150 Victoria Street, SW1E
A sharp, modern restaurant in the heart of the new Nova district opposite Victoria station that offers all the finesse of a French brasserie and all the naughtiness of a Nordic bakery. Stay for a hearty business lunch, nip back in the afternoon for a cinnamon bun.
Situated in a tall red tower amongst the chaos of a thousand building works, it’s easy to pass over Aster as just another glass-fronted office block. Step inside, however, and a tiny deli counter greets customers with tartlets and freshly-boxed salads. There’s also a soon-to-be champagne bar, and the restaurant – packed out with plush banquettes – resides upstairs with floor-to-ceiling views of, well, Victoria’s many construction sites and a Pret a Manger. I’m assured the view can only get better.
It’s yet another venture from the rapidly expanding D&D group, which is behind old favourites like Coq d’Argent, and new players like German Gymnasium. The unusual French-Nordic combo is a result of head chef Helena Puolakka’s upbringing on the south west coast of Finland and her experience with Pierre Gagnaire at three-Michelin starred Hotel Balzac in Paris, before heading up Pierre Koffman’s La Tante Claire in Belgravia.
Thankfully, Aster hasn’t gone full fusion on us; it’s a Scandi dish here with a Franco fling there or vice versa. That’s why both Nordic fish roe and foie gras feature on the starters menu, and both are perfectly pleasant, too. But the mains and the desserts are where the concept really grows legs. Skrei cod topped with Mediterranean veg arrives in the paper it’s cooked in, looking fresh out of the fjord, while the region’s favoured fruits cut through heavier Gallic dishes, like the lamb shoulder and cabbage, sharpened considerably by a scarlet pool of lingonberries. Just as vibrant is the beetroot sponge and sorbet with shards of dark chocolate, a vivid purple mound that’s a surprisingly savoury sweet.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE?
With its central location and two private dining spaces – a larger one with a screen and a smaller, more ambient one for wine-tastings – it’s a smart venue and location for business meetings. Reservations can be made at aster-restaurant.com or call 020 3875 5555 to make a booking.
Aster is a crowd-pleaser, a versatile restaurant that still has some surprises up its sleeve, serving up fusion food that doesn’t forget to be fun.