By Claire Williams.
For those who aren’t fluent in Japanese (and it’s definitely not one of my strong points), Kampai (pronounced Kan-pie) means literally ‘dry the glass’, or, to you and me, “cheers!”
Although, by the time I’d drunk my fifth glass of sake, I’d forgotten how to say ‘cheers’ in Japanese, English, or any other language for that matter (see my rather unimpressive photography as evidence). I’d only had one previous (and disastrous) experience with sake before I found myself sitting at Glo Glo’s last Thursday - the waiter at a back street Japanese restaurant served my friends and I a steaming teapot full of foul smelling, foul tasting sake in the middle of the table which we politely declined after the first glass – and I was hoping not to repeat the experience ever again.
So it was with some trepidation that I sat down at the Shoreditch basement bar, Glo Glo’s, for a night of sake wine paired with yakitori and Japanese street food cooked fresh from the showpiece robata grill. Glo Glo’s is a standalone bar created by Will Ricker, the mastermind behind the famous Great Eastern Dining Room (which, incidentally, is right next door) that offers original cocktails, Tokyo-style street food and all the aesthetics only a basement bar can offer (a smoky, sultry and sexy atmosphere and immensely flattering lighting).
We sat around the bar in booths that seated four, with two others that we hadn’t met before. Inevitably after six drinks we were best buddies – comparing horror stories of past press trips, handbags and, at one point, even the length of our fingernails (don’t ask). A friendly Australian guy (I forget his name – I can’t even really remember what he looked like) told us about sake – about it’s history and how to correctly drink it with Japanese manners – while we did the easy bit: testing and rating six different types of sake (sometimes needing more than one glass to get a proper taste). The sake was all expertly paired with light Japanese-inspired bar snacks, ranging from scallops with Yuzo mayonnaise to the most amazing pork belly with mustard tare and blackened salmon. Just writing those dishes made my mouth water. Whereas I wasn’t so taken by the sake (it’s an acquired taste, and I managed to acquire it somewhat by the end of the night), the bar food had me from the first bite.
After the sake tasting we milled around in the bar, soaking in the dim basement vibes and catching up on some rather sozzled conversation. In some, the sake had gone down smoothly, in others, not so much. But all were reluctant to leave the womb-like comfort of Glo Glo’s bar. But leave we did, clutching information fact sheets and with brains full of random information about Japanese culture, all in agreement that we would be back.
For pork belly, especially. Plates and plates of pork belly…
Looking for further bar, restaurant and pub inspiration for Shoreditch? Then check out the Top 10 Best Bars, Pubs and Restaurants in Shoreditch