Tanya Gold Tanya Gold

Norse code

I suspect this restaurant is as close to real Scandinavia as Rules is to real Edwardian London

Aquavit is a ‘uniquely Nordic–style’ restaurant in the St James’s Market development between Regent Street and the Haymarket. This development — a pleasingly neutral word — is seriously misnamed, for there is nothing of the market about St James’s Market which seems, rather, to have stripped itself of the ordinary bustle of life; it is a shell for a management consultancy that has landed on the already overpolished West End. With its cool stones, tinted window and alarming orange woods, it is, stylistically, a tribute to the international luxury hotel and, is, therefore, a place entirely devoid of culture. It is a glossy blank that harms — and charms — no one. It is nowhere.

Here sits Aquavit, expressing the vogue for Scandinavia in haute cuisine form; why do I feel, increasingly, that as we lose a real world we build a new and tinny one? I hate fashion, but some people need guidance in what to talk about, so that they do not talk about the things they need to talk about; why not, then, establish Scandinavia, or rather a fake idea of Scandinavia imagined by Elle magazine, in your own stomach?

This trend began with ‘Nordic noir’, a genre of television programme in which Scandinavian women exhibit a range of mental health conditions as punishment for having careers. (These, themselves, owe something to the original Prime Suspect, in which Helen Mirren excelled herself into full-blown alcoholism.) It reached an interesting zenith in Fortitude — a television series that I adore, in which Norwegians are driven mad by wasps and practise cannibalism — and in hygge, a brand of Danish mindfulness which involves buying expensive crockery and wearing wool indoors. I cannot see the point of hygge because I would rather be mad than find serenity by wearing Christmas jumpers in July, but that is just me.

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