Sublime Nordic cooking in St. James’s Market
Aquavit is in St James’s Market, a new pimped out development on Regent Street. Anzu, Tonkotsu’s posh big bro and Veneta from the Salt Yard group are neighbours.
That’s why I love London, it’s so diverse. One minute you can be eating a chicken shish in one of the bustling Turkish restaurants on Green Lanes and the next minute, you can be in a luxe space indulging in upscale cuisine.
The high ceilings in this place immediately give Aquavit its grandeur. Everything looks expensive: the tan chairs, tables, hanging lights, bar and original artwork (2 gorgeous Olafur Eliasson pieces on the wall); the bathroom is pretty slick too (sporting Aesop hand wash, soap of choice it seems for any self respecting mid-high end restaurant). It’s definitely luxurious and not trying to be shy about it but not in a vulgar gaudy way – more Celine than Moschino – guess it’s that Nordic factor. If I was feeling flash, I’d bring my hombre here for a smultsy date night (if I had one, lol).
FOOD & SERVICE
So I peeped on Twitter that these guys were having a soft launch with 50% off. Didn’t know much about Aquavit but did a bit of research and found that they had x2 other restaurants – one in Tokyo and the other in NY – the latter one having 2 Michelin stars. I’ve not had a lot of Nordic cooking either, so was curious. Although I was broke at the time, I completely justified it in my head – pasta pesto for the next week to balance it out.
The menu is split into a number of sections: smörgåsbord, starters, mains and additional sections for sides and desserts, so we picked something to try in each one. There were drink pairings with most of the food but babes was on a budget, so…
There are quite a lot of options in this section, so we asked for a recommendation and eventually settled on the Matje Herring (£7) – my friend also ordered the Shrimp Skagen (£7) which I thought was a boring choice but I wasn’t going to be militant about it.
To be fair, the Shrimp Skagen, a classic Swedish dish was good – sort of like a posh prawn cocktail topped with fish roe but without any of the 80s nafness or piles of mayo and absolutely no fucking ketchup. Zesty lemon, dill, salt and pepper make it a fresh, light and delightful little dish.We ate ours with the fresh house bread, which as a side note was top notch (I even liked the fennel-ly crisp bread and I’m not a fan of fennel.
The Matje Herring was S.U.B.L.I.M.E – a contender for my favourite plate. The herring, potato, sour cream and egg yolk came together beautifully both looks and taste wise. I don’t ordinarily love herring but I was completely won over by this dish.
We got one thing from this section – the Dehydrated Beetroot, Goat’s Cheese Sorbet and Hazelnuts (£9), an absolute stunner, a colourful and refined looking plate. This smart little dish was definitely tasty and interesting but I couldn’t eat bucket loads of it; sharing with a companion was perfect for me.
For our mains, we ordered turbot (£34) and duck breast (£21). I really enjoyed both.
The turbot was cooked to perfection – the fillet, breaded piece and horseradish complemented each other so well. The brown butter sauce? Homeboy kicked it out the park – delicious.
There are very few times i’ll go to a restaurant with duck on the menu and not order it. This duck breast is one of the best I’ve had – it was super tender, the parsnips excellent, sauce mad good and the rowan berries added a sharp sweet note to the dish.
We had a side order of fried almond potatoes (£6) similar to triple fried chips – they were good but not perfect – felt the coating could have been a tad more crispy but I still gobbled it all up.
We had the Arctic Bird’s Nest (£12), a signature dessert of Aquavit – white chocolate egg filled with goat’s cheese parfait and sea buckthorn for the yolk, honey tuile nest, chocolate twigs, freeze dried berries, crumbled brownies and shredded halva – what’s not to like eh?
We also ordered the almond cake in rosehip soup (£7) – I liked the tanginess of this dish – had zero problems drinking up the soup which to be fair was more of a syrup in its consistency.
You could tell staff were a little nervous but that’s to be expected during the 1st few weeks of opening. Despite this, in my opinion, the service was faultless.
We went at lunchtime and during soft launch (it was surprisingly quiet), so don’t think the vibe when we went would necessarily be representative of what it is like ordinarily but overall it felt quite formal and refined – no white table cloth but you’d probably feel underdressed rocking up in trainers.
Our meal came to £33 each at half price. If you pick carefully you could actually eat quite affordably here. I’d budget about £65 including a bit of booze for a meal here.
THE TAKE OUT
I went in with no expectations and came out very impressed. As a newbie to Nordic cuisine, Aquavit has fired up my interest. Well balanced dishes and 1st rate service – I would happily return to Aquavit and pay full price. Awesome new addition to the London restaurant scene.
Avg Cost Inc. an alcoholic bevvy: £65 and over [£££££]
Address: St James’s Market 1 Carlton Street, London SW1Y 4QQ
Hours: Open 7 days a week: bkfst, lunch & dinner (see website for deets)
Phone: +44 (0)20 7024 9848
LAST VISITED NOV 2016