Bloody Good Brunching
Sure-handedness in the kitchen, a warm welcome – and should you desire it unlimited bubbles – make Aster a confident brunch choice
Review by Martin Stickley
I must say I am not a man who usually does brunch, I tend to save my fine dining for later in the day, and more often than not I am too hungry upon waking to turn down breakfast and wait for a few hours. Thankfully I had managed to keep hold of my appetite as I made my way down to SW1 to check out Aster, the latest offering from the D&D group (the team behind Bluebird Café, Launceston Place and the excellent Orrery on Marylebone High Street). Situated on Victoria Street and right opposite the entrance to one of London’s busiest transport hubs, Aster forms part of the Nova development, a mixture of offices, restaurants and pop-up kiosks combining indoor and al-fresco food options for London’s more discerning diners.
My first impression of Aster is that it is an exquisitely designed restaurant which oozes Scandinavian charm and elegance. Designed by the acclaimed Russell Sage Studio (the group behind the stunning Tuttons Brassiere in Covent Garden) the interior is all sweeping copper and wood but with warm, welcoming dashes of orange and red. With plenty of light it feels open and inviting and perfect for all day eating. Thankfully the quality of the customer service is equal to the architecture; the reception is warm and welcoming (something which continues throughout the meal) with the front of house staff coming across particularly friendly without being over-bearing.
My timing is impeccable as I arrive at the precise point in time when the restaurant introduces its Nordic Crayfish and Provencal Rose pairings to celebrate the height of summer. Throughout August Aster are launching a series of pairing events, feasting dinners, master classes and are of course simply adding Crayfish to the already rather inviting bottomless brunch and à la carte menus.
The brunch offer is quite reasonably priced and offers both two and three course options with unlimited bubbles thrown in for an extra £15 each. Given that you would be hard pressed to source a glass of drinkable wine or fizz in London for less than £6, paying just under three times this for an unlimited supply of Cote de Provence rosé is pretty good.
To test the restaurant suitably I decided against the typically “brunchy” dishes such as Eggs Benedict or Florentine and instead thought I would try half a dozen of the Wiltshire crayfish for starter whilst my partner had the baby spinach, pear and stilton with banyuls dressing. The crayfish come accompanied by some wonderfully moreish sourdough and dill butter and it was hard to pace myself as I layered the bread with the beautifully soft and creamy cray flesh. The mains on both the brunch and à la carte menus are equally varied and mouth watering. The rib eye with celeriac remoulade and BBQ hollandaise caught my eye (I have a certain something for celeriac at the moment which has no signs of abating). My partner was sorely tempted by the crab linguine with cherry tomatoes and baby basil which she dreamily eyed as it was brought it to a neighbouring table, but instead she went for the grilled sea bream with potato salad and crème fraiche. The rib eye was cooked perfectly and was beautifully coupled to the creamy nuttiness of the remoulade. My partner’s bream was firm and fresh; a genuine marine treasure which only served to augment my initial impression that the kitchen contained some obviously skilled hands.
In conclusion I can say with certainty that Aster is not a one-trick pony. It offers a series of deftly crafted and varied menus, with all manner of dining options being catered for. Whether you are out for brunch, lunch or an evening meal, Aster delivers with a level of class, sophistication and elegance which many other restaurants can only hope to achieve.
Enquiries: Aster, 150 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5LB / 0203 8755555 / www.aster-restaurant.com/