I’d heard great things about Aquavit London in St James and it had been on my radar for places to try for a while. Even more so when it won a coveted Michelin star recently. It was perhaps not a huge surprise as the contemporary Nordic restaurant already has two Michelin stars at the original New York location. I loved the look of the menu and knew it would be perfect for my mum and sister too so lunch was booked.
In terms of interiors, they’ve got everything right at Aquavit in my opinion. Gold accents, marble bar tops, gorgeous wall hangings…an Instagrammers dream!
It sounds incredibly sad but when you’re trying to work a theme on your grid it brings no end of pleasure to see an interior that fits the bill. And the designers are Nordic too, over seen by renowned Swedish born Martin Brudnizki and with furnishings by Svensk Tenn and wall textiles by Olafur Eliasson.
It was little Jackson’s first (of many) Michelin star restaurants but Granny was there too look after him and he fit in a treat with his stylish new cardigan.
The bread selection was really good, though I wasn’t so sure about the anchovy butter that was a little overpowered with chives. Like its New York predecessor, the head chef at Aquavit London is Swedish and Henrik Ritzén grew up on the northwest coast of Sweden. From a young age he was passionate about his countries cuisine, especially being surrounded by home cooking growing up and then training and working in some of Gothenburg’s best restaurants. London was the next step and Henrik worked in such starry kitchens as Quo Vadis, The Square, Racine and The Dover Street Arts Club.
Swedish dining should always begin with a Smörgåsbord or selection of small dishes and here food is inspired by the beautiful nature in Scandinavia. My mum’s a huge fan of root vegetable soup and this pumpkin and ginger was just perfect for her.
If you like a bit of spice opt for the beetroot and horseradish pot, that’s perfect with the rye bread. A milder but no less delicious option is gravlax mustard and dill sauce – one of my all time favourite dishes. The venison tartare, blueberries, lingonberries, juniper was my dish of the day, the slightly tart taste of the berries balanced perfectly with the sauce and the meat was perfectly prepared.
With seafood being celebrated in the Nordic countries, there are plenty of options on the menu.
The whole boned trout served with dill, almonds, capers was another popular dish among us and the fish was cooked just beautifully. I’m a huge trout fan and I found the version at Aquavit London just faultless.
My sea bass had a deliciously crispy skin with beautifully cooked flesh and was served with juicy ceps and three cornered garlic. As I found in Iceland, this type of food looks light but is deceptively filling due to the sauces and fat content – the portions look delicate but you won’t leave feeling hungry.
If you’re ordering the fish dishes I’d also recommend a few side orders: we enjoyed green beans, shallots, smoked anchovy along with watercress, artichoke crisps.
Meatballs are another dish that I associated with Nordic cuisine – I think was can blame Ikea for that! As one of London’s top Nordic restaurants, I’m sure there’s pressure to get this popular dish right and of course Aquavit nailed it. They’re served with a rich sauce, lingonberries, pickled cucumber and creamy mashed potatoes, and cooked well done as they also contain pork.
The food at Aquavit is seriously filling and there was no need for dessert but they did bring homemade toffees with our coffee! Or if you fancy a snack the Swedish tradition of fika is offered throughout the day. The coffee comes from Johan & Nyström and the freshly-baked cinnamon rolls looked seriously good.
Overall we were big fans of Aquavit London. Not only were the interiors beautiful and the food great but the service was fantastic and Jackson was well taken care of.
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St James’s Market
1 Carlton Street
020 7024 9848