Sakagura has been booked and cancelled so many times over the last couple of months but on a freezing snowy Saturday in March, my sushi-loving daughter and I were determined to go despite the second dumping of snow last month. It’s a restaurant that I wanted to add to my repertoire of Japanese restaurants, so I was really looking forward to trying it out. Situated in the cute mews-like Heddon Street a few feet away from Piccadilly underground, first impressions were great.
Authentic Japanese washoku menu alongside unlimited champagne, wine and Japanese bloody mary served in traditional Japanese wood-style interior. Naturally, the restaurant was completely full as you’d expect when restaurants feature a “bottomless brunch” menu, we were guided to our table where our waitress gave us the lowdown of Sakagura’s bottomless brunch offering, we then ordered our drinks.
Our table was next to the bar which has several stools where you could choose to eat, I had an opportunity to snap a couple of photos of the bar when it was relatively quiet as I was impressed by the mesmeric display of sake barrels suspended above the bar.
This is where it gets interesting, although we had ordered our drinks, my daughter chose a mocktail called Kirei Tonic, a refreshing mix of cucumber, lime, elderflower cordial, aloe juice and tonic served in a tall glass enveloped in a thin long slice of cucumber, I decided to try the Japanese bloody mary, it took an eternity to arrive. We were reminded as soon as we sat down that unlimited drinks are served for a duration of 90 minutes only, I thought at this rate, I will only be able to enjoy champagne for half an hour. With no exaggeration, it took 30 minutes for our drinks to arrive never mind the food which took 45 minutes to arrive. All the while, I notice the waiters duly running off to the larger tables (as I notice the table of champagne swigging ladies next to us) to top up their champagne flutes and glasses while I was left to ponder where our drinks were. Safe to say, I did not like the bloody mary, it was quite foolish of me to have ordered it in the first place as I’m not a lover of bloody mary’s but just because it was titled Japanese bloody mary, I intrigued and so I thought I would give it a go, it was far too spicy for me. I asked for champagne which is always my tipple of choice, the familiar delicious zingy bubbles of champagne so welcome after the peppery bloody mary.
Finally, after much anticipation, the starters and nibbles arrived displayed in a large bento-style wooden box with little compartments each containing Japanese delights, Chicken Karaage, Shashimi and assorted Tempura plus Edamame, Maki Sushi and salad. I’d forgotten to tell the waitress that my daughter was allergic to salmon, so she very kindly replaced the salmon shashimi and sushi with tuna.
We were absolutely famished having waited more than 45 minutes for our meal, so we dived straight in. The tempura was divine, perfectly crispy with a good range of vegetables, the shashimi was super fresh and soft and of course, the maki sushi was completely delicious, my daughter complaining there wasn’t enough of it. I can understand her thoughts behind this, she always compares every single Japanese to her favourite restaurant Sake no Hana where there is always a wide and full range of sushi and maki rolls. The Karaage chicken we both felt was rather greasy and quite filling, we weren’t huge fans and we both felt the salad although tasty and brought to life with a sweet peanut dressing had no place in the selection of dishes on offer. It could have been replaced with another type of sushi and that would have been perfectly acceptable.
Soon to arrive were our mains, my daughter had chosen the beef Teriyaki while I went for mixed Teriyaki. Delicious skewers of tender beef in Teriyaki sauce while my mixed Teriyaki consisted of pork and duck as well as beef Teriyaki and a kofta-style skewer which I was informed was a mix of chicken with flavourings and herbs. My Yakitori mix was served alongside an unusual egg yolk which surprisingly really complemented the meat and thin slices of crispy lotus which made an appearance on my daughter’s plate too. We both agreed that the Yakitori was delicious, tender and succulent however with my champagne running on empty, I had to annoyingly keep asking for it to be topped up, my daughter switched to coke after her mocktail.
In Sakagura’s bottomless brunch menu, the dessert is ice-cream and it’s an interesting choice. Two scoops of either Sake kasu vanilla, dark chocolate wasabi, soy sauce caramel, Matcha ice-cream or yuzushu sorbet, they all sounded so exciting. I decided to go for the soy sauce caramel ice-cream and yuzushu sorbet while my daughter chose the dark chocolate wasabi and the soy caramel. I’ve got to say, the ice-cream was stunning, and I think was the best thing on this menu, yep the best thing we ate all lunch time! It was super rich, creamy and delightful, the caramel soy was unlike any other ice-cream I’ve ever had almost reminding me of a salted caramel and the sorbet was clean, fresh and zingy, a cheeky shot of gin or vodka would be something I would have added if I was making this at home ? My daughter loved her wasabi chocolate, I’d say it’s similar to adding chilli to chocolate which is a very popular combination, it wasn’t too fiery and she also loved the soy caramel, we both agreed that the ice-cream was unexpectedly the highlight of our meal.
We asked for the bill which took half an hour to arrive, carrying on the late theme to our Sakagura visit, I wasn’t surprised but i was annoyed. When it finally did arrive, I noticed that they charged me for my daughter’s coke even though it was meant to be limitless and part of the bottomless brunch since she couldn’t have any alcohol, they adjusted the bill and we left coming out of a warm restaurant and into a blizzard, the snow was back with a vengeance.
Sakagura I’ve decided is restaurant I won’t be visiting again although the food was overall very good apart from the Karaage chicken which was too greasy, the addition of salad and maybe Edamame (as much as love Edamame) a bit unnecessary preferring instead a bit more sushi, perhaps the bento box could be interpreted as a bit of a gimmick. My real disappointment however was how I was constantly left with an empty flute of champagne when this was supposed to be bottomless brunch with limitless champagne and coke for my daughter. Although her glass was full, mine was always empty and I was quite annoyed that I had to keep asking for more champagne while the waiters were eager to top up the other diners’ glasses with bubbly and wine. Inside I was seething although I didn’t show my anger to the staff, I felt Sakagura’s service was shoddy, not least because of the failure to attend to our empty glasses but top that off with the length of time our food took to arrive and the 30 minutes I had to wait for the bill, I was already making my mind up that I wouldn’t be making another visit to Sakagura. Service is everything to me, not just in a restaurant or casual café, but in all service industries and in my belief, Sakagura fell short of the service that I expect of a restaurant of this calibre. There was no excuse in failing to top up my champagne as there were plenty of waiters milling around. There was no excuse to bring our food late while many of the diners who arrived after us were served before us, there was no excuse to wait half an hour to be presented with the bill. There are many other restaurants in London with good bottomless brunches for the money we spent, I will say it again, SakenoHana have it down to a tee, perfect food and enough sushi, no gimmicks, attentive waiters and good value for money. Sakagura, please take tips from your competitors, improve the service and then I may consider coming back.
Bottomless brunch is £45 per person, our bill came to £101 including service.
8 Heddon Street
020 3405 7230