Last Updated on February 1, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Could this be the perfect date night dining option?
In the not so distant past, a date night might have involved a trip to the cinema, cocktails and a meal at a Michelin starred restaurant. Now, locked down in London, creating the perfect romantic setting is much more of a DIY effort. If you are living together and possibly working together in the same small space how can you set up the perfect date night? We took a look at what was available and decided that Michelin starred Aquavit restaurant might just have got the perfect balance with hamper menus (fish, meat or vegetarian) to finish at home. Of course, that means testing the water – so we ordered the Aquavit fish hamper for ourselves. No one is complaining here!
Unless both of you love cooking, spending too long in the kitchen on a date night is probably not on the agenda. And, if you are planning to buy-in your food it needs to be sufficiently special to stand out from a regular mid-week takeaway or delivery. You probably don’t want anything too heavy either. The Aquavit Hampers created by Head Chef Jorjon Colazo offer three seasonal sharing menus to impress your other half. The Vegetarian box is £60 for two and comes with Nordic classics of pickled and fermented vegetables, and roasted heritage beetroot salad with smoked vegan cheese, with main dishes of kroppkakor (traditional Swedish boiled potato dumplings), with mushrooms, lingonberries and brown butter; and braised chicory with chestnut purée and warm quinoa salad. The Meat box, priced at £80 for two includes black pudding with lardo and pulled venison bao buns to start, Aquavit’s signature Swedish meatballs with lingonberries and pickled cucumber; and beef Rydberg with caramelised onion, onion purée, confit egg yolk, horseradish cream for mains. But we were tempted by the Fish box with gravlax, langoustine bao buns, trout and Icelandic cod.
You need to order before Tuesday for delivery on a Thursday. But, each hamper will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. Our fish box arrived on Thursday morning, carefully wrapped up in the box still frozen ice-packs to keep everything fresh. Each course was separately packaged in vacuum-sealed bags and there was a neat if rather brief set of instructions. Four dishes to enjoy and share.
If I had to pick one outstanding feature of the Aquavit Hamper it’s the quality of every component. We started the evening with the Gravlax with mustard and a dill sauce. Exquisite mouthfuls of perfectly cured salmon were complemented by the piquant mustard and dill sauce. Both of us love Gravlax (and we’d indulged in some of Borough Market’s finest the week before) but this was genuinely outstanding.
Next, langoustine bao buns. Each of the buns had been branded ‘Aquavit’ but all we had to do was pop them in the microwave to warm through and sear the langoustines. We loved the soft, fluffy bao filled with sweet fresh fish, pickles and coleslaw and I for one was impressed that the langoustine came beautifully prepared, shelled and deveined but had lost none of their taste.
The Aquavit hampers all have four dishes. Our third, a mysterious silver foil fish shape package, contained the Houghton spring trout which needed to be baked for 6 minutes on each side at 140C. The trout was accompanied by Sandefjord sauce (a Norwegian butter and cream sauce) laced with trout roe. My only challenge of the evening was how to reheat this – the instructions said in a small saucepan but the quantity of sauce meant that even my smallest pan was much too big. I suspect the answer might have been to heat it the way I did with the sauce accompaniment for the next course, by immersing the sealed plastic bag containing the sauce into a pan of pre-boiled water and leaving it while the fish cooked.
We were, however, thrilled with the fish and sauce and particularly impressed that the fish had been filleted while the head and tail were left on. That made for very easy sharing with none of the fiddly bone-picking you generally get with fish like trout. We added our own sides of beans and tenderstem broccoli.
Probably our favourite dish of the evening was the Icelandic cod papillote with smoked mussels, Atlantic prawns, hayselden potato and samphire. I added extra potatoes (from Waitrose) because I hadn’t read the menu provided with the Aquavit hamper properly but we thoroughly enjoyed the whole dish. I make fish en papillote quite regularly but have never managed to create such a neat sealed package. It was baked for 15 minutes at 190c, while the sauce which appeared to accompany it was warmed through in a pan of just-boiled water.
The sealed paper package opened to reveal a stunning portion of cod. At this time of year, I love Norwegian Skrei. This came from nearby Icelandic waters and was similar in texture – beautiful large flakes of ultra-fresh fish. Smoked mussels added depth of flavour, prawns were sweet and succulent and samphire added a saline textural contrast.
We were both impressed. While my plating skills are not up to Michelin standards by any means, the quality of the food really shone through and the menu itself was well thought out and easy to finish at home. This kind of balance with dishes that are genuinely easy to reheat and just require a little plating, together with first-class ingredients makes for a relaxed date night experience where you can enjoy each other’s company and dine on food that tastes every bit as good as if you were in the restaurant itself. What you miss out on in terms of service, you gain in terms of privacy.
Aquavit hampers are available across the UK. Orders will be sent out each Wednesday to arrive on Thursday. Order online from www.aquavitrestaurants.com or via Slerp – https://aquavit.slerp.com/order. Orders must be placed before 11pm on Tuesday for the Thursday delivery.
For more meal-kit and dine at home reviews, check out our tried and tested roundup of some of the best date night meal-kits in town