Meatballs and Michelin star are two words I never imagined I would say in the same sentence. Don’t judge me. Blame IKEA.
It happened one sunny day at their Wembley branch when having picked up some flat-pack furniture (not a particularly Michelin environment), that I was enticed into their restaurant by that classic Scandi dish. And it was pretty good.
Yet here they were featured on the menu of this swish Nordic restaurant of former Michelin star fame. It’s an expansive building that takes up a corner of St James’s Square, a land populated with hedge fund managers and bankers.
Aquavit London dons a brasserie-style decor in bright orange hues akin to pine, paired with granite flooring, low hanging chandeliers from high ceilings and a sparkling bar in gold and marble, where high bar stools speak of casual drinking over a natter. Forget Scandi Noir, this is Scandi Orange.
Yet, you can also forget casual. Here the glassware is as polished as the staff. Indeed service is reassuringly formal and supplied by a team wearing tailored black uniforms making them easy to spot against the bright decor.
This is a place where grown-ups come to dine while discretely closing business deals or perhaps to mull over some serious matter or other. We anticipated some seriously good dining,
Food & Drink
The thing about Nordic cuisine is that it offers a different style of flavour collaboration. Dill, mustard and horseradish feature in sauces especially on the smörgåsbord where it is a bit of a Nordic pick and mix of pickled flavours.
Just how do you pair it with wine? The sommelier, Mariella, chose for us and brought a bottle of a white Josef Ehmoser Hohenberg Gruner Veltliner 2016. This Austrian wine is highly refreshing and very easy to drink. It was a good choice.
My partner ordered an Aquavit (Akvavit, a Scandinavian speciality, is distilled from grain and potatoes, and is flavoured with a variety of herbs).and tonic. This long drink turned out to be a more delicious alternative to gin and tonic. He then ordered another.
A trio of herring small plates arrived – one with salty cod’s roe, another with a mighty mustard marinade which in itself was sweet and so punchy that it competed with the herring for prime position on the palate. The third came with a dill sauce that was simply tantalising. On the side was a serving of ratte potatoes.
A plate of soft slices of Gravlax, apparently cured for some 72 hours, was accompanied by a superb horseradish and dill sauce. If I wasn’t on my best behaviour I would have spooned out the sauce and enjoyed it on its own or spread on the mix of breads we ordered, but these came with smoked cod roe butter and at £7 the treat could not be wasted.
Of course, no Nordic meal would be complete without pickled vegetables and ours was a mix of kohlrabi- imagine a turnip-cabbage combo – beetroot and cucumber pickled in a sweet mustard sauce.
For the main course, I opted for, unsurprisingly, the meatballs served with a pyramid of mash, loganberries and pickled cucumbers. These balls of finely ground meat – a mix of Longhorn beef and Middle White pork sourced from a farm in Herefordshire – were soft in texture and were a good match for the loganberries.
The other main was a perfectly roasted succulent duck breast served with heritage carrots, carrot pure, caraway and duck jus. It was delicious though the skin could have been a tad crispier.
We ordered two sides – Rydeberg potatoes which were squares of soft fluffy, yet crispy potatoes and a highly seasoned charred hispy cabbage.
Dessert was a liquorice crème brûlée served in a pastry case. The top wasn’t hard, but its crumbly casing made up for that. This was served with a tangy currant sorbet.
The Kladakka was a heavy feast of chocolate; chocolate brownie with chocolate sorbet on white chocolate shavings. It looked so good but my desire was thwarted by a chocolate overload. Just two bites were enough.
It’s a power restaurant. Not for a first date unless you’re looking to impress with the promise of cruising the med on your yacht. Expect to pay around £80 a head.