THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Aquavit seems the culmination of the Scandinavian love affair that began just as I moved to London from Denmark 10 years ago. When I think of all the furniture I blithely gave away I could slit something. I'd be filthy rich instead of a lowly pen-pusher, forced to dine in St James's for a living!
The dining room is stunning; Scandi within an inch of its life. 2 stories high, clad entirely in oak. The mezzanine, with fantastic private dining space, is softened by an art deco curve of a corner. The floor to ceiling windows fill the space with summer light so we never saw the effect of the magnificent chandeliers.
Head Chef Jorjon Colazo has created a clean, modern menu based on classic Scandinavian cuisine, elevated for its St James's clientele.
Skåne (£12.50) is a happy take on G&T with aquavit instead of gin. The characteristic caraway flavour gives the drink a nice twist.
A basket of bread with smoked cod roe butter (£7) is a must. The rye is especially good and the knackebrod (crispbread) comes a close second. We gobbled it up.
Faroe Island gravlax (£10) is beautifully cured and served with the traditional honey, mustard and dill sauce. As classic as it gets. Langoustine bao buns with cabbage slaw (£16) are a bit of a departure from the rest of the menu. The fusion is tasty to be sure but does little to elevate the "virgin lobster tail". The size of a pinkie finger, there is one in each bun. They are gems but at £16, not as precious as all that.
Houghton Spring trout (£29.50) gets a 10 for presentation. The whole fish is skinned in the middle, leaving head and tail intact and covered in a light crème fraiche sauce with dill and trout roe. I thought I could impress my guest with my filleting prowess, but when I ran my knife along the spine of the trout, I realized the "whole" fish was boneless. Kitchen wizardry. The delicious fish would also have garnered a 10 were it not overcooked.
Halibut (£34) was perfectly cooked, flaking apart just as it should with crispy skin. It came with superb variations of tomato: confit cherry, charred, pressed beef steak, a sweet puree and a basil and tomato consommé. Clean and beautiful.
Jansonn's temptation (£8) is gratin potatoes with anchovies and breadcrumbs. Rich, delicious and exactly what I want to eat in December! Charred hispi cabbage (£7) was a revelation. A Chardonnay vinaigrette was perfectly balanced and made the veg sing.
A glass of 2006 Chablis 1er cru, Cote de Lechet, Etienne Defaix (£19) was a treat. Buttery beyond belief with a great balance of citrus.
Our 2 desserts were extraordinary, both with exceptional sorbets. Apricot, Lapponia, Valrhona dulcey and cloudberries (£10) blended sweet with tang. Arctic birds nest, goat cheese parfait (£10) was another 10 out of 10.
May the love affair continue!