There’s a drink revolution going on in the UK and it’s all to do with Japanese sake. And if you want to experience it firsthand, then London is one of the best places to step into the world of nihonshu at Moto, the UK’s first independent sake bar and shop. While sake has always been a staple of menus in Japanese restaurants, Moto has taken it a step further by making the alcohol the star of the show and the results are electrifying.
A warm welcome as soon as you get through the door
I recently spent time at Moto and had a chance to chat with co-founder Erika Haigh about the concept behind the bar and the drinks on offer. As soon as I came through the door, Erika provided some great hospitality and put up with my million questions about the sake industry. Meanwhile, the bartender was knowledgeable and passionate about the drinks and presented tasting cards with descriptions of the various drinks with flavour profiles, brewery and ingredients.
With menu in hand, I dived into a glass of Okuhida Nigori (cloudy) sake. It had a pleasant, oaty texture with an undercurrent of creaminess that got me in the mood for the next drink. From there, I switched to a glass of Kokubushuzo imo (sweet potato) shochu that had a bright, refreshing taste that cleared my palate.
Next up, a bottle of Weizen craft beer from Beer Hearn of Shizuoka. With notes of banana, clove and citrus, the Weizen went down easily and prepared me for one of the finest tasting whiskeys I’ve ever sampled called Junenmyo Half Decade from the Watatsaru Saburomaru Distillery in Hokuriku. Spicy, wild and rugged, the whisky was reminiscent of a peaty Scotch.
This kind of variation is where Moto excels. The bar offers rare drinks from some of the hardest working breweries in Japan and tells the story of their craftsmanship. There’s also the opportunity to try sake flights and participate in experiential drinking that can help to build knowledge about the different grades of sake.
Food and sake side by side
While the drinks are the main attraction, the food is just as important. Each dish is carefully selected to match with a sake and works on an ever-changing otsumami/Japanese tapas basis. The means there’s always something new to try and you’ll be able to get the most out of your dining experience.
And if that wasn’t enough, Moto lets you bring an appreciation of sake home with you. They operate a retail service and you’re able to take a bottle away with a food pairing suggestions, recommended serving temperatures and more.
From hospitality to ambience, Moto covers all bases. It felt like I’d spent the afternoon chatting with old friends and that’s the kind of warm atmosphere that makes a bar truly special.
Address: 7 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7NA
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 12PM – 12AM
Wednesday – 12PM – 12AM
Thursday – 12PM – 12:30AM
Friday – 12PM – 12:30AM
Saturday – 12PM – 12:30AM
Sunday – 12PM – 10PM
Check out Yamato Magazine’s interview with Erika and discover more about what to expect from Moto in the future.