Celebrate the ephemeral beauty of the cherry blossom (sakura) and the Japanese tradition of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) without the eight hour flight to the land of the rising sun with our pick of London’s top hanami installations
Lead image: Sakagura’s cherry blossom installation
1 Shochu Lounge at ROKA Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia
ROKA Charlotte Street has pretty much perfected its cherry blossom season offering over the years, transforming its underground bar, Shochu Lounge, with a pop of pink florals. Celebrating the Japanese tradition of hanami, where crowds gather to picnic and party below the cherry blossom trees and celebrate the transience of the beautiful sprig blooms (and, you know, life). Limited-edition cocktails, available from 26 March, include The Tokyo Rose, a fusion of rose petal-infused gin, Aperol, plum sake and peach bitters, and Shochu on the Beach, which blends cherry shochu, pineapple and cranberry and peach liqueur. Even more exciting is the Sakura Sunday brunch, featuring the likes of sashimi, beef ginger and sesame dumplings, and salmon fillet teriyaki with sansho salt, launching on 7 April (£60pp).
37 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia W1T 1RR; rokarestaurant.com
2 Mei Ume at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square
Mei Ume at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square is celebrating the centuries-old Japanese custom of cherry blossom viewing, known as hanami. The restaurant and bar will be transformed with elaborate cherry blossom-inspired décor from 11 March until 22 April, alongside a special a la carte Japanese menu. Mei Ume is honoring hanami by transforming the entrance and bar with twisting boughs of blossoms. Special dishes include king prawn tempura with spicy mayo and a golden dragon roll with unagi, fresh Alaskan crab and avocado, as well as a fragrant snow flake matcha cake with salted caramel ice cream. Try a cherry blossom cocktail with Roku Gin, Rinomato, cactus and chilli syrup, yuzu juice and sparkling sake topped with a cherry blossom cloud, too. Available until 22 April.
10 Trinity Square, the City EC3N 4AJ; meiume.com
Zuma is celebrating hanami with a unique sakura installation featuring real-life tree trunks and branches covered in beautiful pale pink flowers, lining the walls and ceiling of the Zuma bar. Created in partnership with Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire, Zuma’s Bar Manager Pawel Rolka has also crafted a selection of specially made cocktails to accompany the installation, combining the seasonal tastes of Japan with Bombay Sapphire’s hand-picked botanicals and the elegant, floral notes of Grey Goose’s superior vodka. Try a Kyushu Fizz (Grey Goose la poire vodka, chinotto nero, amontillado sherry, walnut bitters and med tonic water) or Frozen Hana (Star of Bombay gin, plum sake, tonic reduction, dry vermouth and martini bitters). Available from 31 March until 23 June.
5 Raphael Street, Knightsbridge SW7 1DL; zumarestaurant.com
4 Hanami at Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch
Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory are teaming up to celebrate cherry blossom season by transforming the terrace into a tranquil escape of pink foliage and aromatic scents. Launching on Friday 5 April, the Hanami pop-up will showcase contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and a limited-edition afternoon tea. Cocktails will include the Gin & Sonic (Roku Gin, Sonic Water and fresh ginger), Kyoto Sidecar (Chita Grain Whisky infused Green Heart Oolong 2018, Cointreau and yuzu juice) and Kinto (Haku Vodka, Old Java Kinto Cold Brew Coffee, honey and vanilla sugar and soda water), while dishes include Toro Avocado on Tofu Bun, Steak Tartare with Creamy Spicy Yuba and Harumaki Snow Crab Shiso Salsa. The sakura-inspired afternoon tea features the likes of Sushi Rice Pudding with Pecan Candies, Tuna Matsuhisa Shokupan and Samurai California Roll. Running until Sunday 2 June.
10-50 Willow Street, Shoreditch EC2A 4BH; nobuhotelshoreditch.com
5 The Sakura Pop-Up at Hush, Mayfair
Hush, Mayfair’s best-kept fine-dining secret, is paying tribute to Japan’s enchanting cherry blossoms with the help of Sakurao Gin, the first gin to come from the Hiroshima region of Japan, and Franklin & Sons. The pop-up, named Sakura, meaning cherry blossom in Japanese, will transform Hush’s iconic townhouse courtyard into a magical Japanese garden with an explosion of intricate Japanese florals and a beautiful entrance arch. Running from 11 March until 12 May, the Sakura pop-up will be serving Sakurao Gin, which features botanicals of sweet summer orange, green tea and citrus fruits, paired with Franklin & Sons tonic under a canopy of delicate cherry blossoms. Alternatively, try one of four Sakurao Original Gin cocktails, from a fruity Strawberry Fields to the thirst-quenching Paradise Garden.
8 Lancashire Court, Mayfair W1S 1EY; hush.co.uk
6 Sakagura, Mayfair
Sakagura is celebrating the iconic cherry blossom season once again, by transforming the restaurant into a candy-coloured Japanese wonderland of pink petals. Dine among the cherry blossoms and enjoy a bespoke list of limited-edition cocktails, created in partnership with Gekkeikan – the choice brewery of the Japanese Imperial Family – and The House of Suntory, showcasing Roku craft gin and Toki. Try Beneath the Sakura Tree (Gekkeikan honjozo sake mixed with Cointreau and oolong tea syrup, served slightly warm), the Wild Blossom (Toki whisky blended with caramel syrup and topped with handmade berry soda), and Hanami Calling (Roku gin using botanicals direct from the Sakura tree, mixed with honey, lemon and Red Shiso Umeshu). Each cocktail is priced at £15. You can also try Gekkeikan’s very first non-alcoholic sake, which is making its debut appearance exclusively at Sakagura, in the Innocent Cherry mocktail (£6). Available from 1-28 April.
8 Heddon Street W1B 4BU; sakaguralondon.com
7 Sakura Season @ Chotto Matte, Soho
Chotto-Matte, London’s legendary Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) restaurant based in Soho, has launched an array of vibrant dishes in celebration of sakura season. From Ebi Blossom Tempura (shrimp served in a crispy pink tempura casing with a side of creamy spicy yuzu) and Sakura Sashimi (peach salsa and lemon sesame soy) to the restaurant’s famed Rain Drop Jelly dessert (edible flowers encased by a clear jelly served with cherry ripple ice cream), all dishes have been given a floral twist to pay homage to the arrival of spring and the iconic cherry blossom. While you’re there, try a Jasmine Fantasy cocktail, featuring jasmine-infused gin served with grapefruit and St Germain liqueur. Available from 31 March.
11-13 Frith Street, Soho W1D 4RB; chotto-matte.com