Until now Victoria’s dining scene has been virtually non-existent. Despite neighbouring glitzy Belgravia, Sloane Square, St James’s, Westminster, Buckingham Palace and their plainer brother Pimlico, Victoria remains the ugly duckling pressed up against them. Given its location, it shouldn’t be, and will no longer be (if you can ignore the John Lewis Offices and House Of Fraser on Victoria Street). The area has been undergoing a regeneration with the major local land owner, Land Securities, pouring in billions along side the redevelopment and expansion of Victoria Station and Underground. This has led to a completely new look Victoria street of glass and stone. Despite more homes and companies like Tom Ford moving in, there are still no particularly good shops or restaurants. Till now those living in Victoria, like London Lamppost’s Editor, have had a choice of middle of the range chain restaurants or going somewhere else. Invariably many, like our editor, go elsewhere (the chains mostly serve the office workers at lunch and early evenings).
Now however things are changing. M has moved in on Victoria Street. Bleecker Street, purveyors of New York inspired street burgers, has set up shop just round from The Goring. But best of all is the Nova development, opposite the station and Bleecker Street, a development of glass and steel office blocks that has been designed at the street level to form a dining quarter; Jamie Olive’s Barbecoc, Jason Atherton’s Hai Cenato, Crosstown Doughnuts, Sticks’n’Shushi, Franco Manca, Shake Shack, Ole & Steen and new wine bars have all opened up.
Nestled in this development is Aster, a Nordic French restaurant, next to the equally new bar/restaurant of Timmy Green. Being a member of the ever-expanding D&D group, we expect grand dining space, solid food and a reasonable price tag. In that regard, Aster delivers. Despite being close to the station, Aster offers a stylish oasis from the hustle and bustle.
Despite the look from the outside, Aster is a relatively large dining space over two floors. The ground floor is a café offering an all-day menu, with a discrete delicatessen counter by the entrance, a reception area in the middle and seating at the back. While the first floor hosts Aster’s formal restaurant offering views over, well, the architectural wonder that is the currently scaffolding clad Victoria Station. There are also 2 private dining rooms. We picked one of the early slots to dine in the café for its soft launch and were greeted by very friendly and understandably slightly anxious staff.
The dimly lit dining area is chic with a pastel colour scheme and wood furnishing. Tables are set quite closely to each other but it only adds to the intimate setting, which is not bad thing unless you happen to sit next to someone obnoxious. We were quickly attended by our waiting staff, explaining the concept behind the menu. The concise menu, rather expectedly, places an emphasis on fish. The usual suspects of smorgasbord and smoked fish all make a welcoming appearance. There are a few meat dishes featuring venison, duck, ox-cheeks and reindeer for the more adventurous. In short, the dishes are generally hearty and comforting, with nothing outlandish.
The starter of home-cured salmon was fantastic and the pickled cucumber and crispy rye bread make it a traditional yet accomplished dish. The smoked haddock chowder was unfortunately over-seasoned and too thin, missing that unctuous creaminess one would expect. The dish was duly replaced with our choice of alternative. We picked the mushroom and potato smorgasbord – an unspectacular-sounding dish brought to life by the accompanying tangy lingonberry jam. Both starters were on-the-house and a fine example of why it’s worth going to restaurants soft openings.
The main courses we plumped for were the cod with brown-shrimps and the less common Arctic char. The Baltic fish pie tempted us, but when we asked what makes it ‘Baltic’, the server duly replied ‘fish in cream sauce topped with mash’. Right. No thank you. The less said about how stupid a reply that is the better. The two main courses were great with beautifully cooked fish, crispy skin and flaky flesh. The char was particularly good with great fat content (a bit like a cross between cod and salmon), and the accompanying prawns and bisque sauce round off the dish brightly. The desert menu, should you decide to have one, sounds wonderfully wintery, featuring ingredients like lingonberries, rhubarb and pears. After all, Aster is a solid place for Nordic cuisine.
There are more exciting restaurants elsewhere but Aster is a welcome addition to the area doing what D&D does best, providing decent food and fair prices. It is smart enough for business and friendly enough for lovers. The service is immaculate, though the menu could expand its rather thin smorgasbord section. No doubt it will be successful and the menu will develop as the restaurant beds in.
150 Victoria Street