We caught up with Bruno Veninga, Head of Design at Hakkasan Group and the Executive Head Chef Hideki Hiwatashi to talk about the Sake no Hana and Design.
Bruno Veninga – Director of Architecture and Design
What is your role within Sake no Hana, and what does Design mean to you?
My overall role for Hakkasan Group is Director of Architecture and Design. I’m responsible for the coordination of all things design which makes me the architectural/interior design brand guardian. I’m very proud of all the work that we do at Hakkasan Group and we will always do whatever is possible to ensure the brand’s aesthetics are respected and developed.
Can you tell us a little about the design of the restaurant and which designers were involved?
Sake no Hana was originally designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates. The inspiration is taken directly from Japanese domestic architecture and Japanese forests, using a lot of naturally finished Japanese timber and simple clean lines, maintaining minimalism through detail. Even the carpenters who installed the Japanese imported timber were flown over from Japan to ensure everything was constructed with Japanese precision and methodology.
How important is the design of the restaurant to the guest experience?
All of our restaurants, including Sake no Hana, engage with all five senses of the customer. While food engages smell, taste, sight and, in some cases, sound (for example, in Sake no Hana the charcoal grill is brought to the table), the architecture engages with smell, sight, sound and touch… material selection and integration with the guest experience is a critical component of the design and the guest experience.
How does design impact the food and how it is served to guests?
We are all affected by our environment, and this includes what and where we eat. If a customer is surrounded by luxurious materials yet feeling a calmness through the intricate simplicity of the design and warmth of the music, and the lights have been designed and set to bring out the right colours in the food presented, the customers’ experience will be greatly heightened. The design of the restaurant also influences the chef and operational teams’ selection for presentation, i.e. crockery, cutlery, glassware, etc. so it all ties in to a single, satisfying experience.
Hideki Hiwatashi – Executive Head Chef
Where do the chefs draw inspiration from?
Our team of chefs always focus on seasonal ingredients. In London, we’re lucky that we can access most ingredients throughout the year, however we like to use those that are typically seasonal in the UK. We try to showcase a balance of traditional Japanese flavours with an added touch of Mayfair luxury. We look at the authentic dishes in Japan that are very popular and adapt them using Western ingredients and flavours.
For anyone who has not been to Sake no Hana, what would you suggest they try?
We have lots of signature dishes at Sake no Hana that guests come back for again and again. One of our classic dishes is the Hamachi usuzukuri: thinly sliced yellowtail sashimi with truffle black pepper ponzu. One of my favourite dishes is the Chilean sea bass with Champagne yuzu miso sauce.
What did guests eat at the LDF event at the V&A ?
The menu we provided for the event showcased a range of our maki rolls which are very popular at Sake no Hana – this included Aburi salmon maki, Wagyu beef maki and spicy tuna maki rolls.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up in the future?
We are about to have extended World Sake Day celebrations at Sake no Hana on Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October. Over a century ago, 1st October was designated the “Nihonshu no Hi” or the “Day of Sake”. This day marked the New Year in sake production, now known as World Sake Day. We are hosting kagami biraki ceremonies at 12.30pm and 6.30pm on both days. The kagami biraki is a traditional Japanese ceremony where a cask of sake is smashed open and guests are offered cups of sake from the barrel. We’re also hosting a sake class that guests can purchase tickets for to teach people all about the history of sake and how to drink it. We have also just announced that we will be taking Sake no Hana to Indonesia in Jakarta and Bali next year which is very exciting.