Review: Business breakfast at Aquavit
The business breakfast; it’s a little-known secret. We find out why at St James’s Market’s new Nordic restaurant, Aquavit.

To the many furrowing their brows and protesting that they can “barely function” in the morning – preferring everything and everyone to just be very still and quiet – we say hush those doubts. Because, in fact, this may very well be the working meal for you.

Unlike the possibility of long languorous lunches and the inevitable mid-afternoon bloating and soporifics, breakfast is neatly contained, orderly, healthy even.

Plus, a survey looking at the tweets of 2.4 million people worldwide found that people are most positive in the morning. So when better than to broach work difficulties over breakfast teas? I mean, who boasts over toast? Or comes to heads over eggs? What’s the use when there’s freshly squeezed juice?

With this in mind, our own editorial team set an 8 o’clock date at Aquavit – a new Nordic restaurant at St James’s Market and the first outpost from this New York culinary landmark and Michelin-star winner.


Arriving inevitably bleary-eyed, we were shown our way to a corner table of polished birch and umber-coloured leather banquette. Morning light streamed through the huge windows, and we sat silently sipping hot Johan & Nystrom coffee served in individual Georg Jensen silver jugs. We must have mumbled something about pastries, because a plate of glistening cardamom buns appeared (and then “disappeared”) before we’d had chance to put pen to paper.

A little revived, we looked around and the restaurant is beautiful. The gray-green marble floor looks as if freshly hewn from behind the back of a waterfall, moss and all. The sculptural lighting is pure Scandinavian design with spherical soft-lit orbs and simple gold metalwork. Even the radiators look like a cross between a newly sawn trunk and Bang & Olufsen speakers.

And at this time of the morning, there’s a wonderful calm, with an enveloping natural warmth that the Swedes do so well: this isn’t hygge, it’s something much more refined.

The menu is simply arranged into Bakery; Fruit, Yoghurt and Grains; Eggs; Specials. Bypassing the organic porridge or ewes’ milk yoghurt with cloudberries, we plumped for pink grapefruit: a wonderfully acidic assault on the palate to really kick-start the meeting.

Next up, we skipped the omelettes – Västerbotten cheese, anchovies and dill, Vendace roe – and ended up at the specials. The Nordic breakfast was a meditation on simplicity. Two boiled eggs sliced horizontally, pale pink whip of cods’ roe, fanned avocado, all on the prettiest thing ever to be crafted from crisp rye – this was a far cry from Ryvita.

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The smoked eel benedict is a molten mound, with toasted buttered English muffin, generous slivers of smoked eel – pink and so sweet – perfectly poached egg, and slathered with hollandaise. One is £10, or £15 for two – so we now where that conversation ended up.

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And that’s another important point: we enjoyed a beautiful meal, managed some rather important meeting chat (and non-meeting chat), all in an incredible setting for nay too many pennies. We were not only professionally but digestively set for the day.

Aquavit starts serving breakfast at 7AM. We observed a (very generalised) shift from suits to tracksuits, with some of the Dover Street Market crowd arriving around 9AM for the second serving. Currently the quietest of the restaurant’s settings – which serves until 11/11.30PM – it’s still easy enough to get a walk-in table, even for morning zombies. But you know what they say about the early bird…