Aquavit London is inspired by the cuisine of Nordic countries including Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Sweden. The Resident finds out more as they launch their new afternoon tea drawing on the tradition of ‘fika’ – the art of the Swedish coffee break
My fascination for Nordic culture was renewed last winter with the purchase of The Little Book of Hygge, all about Danish cosiness, and a weekend break to the fjord city of Oslo.
Back in London, I was eager to explore the culinary side of things further at Aquavit, which offers contemporary Scandi cuisine in the chic setting of the new St James’s Market development. They’ve just launched an afternoon tea, too (more on which later), but I booked in for a reunion dinner with an old school friend.
On arrival, I learnt that she was running late – no surprises there – but happily proceeded to perch by the bar and admire the magnificent marble and low-slung, ambient lighting of the interior with a refreshing Nordic Bramble replete with lingonberries in hand.
The dishes are developed by Executive Chef Henrik Ritzén, along with Emma Bengtsson, Executive Chef of the two Michelin-starred Aquavit New York, and manage to be fresh and new while nodding to age-old traditions.
Though you can order a smörgåsbord in addition to starters, we went straight to the starters, opting to share the gravlax (underwhelming) and the obligatory smoked herrings (incredible – the delicious selection included mustard, vendace roe and chives and elderflower tomato). We ignored the suggested pairing of cumin, anise and fennel aquavit, going instead for the much less alcoholic elderflower.
I admit to being a little miffed when my friend bagsied the monkfish with brown crab, peas, fennel and horseradish, but was soon appeased by the arrival of my perfect beef Rydberg with raw egg
Next up, I admit to being a little miffed when my friend bagsied the monkfish with brown crab, peas, fennel and horseradish – but was soon appeased by the arrival of my perfect beef Rydberg with raw egg, and a side dish of Swedish Jansson’s temptation – a traditional Swedish casserole made of potatoes, onions, pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream.
Throughout, the sommelier was on hand to offer wine advice, and the attentive waitress serving us was full of enthusiasm for the food and the Scandi way of life. So far, so top marks for both service and food. The Arctic Bird’s Nest dessert sealed the deal for us with a delicate honey tuile nest, chocolate twigs and goat’s cheese parfait.
The Nordic Afternoon Tea
Having finally sampled the à la carte menu, coming away more than a little impressed, I was pleased to discover that Aquavit are also launching an afternoon tea. Featuring both sweet treats and savoury delights, the afternoon tea will combine the finest Nordic dishes for which the restaurant has become renowned, with the quintessentially British tradition of afternoon tea.
To start, an assortment of open sandwiches will feature classic Nordic flavours such as gravlax, shrimp skagen, and venison tartare, presented in a contemporary style on the restaurant’s distinctive house-made rye bread.
The culinary journey will continue with a selection of traditional Swedish pastries including semla, cardamom buns filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream; and Punsch-roll, with crushed cookies and punsch liqueur wrapped in marzipan then dipped in chocolate. Further sweet treats will include fluffy marshmallow dipped in chocolate, and chokladbollar, a favourite among children in Sweden and a nostalgic treat for adults.
Furthermore, the Nordic Afternoon Tea will include a selection of the seven different types of cookies, which, according to a Swedish tradition dating back to the 1800s, is the ideal number that should always be offered to guests.
The tradition has become so strongly rooted in Swedish culture that the book Sju Sorters Kakor, translated as seven kinds of cookies, has become a staple of Swedish baking ever since it was first published in 1945.
Guests will be able to choose between three different afternoon tea packages. The Fika Afternoon Tea (£27.50) will include a choice of teas served in a beautiful, floral Rörstrand tea set, or Swedish coffees from Johan & Nyström.
The Champagne Afternoon Tea (£39) allows guests to indulge in a glass of Ruinart Brut Champagne in addition. Meanwhile, the Aquavit Afternoon Tea (£65) has been developed in collaboration with the iconic Danish design company, Georg Jensen. The offering will include a glass of Dom Pérignon, as well as having the addition of freshly baked scones with clotted cream and preserves.