Aquavit London is a contemporary all day dining Nordic restaurant located in the beautifully redeveloped St James’s Market. In little over four years since its opening, Aquavit has become one of London’s finest destination dining spots, and gained one Michelin star in the process.
Aquavit London is sister to the acclaimed Aquavit New York (two Michelin stars). The restaurant showcases the very best of contemporary Nordic cuisine and produce. The dishes feature clear natural flavours inspired by fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, berries and mushrooms, game and seafood.
The Head Chef at Aquavit London is Jorge Colazo, who took over from Swedish chef Henrik Ritzén last summer. Many of Aquavit’s signature dishes were created by Emma Bengtsson, head chef of the restaurant in New York.
Aquavit London is housed in a modern building in St. James’s Market, an upscale development of offices, shops and restaurants just off Haymarket and Piccadilly Circus. The space features double-height ceilings, a large dining room wrapped around a u-shaped bar , and two private rooms. The interiors are elegant and welcoming; warm colours of wood and leather and soft lighting create a relaxed and informal setting.
Aquavit’s bar menu features an extensive selection of aquavits (a distilled Scandinavian spirit) and Nordic-inspired cocktails. We started off cocktails, specifically Aquavit’s Special Gin Tonic, mixed with Plymouth Gin, Lingonberry, Mandarin, Peach, Elderflower Syrup, Tonic Water.
When it was time to order the food, we asked out waiter for recommendations. Our final selection of starters comprised two dishes from the Smörgåsbord: Shrimp skagen – toast topped with shrimps marinated in dill, mayonnaise and lemon; and Gravlax, mustard, dill sauce.
I loved the shrimp skagen and wished I didn’t have to share it with my friend! This dish to me is the quintessential smörgåsbord and I would happily eat this for lunch every day.
The salmon was beautifully cured and seasoned with the dill sauce. Even if it is a simple dish, perhaps because of its simplicity, I really appreciated the quality and flavours of the fish. I ate this with Aquavit’s rye bread and butter.
From the starters, we shared the Pan seared Orkney island hand dived scallop served underneath a thin veil of kohlrabi. The presentation doesn’t do this dish any favour in my opinion, but the flavour pairing of the shellfish and vegetable worked well and the taste was great.
When it came down to ordering our main courses, my friend Jo and I both felt like we had to choose seafood. Something about being in a Nordic restaurant…however neither of us were in the mood for it and, after our three fish starters, we wanted to try different flavours. Jo ordered the Roasted celeriac roulade with black truffle and hazelnut, with a side of hispi cabbage, which I didn’t taste but she told me they were both excellent.
For my main course I couldn’t resist ordering one of the most traditional dishes on the menu: Swedish meatballs with lingonberry and pickled cucumber. I kept thinking it was perhaps a boring choice, but I craved the meat and I enjoyed every last bite of them! I paired this dish with a delicious glass of 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo from Piedmont.
The Swedish meatballs didn’t require a side, as the dish came with a portion of mash potatoes, but I ordered one anyway. Rydberg potatoes are small and crisp cubes of roasted potatoes, irresistibly tasty and impossible to leave behind.
We couldn’t leave Aquavit without trying their famous dessert – actually this might well be their most iconic dish – the Arctic bird’s nest that was invented by chef Bengtsson. It’s a beautifully constructed goats’ cheese parfait filled with sea buckthorn curd served in a nest of tuile strands. The result is spectacular! The strong cheese flavour is a little bit overpowering but overall all the elements of this dish work together well.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.