Following a recent holiday to Sweden, with three nights at the infamous Ice Hotel (separate blog to follow) we had the opportunity to dine at the Nordic inspired, newly opened London branch of restaurant Aquavit.
Well established in New York (two Michelin stars) and Tokyo – where the experience modernises traditional Nordic ingredients and cooking processes served as a fine dining experience – the recently opened central London branch, in St James’s Market, has taken a more contemporary approach that focuses on serving a mix of dishes and smaller sharing plates to celebrate the region’s diverse fare.
To Elldrew, Aquavit London felt like the lovechild of TV shows ‘Suits’ and ‘Fortitude’; infusing the high drama of Manhattan with a Scandinavian vibe. This is never more apparent than in the amazing interior design which features huge floor to ceiling glass doors and dramatic chandeliers, softened by the Swedish textiles hung on the walls. Not knowing anything about Swedish-born designer Martin Brudnizki, we absolutely loved his informal approach that complements the massive space; he is a master of mixing natural marble, wood, glass, stone and metals with dominate wall rugs to create the perfect palette of style and colour.
We started with shared dishes from the ‘smörgåsbord’: liver paté and a salmon gravlax (with mustard and dill sauce), all enjoyed with a selection of breads and a deliciously moorish crispbread. We were off to a good start.
The starters were presented beautifully and delivered on flavour. The Venison tartare (with blueberries, lingonberries and juniper) was outstanding, as was the crab (with rye brioche and fennel).
Mains were equally delicious and balanced, our table enjoyed passing around the cod (with shrimps, cucumber, dill), best end of lamb (with cabbage and lingonberries) and the tasty Swedish meatballs (with lingonberries and pickled cucumber). The mash, which came with both the lamb and meatballs, was amongst the silkiest Elldrew had ever tasted. We didn’t really need the fried almond potatoes, nor the Jansson’s Temptation (a divine mix of potatoes, cream and anchovies), but we were pleased we did, even if that didn’t leave room for dessert!
We also didn’t miss the chance to indulge in a traditional snaps: a flavoured spirit produced in Scandinavia since the 15th century and served from a silver “fish”. Elldrew are never shy of a shot and we found the mixed spice and herb flavourings paired perfectly with the food…possibly went down a little too easily (thankfully we only had the one). If you go make sure you check out the icy aquarium of Aquavit “fish” at the centre of the bar, even if you don’t imbibe yourself.
We opted for a champagne cocktail to end the night vs a dessert (we had shared the smörgåsbord after all), a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable evening that saw us singing high praises. We loved everything about Aquavit and are already co-ordinating diaries for our next visit… the hardest decision is who should come with us!
St James’s Market, 1 Carlton Street, London SW1Y 4QQ