Sake no Hana: Flower of sake

When a restaurant boasts the name of Alan Yau behind it, one cannot help but have high expectations. Alan Yau is the man synonymous with the success of Hakkasan and Yauatcha, both Michelin star holders, and other well-known establishments such as Busaba Eathai, Wagamama and the recently-opened gorgeous Milanese bakery, Princi. Such is his Midas touch, it seems only just to have high expectations when stepping through the door of one of his restaurants. So it was that I went to dinner at Sake no Hana (Flower of Sake) last night, another Alan Yau offering, giddy with the weight of expectation. Add the money of owner Evgeny Lebedev, son of a Russian oligarch, and a location in the heart of Mayfair, and you would seemingly have a blend to induce one huge success story.

But for the privilege of such a pedigree, a monied backdrop and said location, comes a price. Case in point, the beer. £9.50. Yes you read right, nine pounds and fifty pence. Ok, it was good beer, Suntory premium malt (a winner of the Grand Gold Medal at Monde Selection for Three Consecutive Years), and admittedly not a kind you might readily obtain in London. But still: £9.50? It was the same price as my cocktail, the ‘Gandara Dream’ (Kumquats, Diplomatico Reserva rum, Don Julio Silver tequila, Umeshu plum liqueur, almond sugar and green tea), which as delicious as it was, was more ice than drink.

Softshell crab salad with wasabi sauce

Softshell crab salad with wasabi sauce

We started with a softshell crab salad with wasabi sauce (£10.50), although we had tried to start with two different scallop dishes: the prawn, scallop and lotus root katsu (£8), and the scallop and spring onion in miso mustard dressing (£8.50), only to be told that both the scallop dishes were unavailable. Huh? It was barely 7pm, and with Sake no Hana’s pricing levels and upmarket persona, this was all too disappointing.

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Via Condotti Italian Restaurant

When you’ve recently travelled back from Sydney to London on a 24 hour flight and had to suffer the injustice of an 11 hour time difference, presumably you could be forgiven for ignoring your friends. For a week or so after I arrived back in London, I hibernated in my flat and barely saw daylight other than to ward off hunger pains with the occasional visit to the shops. However there came a point when the explanations I gave for my absenteeism such as “I’ve been so jetlagged,” or “I’ve not slept,” were no longer acceptable excuses from not partaking in the social norms of reality.

Eventually the call to order arrived, a message through my hotmail account asking if I was still alive. And so it was that I awoke with a jolt, literally and figuratively as my stomach also stirred with grumbles for a satiable fill of my favourite pastime, a good meal out with friends.

So it was on a crisp autumnal evening that I walked down Conduit Street to my destination, Via Condotti, an Italian ristorante named after Rome’s most famous shopping strip (Via Condotti) and itself located within the reaches of some of London’s finest shops. As I approached the restaurant, I was met with a beguiling entrance which laid claim to a charming dining room lit with warm soft hues, peach and magnolia walls and light wood floors. White linen tables and leather backed chairs had been arranged comfortably throughout.

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