Nordic calm in the hustling capital.
What springs into your mind when you hear the word Aquavit? St James’s Market? Regent Street? New York? Nordics? Tokyo?
When I first heard of Aquavit, I think of the word calm, and when I link it with London, I think of two different worlds where the calm meets the rush. I remember seeing the St James’s Market being developed followed by the empty sites a couple of years ago, then I noticed more restaurants and venues began to move in and then Aquavit. I’ve never considered Aquavit before, because I was usually walking along Waterloo Place or Pall Mall but this was an ideal time to visit – it was time to try another restaurant. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I did realise they had two Michelin Stars down its pocket in both their Manhattan and Tokyo branches, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Aquavit received another star in its London branch.
What’s The Room Like?
So, Aquavit is a ‘uniquely Nordic-style’ restaurant based in St. James’s Market, just a stone’s throw away between Regent Street and Haymarket. St James’s itself has always been associated with the words: luxury and royalty, and having worked in the area, seeing endless high-end vehicles, suits, as well as knowing the history I would say it’s pretty accurate. Walking into the restaurant, I wasn’t disappointed, in fact it was more of a relieve, an escape. In fact, it can be described as walking into a room of peace from the bustling city.
I particularly liked its use of cool stones, slight tint on the ceiling to floor windows, and orange woods. It reminds me the luxury hotels you would see in movies, (and certainly a match with the Dorchester).
The double-height ceilings and minimalistic-styled lights made me forget that I was in London, I felt an almost immediate calm once I passed through the doors, despite the sound of diners inside the restaurant. Oh and the swirling marble floors is definitely worth a mention.
I would write more on what I ordered from the menu, but this visit was about National Burger Day. I remember eating one of the most priciest burgers I could afford a few years ago on an intern salary – at Mandarin Oriental’s Bar Boulud, the burger was something, but slightly Americanised. The burger I chosen from Aquavit, was known as the Skagen Burger.
What I ordered:
- The Skagen Burger
- Rydberg Potatoes
- Virgin Mojito
- Berry Lemonade
- Arctic Birds Nest
I always find arbitrary days interesting, you do occasionally stumble across a national day for occasions, which can be funny but somehow on a few occasions reminds me to think of the basics in life. But this arbitrary day was about burgers!
The Skagen Burger – a hearty beef patty made from the highest quality short rib and skirt beef, topped with traditional shrimp Skagen and finished with a layer of Västerbotten cheese (from the Västerbotten region of Sweden), smoked whole grain mustard mayonnaise, chive, fill, horseradish, lemon sauce, sautéed onions, and served in a brioche bun with pickled red onion, cucumber and salad, oh and lets not forget the matchstick fries.
I also ordered the Rydberg Potatoes, which reminds me slightly of cubed tofu, where it has a thin batter surround its soft and silky interior. Trust me, it was definitely potatoes that I ordered and ate. It was a small side but definitely sufficient enough especially when the burger came with.
Probably my favourite part of my blog is talking about the dessert. When you talk to a Chinese about ‘Bird’s Nest’, they tend to think of the luxury Bird’s Nest dessert (look it up on Google), but I was very curious about seeing it on the menu as I believe there was something more to this dish. Our waitress gave a brief description of what the dish was so I trusted my guts and her recommendation and ordered this Artic Birds Nest. I wasn’t disappointed.
In short, the Artic Bird’s Nest, is made with goat-cheese parfait that was transformed into the shape of an egg, encased within a thin layer of white chocolate. The nest (honey tuile nest) was made with a slight trowel over batter with the tuile (cookie) shaped into a nest (by hand). The twigs was made with tempered chocolate piped into ice water which resembles twigs (believe it, it was realistic). There were also frozen-and-dried raspberries that was frozen with liquid nitrogen which were broken into shards, there were also some brownie dirt that was made with drumbled brownies (I was told it was Bengtsson’s grandmother’s recipe) which resembled soil with the bird’s nest, and last but not least some shredded halvah that looks like feathers.
See what I mean but it looks quite realistic?
What I’d go back for:
If you were planning to visit Aquavit, you should know that the food focuses heavily on seafood and I am talking about Dooncastle oysters, crab, turbot, and monkfish. It would certainly suit those who enjoy a good seafood dish in the heart of London.
The beautifully dressed, softly spoken team members with a lot of smile definitely adds a wonderful touch to the restaurant experience, consider the fact that the restaurant industry is suffering from its own difficult and challenges, seeing a genuine smile is somewhat rare in 2018 (and I do dine out a lot!).
I will also try more of the desserts that are offered on the menu, but I am also curious about their breakfast menu. I always picture reading a book, whilst enjoying a breakfast (or even brunch) outside a minimalistic but ‘on-point’ restaurant in London, and I think I may have just found the place.
📍Aquavit, St James’s Market, 1 Carlton Street, St. James’s, London, SW1Y 4QQ
Michelin Star: ⭐