Scandinavians are renowned for their cosy culture, a concept that immerged on the back of the ‘Hygge’ trend: that simply translates into a feeling of comfort. Aquavit in London’s St James is a Nordic-inspired restaurant that takes a rather different approach. With floodlit double-height windows showcasing an interior from Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, also responsible for Sexy Fish, the Ivy and Dean Street Townhouse, (to give you some added context to its glamourous aesthetic), the 122-cover fine-dining restaurant unashamedly shimmers onto the grey pavements beyond for passers-by to observe.
Sister to the Michelin-starred Aquavit New York, its iridescent interior may be akin to other fine-dining establishments in the capital, its menu otherwise. No sign of a burrata, calamari ‘fritti’ or anything laced with truffle for the sake of it. Instead fresh, clean flavours with healthy ingredients are presented neatly on plates under the culinary eye of head chef Jorjon Colazo. Suitably Scandinavian, many elements contributing to this Michelin-starred showcase feature and push us somewhat lazy Londoners out of our comfort zone to sample the finest Nordic cuisine here in the UK.
Aquavit’s menu is headed with a Smörgåsbord selection: Scandinavia’s answer to a charcuterie board – quickly setting expectations of what is to come. A carousel of mini bowls and plates span from pickled and fermented vegetables, a potato salad with trout roe, crispy shallots and dill, gravlax with mustard, and black pudding served with the famous Scandinavian lingonberry.
With my sustainable hat on, it is pleasing to see UK produce lead the way as starters roll in. Famous for producing some of the finest across Britain are Isle of Wight tomatoes with Vasterbotten cheese, chutney, crispy quinoa, or with pan-seared foie gras, and apple – smoked Devon eel. Whilst something rather different, (as is the trend here at Aquavit), a delicate lamb tartare served with Icelandic wasabi, pickled wild rowanberries and smetana (Eastern European sour cream).
Nordic classics come into their own mid-way through the Aquavit dining experience. A dish made famous by the likes of Ikea, however, presented in a much more refined manner: Swedish meatballs with lingonberry. This was served alongside a beautifully fresh Houghten spring trout underneath a rich layer of Sandefjord sauce. Other main dishes on Colazo’s menu include Merryfield dry-aged duck breasts, Longhorn beef striploin with sweetbread, salsify, black trompettes, seaweed chimichurri and a vegetarian alternative: a roasted beetroot roulade made with hazelnuts, liquorice and a vegan demi-glaze.
For dessert Aquavit’s ‘Arctic bird’s nest’ which replicates a deconstructed black forest gateau along with the ‘Kladdkaka’ vegan chocolate cake: a sweet and savoury creation finished with tarragon, sea buckthorn sorbet.
This autumn Aquavit offers a Scandinavian culinary escape. Conveniently situated in central London for socially distanced, fine-dining dinners, looking ahead with hope, this Michelin starred hot spot is, on the most part, also a popular events space. Upstairs are two private rooms for entertaining in central London, this includes the Copenhagen room, a smaller space that can host up to 15 people, and the Stockholm, a larger space next door for up to 63.
Address: 1 Carlton St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4QQ
Phone: 020 7024 9848