1 Carlton Street
St. James’s Market, London
020 7024 9848
Looking for something a little more glamorous than your standard hyggelig gin joint? When it comes to finding high Scandinavian style in the UK, your go-to has to be London’s gleaming Aquavit.
This beautiful bar and restaurant in St. James’s Market, just off of the capital’s famed Regent Street, is the offshoot of two establishments in New York City and Tokyo, but with a new approach. While those restaurants – each a cornerstone of their respective city’s culinary scene – are geared towards high-dining and Michelin-starred menus, London’s outpost has a more casual approach to Scandinavian-inspired food and drink.
As Phillip Hamilton, CEO of Aquavit London, explains: “The London restaurant has maintained the outstanding quality of food, drinks and service of the original Aquavit, but the dishes use fewer ingredients, are a little less complex and are inspired by classic Nordic recipes.”
Food is served in this dazzling, Scandi-chic restaurant all day. Whether you’re popping in for your morning cardamom bun and espresso, hankering for a classic smörgåsboard of gravlax, mustard and dill or after an elegant evening meal starting with Swedish meatballs and finishing with rosehip soup, this is your spot. And it’s stylish, to boot.
All gleaming brass, glittering marble and glass walls, Aquavit is a lesson in how to make supremely elegant surroundings simultaneously warm and inviting.
“It’s luxurious space,” Phillip says, “yet has a relaxed, buzzy feel. It’s a warm and welcoming restaurant, where you can bring a group of friends to enjoy some cocktails at the bar or sit down for a meal and chat the night away.”
This commitment to hospitality is enshrined in the restaurant’s very name. Aquavit is a flavoured spirit produced primarily in Scandinavia, where families still infuse a base spirit with dill, caraway and any other number of spices and herbs in their own homes. The national drink of Scandinavian nations, many a friendly social occasion has centred on shots of this flavourful, gin-like infusion of booze and botanicals.
Phillip says: “At Aquavit London we have a long list of different infusions and flavours. It’s usually served chilled and unmixed, in small glasses, and is drunk alongside small appetisers. It’s also the traditional accompaniment to our smörgåsboard!”
The Scandinavian influence doesn’t stop at the long and extensive selection of aquavit behind this gin joint’s gleaming bar. All of Aquavit’s drinks are inspired in Scandinavia, including the gin-based stunners on the cocktail menu.
As Philip says: “All of our cocktails are influenced by Scandinavia, with spirits such as aquavit coming from the Nordic regions, and ingredients such as rose hip and cloudberry also incorporated into the drinks.”
From the Aurora – gin, elderflower liqueur and green chartreuse alongside cucumber, mint and lime – to the Nordic Bramble, which remixes the classic cocktail with the substitution of cloudberry and pomegranate in the place of blackberry liqueur, these are elegant and flavourful combinations of Nordic flavours.
But whatever the unusual influences, there are no unnecessary bells and whistles here. “Our house cocktail menu is similar to our food menu in that it’s based on a simplicity that enhances the quality of the ingredients used,” Phillip says. “Less is more!
The wine list – while not strictly Scandinavian – has also been carefully curated to complement the delicious food at Aquavit.
“As Scandinavia does not have the weather to facilitate vineyards, the wine list isn’t strictly influenced by the region,” Phillip laughs. “But we have an extensive wine list and that has been designed to pair perfectly with our Nordic food.”
For Phillip and the entire Aquavit team, this new restaurant is more than an opportunity to expand an already successful group of restaurants. With a relaxed vibe and super-Scandi influence setting it apart from its peers, Aquavit London is a gateway to the great white North right on our doorsteps. And, says Phillip, helping a whole new country discover the joys of Nordic food, Scandinavian flavours and alluring aquavit is rewarding in and of itself.
“Spirits like aquavit are still very new to many people outside of Scandanavia,” Phillip says, “and we’re looking forward to an increased love for and understanding of it from both a UK and international audience.”
So sidle up to a stool at Aquavit’s beautiful bar, order one of their elegant gin concoctions and chase it down with a shot of their namesake spirit – skål all around!