Victoria may be home to one of London’s busiest stations but now the neighbourhood is a (foodie) destination in its own right – with the opening of glamorous new restaurant Aster (directly opposite the Circle Line exit of the Tube). Set on two levels with a deli/cafe downstairs and restaurant upstairs, the kitchen is presided over by Finnish head chef Helena Puolakka (formerly of Skylon). She has been inspired by both her heritage and her culinary training with a menu that combines the best of French and Nordic cuisine, and offers some brilliant and unexpected combinations of flavour and ingredients.
We loved the Aberdeen Angus Fillet with golden roots and truffle potato (flavoursome beef, which worked brilliantly with the earthiness of the roots, together with a Castelfranco side salad for freshness) and the Milk fed lamb shoulder with January King cabbage and lingonberry (again perfectly cooked tender lamb complemented by the tangy berries as well as a Scandi-style bolognaise-style sauce encased in the cabbage leaves.) As for the restaurant’s signature desert – the Beetroot sponge, smoked beetroot sorbet and chocolate – it was a match made in heaven! Deliciously rich, moist mouthfuls, this was elegant patisserie enhanced again by those smokey Nordic flavours as well as a subtle hint of cardamom.
Aster’s name comes from the Greek for star and is also the name of a pretty autumnal flower, of course. Both themes are picked up in the interior’s logo and decor – whether it’s the chic leather banquettes installed to form a star shape (the corner tables in the stars’ points are perfect corner seats for a date) or the subtle floral decoration on the staff uniforms. And there’s a nod to its Victoria location with luggage-style detailing and a large station clock over the cafe’s stunning central bar. Definitely worth making a detour for…
Helena has shared her fabulous recipe for Cardamom Buns.
400ml whole milk
50g fresh yeast
4tsp crushed cardamom seeds
150g melted butter
75g butter (room temperature)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 Warm the milk to 40◦C before adding the yeast. Mix together until it has dissolved.
2 Add the flour, mix thoroughly and leave in a warm place to prove for 20 minutes.
3 Add the egg, salt, sugar, cardamom and butter, then knead for a good 5-10 minutes.
4 Allow to prove for a further 30 minutes.
5 Roll out the dough to a thickness of around 5mm and fill with the butter, sugar and either the cinnamon and roll into buns.
6 Allow to prove again for 20 mins, then brush with egg wash.
7 Cook at 210◦C for approx 15 minutes.
For more info, please see http://www.aster-restaurant.com/