Conveniently located just a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus, still with the feeling of being exclusively secluded, St James’s is a lively area with a lot of potential. In the heart of this area lies the elegant Scandi brasserie Aquavit. Perhaps more known for its thoughtfully decorated interior, the restaurant got rewarded their first Guide Michelin Star after only a year in business, proving that they are a culinary experience to count on.
The all-day dining restaurant is indeed an impressive piece of art. When entering the big glass doors, the warmth from the wooden panel, golden lightning and details in the Scandi-designed restaurant hits you and gives you a tasteful welcome. While inhaling the atmosphere, a familiar face approaches with a big welcoming smile. The greeting feels more like one from a long-lost friend than a Michelin Restaurateur. Philip Hamilton, the founder and CEO of Aquavit London, walks through the restaurant while explaining Aquavit’s concept. Hamilton describes the food as “international with Nordic flavours” with a menu that offers everything from traditional Danish smørrebrød to a modern take on eel paired with the perfect selection of Swedish spirit Akvavit. The food is indeed exquisite, with the Guide Michelin Star being a non-arguable proof of that, but Aquavit aims to appeal to everyone. “Accessible not pretentious”, as Hamilton puts it, stressing that Aquavit is a place to go no matter the time of day or the company you are bringing, always knowing you will have a first-class experience. As it has all-day dining, the restaurant is an indisputable choice, whether it is for breakfast, lunch or a late-night drink. In addition to the actual restaurant, Aquavit has two private rooms, Stockholm and Copenhagen, available for events and private dining.
What is impressive, looking around the restaurant, is the variation of the guests. You can hear languages from all over the world and not only Scandinavians as you may think. Despite the striking interior, the main focus is still on the Nordic influenced food. Scandinavians will recognise the seasoning and claim that the food is Swedish, Danish or Norwegian but Hamilton firmly points out that, “the dishes are international with Nordic flavours”. The menu is a fusion between signature dishes, such as Swedish meatballs, and dishes with a Scandinavian touch such as duck breast with cauliflower, blackberries, hazelnut and liquorice.
Moving on to the subject of their newly earned Michelin Star, Hamilton proudly describes the star as a “blessing” and also something he, executive chef Henrik Ritzén, and the whole team have been aiming for since opening in November 2016. Hamilton believes that the star is of high importance, not only for the restaurant itself but also for the area. “Having a Michelin restaurant in St James’s, will put the whole area in the spotlight,” says Hamilton. He continues to explain why Aquavit London received the nomination. The interior is in neoclassical style, thoughtfully put together by Swedish-born Martin Brudzinski. The furniture from Svenskt Tenn, tableware from Georg Jensen and uniform by Swedish designer Ida Sjöstedt just to name a few were of course all important in creating the right atmosphere. But these are all pieces of a larger puzzle where the main piece is the food and why Aquavit earned the star in October. A fun fact is that Aquavit London has not only earned the approval of Guide Michelin but also from super stars such as Rihanna, Michael Fassbender and Rosamund Pike, who have endorsed the contemporary Nordic brasserie.
Regardless of the Michelin Star, the restaurant is the perfect place to have breakfast, afternoon tea or a drink, whether you are 25 or 65. This is a restaurant that combines a great atmosphere and mouth-watering dishes.