Husmanskost at SKÅL in Notting Hill.
It’s a family affair at SKÅL, the new Islington neighbourhood Nordic restaurant serving a contemporary take on traditional ‘husmanskost’ (home-cooked) food with a twist. Dad’s in the kitchen (Chef Lauri Hilli) with mum Angelique and daughter Emma managing the front of house.
Situated in a Grade II listed building on Islington’s trendy Upper Street, SKÅL (which means cheers) has a welcoming Scandi feel with white brick walls, gorgeous polished parquet flooring and Johnny Cash and Tom Petty on the stereo.
The menu is divided into nibbles, starters and small plates, mains and desserts. We started the evening with delicious home-made Aquavit, infused with dill and tarragon and served at room temperature – a great way to get the evening going especially with a couple of the nibbles!
Mushrooms came deep-fried in a dry crisp batter, served with the subtle Nordic notes of a pine and dill cream sauce. Homemade whipped cod’s roe spread had a light, grainy texture (it was cod’s roe blended with whipped butter) and came with a basket of warm bread and proper Scandi crispbread. We moved on from the Aquavit to a bottle of Te Kairanga Riesling, 2018, Martinborough, New Zealand which had a gentle lime acidity and unexpected dill notes which made it a perfect match with the Nordic nosh.
From the starters and small plates menu, we chose the gravad lax. The salmon was thinly sliced and of excellent quality and came with the traditional dill—mustard sauce with some pickled cucumber and the kick of wasabi to offset the sweetness of the herb.
Crispy deep-fried ’Kroppkakor’ boiled potato dumplings were strewn with wild mushrooms, melted Västerbotten cheese and a cloudberry vinaigrette. This was perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night!
A dish of herring, apple, sour cream, potato and rye was beautifully composed, the fish freshly pickled with soft light flesh and thin slivers of the apple adding crunch.
From the mains menu, a perfectly cooked slab of roasted cod was served in a rich creamy white wine sauce, enlivened with horseradish, pert little peas and a dill ‘salsa’.
A side of winter slaw was a crunchy collation of kale, cabbage, carrots, toasted hazelnuts with a mild chilli bite. Pommes Anna, an unctuous dish of layered potatoes cooked in butter, showed proper classical technique and showcased the skill of the chef.
An intensely flavoured and densely textured chocolate ’kladdkaka’ cake was lifted by the lightness of skyr and a gentle orange and liquorice compote on the side.
Rich Swedish rice pudding was studded with brandy-soaked cloudberries and flavoured with cinnamon, honey and the snap of toasted almonds.
SKÅL is the sort of restaurant every neighbourhood should have. It is charming and unpretentious, with friendly service, excellent and beautifully presented food, and a real sense of authenticity. There is a lot of competition in Islington but with its family setup and original food and drink offer, SKÅL is definitely worth a visit and should be supported.