as your arm is worth it. They were pretty special.
First up from the extensive menu was Mo’s ika karaage – squid calamari with lime and chilli aioli dip (£8). Crispy and delicate, it was not at all orange in flavour as the photo will have you believe. You’ll have to take my word for it but it was a lovely creamy tempura colour. Sat outside we had a red heat lamp radiating an orangey red glow on our table. Apparently even I resembled a oompa loompa. We very quickly asked for it to be switched. All in the name of good photography.
From the robatayaki section, basically charcoal grilled I ordered the astuage tofu. The lightly fried tofu came topped with slithers of spring onion and shaved ginger. At the table the waiter poured over a sweet soy amadare broth which was seriously tasty. The tofu was perfect, crispy on the outside with a silky melt in the mouth texture. It had me doing an imaginary macarana
Finally at dish three the fake tan light was switched off – Huzzah, just in time for the pretty dish which also came from the robatayaki. Nasu dengaku (£9), is by far my favourite dish at Sakagura. Succulent and luscious the soft aubergine is marinated in a sweet miso glaze and topped with crispy lotus root – superb.
The king oyster mushrooms are roasted in a traditional ceramic pot with truffle butter and ponzu. I loved the combination of the tangy ponzu with earthy richness of the butter. If you’re a mushroom fan you need eryngii tobanyaki (£10) in your life.
Before Mo even saw the menu she announced she wanted the black cod. She’d heard great things about the tara miso yaki (£26). Simply miso grilled the perfectly cooked dish hit all the right notes and lived up to its hype.
The charcoal grilled yakatori skewers came in the form of goosnargh chicken with spring onion and coated in a teriyaki glaze (£4). A big hit with my dining partner.
And the feast continued, but we were starting to feel our eyes were bigger than our bellies. The assorted vegetable tempura (£12) with a side of grated daikon and konbu dashi dip was light, crispy and flavoursome.
The kamameshi is a seasonal flavoured rice, cooked to order in a cast iron pot. Mo opted for the madai and ikura – red sea bream and salmon roe, (£15). The rice is mixed by hand at the table, apparently cooking rice in this way gives it great depth flavour. Mo found the fishy element a little too overpowering but enjoyed the chewy texture of the koshihikari rice.
Finally we had to accept defeat on the non-stop food fest and asked for the table to be cleared. Only to be offered a glass of the Gekkeikan ‘denshou’ sake. Never one to refuse a tipple, I was slightly dubious not being a huge sake fan. Well I was pleasantly surprised by the fruity lychee and melon notes – they gave it quite a light and refreshing flavour.
Even though we were both at the point where ‘top button jeans relief ‘ was a necessity. We couldn’t leave without trying a Japanese dessert and shared the matcha fondant gateau (£8). Mo wasn’t too keen, but I found it well executed. Even though full I clearly had no problem lapping up the molten matcha flowing out.
Apart from the shortcomings in the service, there is no doubt over the quality of the food at Sakagura. Only the best seasonal produce is served with a real creative flair. The vegetarian dishes on the menu are certainly stand out and that was coming from my carnivore diner. It’s certainly refreshing to dine out and not feel like an afterthought.
Sakagura | 8 Heddon Street | London |W1B 4B
Disclaimer: Our meal for two was complimentary, however, all views, opinions and photos are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
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