As warmer weather beckons at last, Leeds’ finest Japanese fusion establishment is welcoming the sunshine in style.
Arriving at Issho’s Sakura Secret Garden as it opened last week felt like stepping into a metropolitan paradise. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom, and in celebration of the spring, Issho’s bar and terrace is shrouded in blooming pink flowers, creating an easy, warm ambience from the top-floor setting. We arrive to a buzzing atmosphere, as after-work drinkers and hopeful sun-seekers soak in the understated premium charm.
As we sink into squashy sofas on the roof terrace and bask in the warmth of the outdoor heaters, (pretending the Yorkshire sunshine is powerful enough to heat us into the evening) we begin proceedings with a super icy, super fruity Tenno cocktail. Comprising a blend of Cîroc vodka, pommel liquor, kiwi, lime and apple, it’s the perfect way to start Hanami – the traditional Japanese welcoming of spring, where an atmosphere of companionship takes over, and people come together to appreciate natural beauty.
A trip to Issho wouldn’t be complete without a tasty morsel or two, and tonight’s visit doesn’t disappoint. We enjoy bitesize canapes served on delicate Japanese spoons, allowing us to devour each one in a single (perhaps less than delicate) bite.
On the menu is a miniature roll of salmon doused in wasabi dressing, followed by a single juicy tomato perched on a bed of whipped tofu cream – giving a taste of Issho’s refreshing tomato salad. Chicken Yakitori also makes its way round the happy springtime drinkers, with tender spicy chicken bringing a new level of flavour.
Finding our glasses empty, we head back to the bar for the second specialist cocktail of the night. This time, our receptacles are charged with Kitsune, a heady combination of vanilla vodka, Chambord, blood orange, lemon and sugar, which leaves a tingling sweetness on the tongue and delivers a boozy kick of citrus.
Issho’s Secret Sakura garden is open until the end of June, serving the food and the drinks to help you escape the busy city streets and relax under blooming pink blossom with the spirit of Hanami all around you. Events start with cocktail masterclasses on 17th and 18th May – and it’s well worth a look at to book a place, or check what else is in store.