Iceland definitely didn’t have a good time the past few years.
Firstly, its bank, called Iceland as well, collapsed leaving thousands of Britons out of gazillions of hard earned savings. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when the same, literally poor people wanted to forget about their woes and go on holiday Miss Eyjafjallajökull literally shat all over their plans. Yep, Iceland had definitely been in the dog box.
Before we try erasing Iceland from the world map, let’s not forget Björk blessed us with some bizarre music. If you visit the country you will experience the breathtaking Northern Lights during the summer months and actually get to eat fresh wild salmon instead of seeing it on display on UK supermarkets’ shelves. I have been told the geysers are an amazing sight. For more information about the country you can go here.
Ask any mother of a small child CBeebies’ Lazy Town and her bored face will quickly turn into a cheeky grin accompanied by a mischievous glint in the eye. There is only one motive for watching this peculiar show and that is Icelandic born, Magnús Scheving. Watching him jump, squat, somersault and perform a lot of other gymnastic antics is pure pleasure. Who could ever resist those perfectly toned arms, delicious legs and tight buns? If he bent over… wait, this is a food blog!
Talented Icelanders are even closer to home, right in the heart of London. Agnar Sverrisson, along with sommelier partner Xavier Rousset, had come up with an ever changing eclectic menu and had proven that there’s more to Icelandic cuisine than whale meat and rotten shark.
The modern European menu is somewhat limited with starters hovering around the £15 mark, main courses between £20 and £30, and desserts are charged at a flat fee of £9.50. Many ingredients are sourced from Sverrisson’s homeland and he even designed a Scandinavian-inspired tasting menu (£62.50). Jeanne, from Cooksister, and I opted for the original tasting menu (£65.50) instead. Let me show you what we enjoyed.
Root vegetable, Parmesan and fish skin crisp served with barley, dill, yogurt dip.
Bread & Butter
Fresh bread served with English butter with Icelandic sea salt and seaweed.
Jerusalem artichoke: diced, puree and soup with seaweed powder on top.
New season English beetroots
Goat’s cheese, oats, mizuna.
Chargrilled, Sweetcorn, shallot, bacon popcorn, red wine essence.
Icelandic Lightly Salted Cod
Barley, shellfish jus.
Grain Fed Beef, Rib Eye
Chargrilled, ox cheek, horseradish, olive oil béarnaise.
Pomegranate granita with sherry sabayon.
Mango and Pineapple
Soup, lemongrass, basil, olive oil.
Etivaz, Persille de Marais, Petit Cru.
Apricot Bread Crisps
Texture’s Chocolate Dessert Plate
Choc cardamom truffles, caramelised sugar strips, nutty madeleines, aniseed macarons, Fisherman’s Friend lollipop.
Firstly, the Mojito champagne cocktail totally outshone the Bellini and the bacon popcorn served with the drinks was to die for. So much so that we insisted that the bowl must be taken through with us to our table. There it was held hostage until we finished our main courses. Believe me, it was that good.
Paper-thin crisps were laid before us, which we happily dunked into a cooling barley, yogurt dip. Although the thought of fish skin didn’t appeal I must admit it was rather enjoyable and not at all overall overpowering in the fishy-flavour department. It is easy to forget how addictive fresh butter is and the seaweed lent a snazzy touch to it. A cold soup, unique to Scandinavian cuisine, was served but unfortunately failed to convert me. Although the amount of effort put into the mini-cup was appreciated, a spark of heat would have changed my opinion completely. The goat’s cheese ice came as a surprise to the mouth and although each element of the salad was unremarkable, together something magical happened and it just… worked.
The pigeon for me was the best plate of the evening. The mere thought of pigeon makes most people shudder as they think of the ugly, scruffy ones sitting (and other things) on Nelson’s Column. Anjou pigeon comes from France where they are specially reared for eating. The meat was served rare and paired with crunchy sweet corn, a bit of sweet sauce on the side and bacon popcorn to top it all off. Heaven. Hands down the best cod I have ever tasted was placed in front of us afterwards. I would have loved to peek over the chef’s shoulder watching how he cooked the prime piece of fillet to be so mermerisingly crispy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth tender all the way through without drying it out. Next to ox cheek, the rib eye steak left me indifferent, while the former was fork tender with a beefy taste. Together with the clean but sparking horseradish foam it was simply divine.
After so many courses the granita was welcomed with open arms and it cleared the palate nicely. Two fruity dishes in a row were a bit superfluous for me and although the exotic fruit were perfectly ripe served with some interesting ginger concoctions it did not leave a lasting impression. Admittedly, I’m not a dessert person. However, I loved the chocolate plate and my favourite was the chocolate and cardamom truffles. Warning, don’t be a greedy gourmet like me and eat the whole Fisherman’s Friend lollipops in one go. You’re in for a shocker if you thought it’s plain meringue. Think of minty fireworks going off in your mouth…
Oh, and the cheese! My knowledge of cheese is close to zilch, blame lactose intolerance. The one that stuck out the most was the blue goat’s cheese and I was disappointed when my jelly went all gloopy and creeped off the tile so quickly.
This is my first ever visit to a Michelin-starred restaurant. So in that sense I lost my virginity! I didn’t know what to expect, so in a sense I feel I represent the average joe. I had so many questions.
I expected the food to be good. But was it special? – Yes. A lot of thought was put into each plate to make all the elements work together.
How did it compare to other upper market, non-starred restaurants? – The food is more sophisticated.
Do they serve typical haute cuisine where you need to drop by a fast food joint to fill up afterwards? – Of course, since we had the tasting menu, the portions were small but with all the nibbles in between we had more than enough. I never checked out other diners’ dishes ordered from the main menu. That would be just too weird, wouldn’t it? Also, I was in very good company so I forgot to look.
Texture is a posh setting with well-trained staff. As expected the clientele is of the affluent kind, who varied from being as relaxed as most people are in their local Burger King and others suffering from “Do you know who I am?” complexes. Remarkably children are accepted – I guess as long as the little rascals behave!
8/10: Sverrisson captivated all our senses with each dish. Salty, sweet, crispy, tender, cold, warm, chewy and the list goes on. Every plate that came out of the kitchen was simply impeccable. The level of enjoyment varied though.
6/10: It’s expensive. You do feel like a king/queen though.
9/10: Professional, attentive although their accents are a bit on the heavy side. Don’t be surprised if you have to ask them to repeat what you are eating.
8/10: The restaurant’s high ceiling make the restaurant feel more spacious than it really is. The décor is of beautiful, clean design and the ice bucket containers built into the tables in the bar area are quite nifty. Better lighting would have been preferable so that the dazzling array of colours on my plate could be fully appreciated.
9/10: Unless you’re a banker this is not the type of restaurant most people will regularly go to. Want to ask your girlfriend to marry you? Impress your parents? Experience food from another dimension? Go!
Would I go back? For sure! See you guys later, I have to go and look for spare change in the sofa and start saving the pennies…
34 Portman Street
+44 (0) 20 7224 0028