Dinner at Aster, a place in Victoria where North comes down to France

The monstrosity that has sprung out from the ground opposite Victoria station can’t be missed. For as little as I care about the offices in the Nova Complex, the huge food and beverage choice of outlets on the ground floors is something everyone talks about. You can see the pics from ShakeShack allover Instagram. Papers reviewing the new ETM pub The Greenwood as well as the new venue of Jason Atherton. The gastronomical giant D&D has also put their own mark there. Aster is a venue with a coffee shop, delicatessen and a restaurant. It’s beautiful designed, with loads of warm grey toned furniture and trendy copper lighting and details. The atmosphere is up-beat and buzzy. But the most important, its’ heart is the kitchen. In the hands of a very talented Finnish lady - Chef Helena Poulakka, it brings in London a new concept where the inspirations from nordic cooking of Scandinavia meets the classical French cooking techniques. I have popped in for a quick early dinner on one of the afternoons. Since the boys were born, I really didn’t have a nice relaxing dinner out. With a heavy heart, I needed to let go of this for a while. But I put my two rascals in the buggy and got a table at 5pm - as they are opened in early pre-theatre hours. Just after placing my order, I have been served with a simple but very good selection of bread. The really tasty though was the seaweed butter served alongside - it reminded me of the salty and pungent one we used to serve in CUT just when we opened. The starter was a very simple yet very effective dish of a ‘caviar’ for poor. It was a selection of three different fish roe plated classically with light and fluffy potato blini, whipped creme fraiche, fresh dill and finley chopped shallots. Honestly, if I had a choice - I would have eaten this kind of food more often. Caviar is so overpriced, and a good fresh roe of sustainably caught fish is so hard to get!

For my main I had a fillet of Arctic Char served with Greenland prawns and aubergine caviar. The fish was absolutely fantastic - white meaty fillet was hot smoked in the house, which brought a really pleasant and subtle flavour to it. The prawns were tiny, the caviar was creamy and nicely complementing the smoky flavor of the fish. I had the side of truffled potatoes with it - another french classic. The creamy dauphinoise was enriched with a small touch of truffle paste. Although I am not a big fan of using truffle paste in cooking - nothing will ever beat the aroma of freshly shaved truffle - this time the amount used in the dish was just right. I really didn’t want to eat desserts. The boys were asleep and the restaurant manager came out to have a short chat with me and then I was offered the dessert on the house. I couldn’t say no then! And it was the best choice I made that evening. I have chosen the most unusual of them all, something I saw as an ode to beetroot sugars. It was a chocolate and beetroot sponge served with beetroot sorbet. What a concerto of flavours! I realise it is not a pudding that would suit many. First of all beetroot itself is a veg one either loves or hates, secondly not many would be adventurous enough to try it in a dessert! The cake was made with cooked beetroots, and it only added a little but of earthiness to the light chocolate sponge. The sorbet served on the top was the element that has created the whole dish for me - made with raw pureed vegetable, spiced up and just sweet enough still to leave the beautiful note of earthiness behind. The plate was decorated with dried beetroot crisps and light chocolate mousse.

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