Tasty Scandinavian fare at Aster

I love that you feel you can travel the world while living in London – well in a foodie sort of way you can. My last restaurant story was about Portuguese food and today we’re heading into Scandinavia. The food of Aster is a mix of Executive Chef Helena Puolakka’s Nordic heritage and her French training.

The Nordic countries comprise Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark – and would you believe I’ve been to four of them! Norway is the only one currently unvisited. And I have eaten fabulous food in all of these countries – most notably Denmark and Iceland recently – so I was very keen to visit Aster. In addition, my lunch companion was to be Amanda, who I travelled to Sri Lanka with last year, and whose parents are both Nordic. Love starting with a bit of inside knowledge.

Aster has a restaurant, cafe and deli and we chose to eat in the downstairs cafe. Because I preferred the look of the menu. It’s in a shiny new building right near Victoria Station. I’m amazed at how many of those there are these days, another part of London that’s been transformed. There’s a warm welcome and a stylish, modern interior and a very exciting menu to ponder.

After much deliberation we decided to go the Smorgasbord route (now there’s a good word…smorgasbord)! Not an easy decision with all the fabulous fish and meat dishes on offer.  Like wild reindeer sausages, venison pie, hot smoked plaice, arctic char and baltic fish pie. But smorgasbord it was and what a great move that turned out to be.

What’s on the menu

From the Jar section we opted for the hot smoked potted salmon and the pickles which arrived in these stylish little jars. Stylish is a word you’ll use often on any visit to Aster. There’s some beautiful food plating going on here – and it’s all kept so simple, letting the distinctive flavours shine through.

Beautiful glass bowls of pate and pickles

You really can’t go Nordic and not go herring. Luckily I’m a pretty big herring fan and even had curried herrings on my waffle for breakfast in Iceland (absolutely delicious it was, too, and I even convinced some of my fellow travellers to give it a try). Today they were done three ways with sherry, blackcurrant and dill and served with new potatoes and toasted rye bread. A totally spectacular combination of flavours – I particularly loved the blackberry marinated ones.

Herring three ways with dill potatoes and rye bread

From the top of the Smorgasbord menu we chose two dishes. This luscious sliced pork belly which was served with apple and mustard butter on more rye. The richness of the pork matched so brilliantly with the tart apple, spicy mustard and earthy bread.

The most succulent of belly pork

And then there was this colourful plate of mushroom and potato ‘hash’ served with lingonberries. The berries added a lovely tartness to a warming dish – they are a distant cousin to cranberries, smaller and juicer, and are a wild fruit native to the Northern hemisphere and abundant in Scandinavia.

Our final choice came from the Meat section and was this beautifully soft and salty salami flavoured with a bit of fennel. Fennel salami gets me every time, and this was right up there as one of the best I’ve tried.

Delicately flavoured fennel salami

Amanda’s local knowledge also came in useful when it came to the liquor! Hence she recommended that we order a glass of aquavit each. It’s a Scandinavian liquor (obviously) that gets its distinctive flavours from the spices and herbs used. The main ones should be caraway or dill. Aquavit is not for the faint-hearted with its 40% alcohol by volume – and I absolutely loved it. Served chilled in these stunning little glasses it certainly added to the whole Nordic experience. Most of all, I can definitely visualise more aquavit passing my lips.

Plenty of pale liquor to keep us going!

Today’s price point

And finally, the money.

Aster is very reasonably priced with our six dishes from the Smorgasbord today costing us £31.50. It was plenty of food for two people.

If you eat off the a la carte menu a starter is going to cost you between £4.50 and £9.00.

Mains are between £11.50 and £22.00.

Aster is at 150 Victoria Street, Westminster, London SW1.

They also do a fabulous-looking Nordic Afternoon Tea available from 3pm to 5.30pm for just £15 per person.