Review of Smaka - new Skandinavian restaurant in London
There's a new place in London for you to get your Swedish meatballs now.
Recently opened Smaka (which I've been told means "to taste" I'm Swedish) aims to serve up healthy, great tasting food with a Scandinavian twist. They use fresh in-season ingredients, sourced locally where possible, to create dishes that will show you the wonders of Sweden.
Smaka had only been open for three nights when I went, but it didn't give me that impression. In fact, there was an element of warmth and friendliness in the air. The staff are super friendly and really make you feel welcomed. The decor is clean, simple and very modern. A really nice eating environment. As it was their opening week, there was 50% off the bill. I'm not one to miss out on a good deal, nor of trying out a new restaurant so of course I had to get myself down to Smaka! To be honest, my only experience of Scandinavian food is probably limited to meatballs at Ikea. So I can't say whether Smaka's food is authentic or not. But I can say whether it's something suited for Londoner's tastebuds.
The menu is equally as simple. But enough choice to make you ponder which are to be the lucky ones that night! Once seated, you're served with a basket of rye bread and Swedish crackers and a generous amount of butter.
To try and warm up from the cold weather, I tried out the Dark Hot Chocolate Melt (£2.40). This was dark chocolate pieces melted with milk. It was OK, as I like dark chocolate. But I think more chocolate would've made this even better. My friend had the Lagom - which is a mix of milk and dark chocolate, way too sweet for me. Which makes me wonder how sweet the Milk Chocolate option would've been!
Next I had the Raraka Potato Pancake (£8.00). This is like a pimped up potato rosti. The vibrant colours of the whole dish alone was enough to make me go "wow". The Raraka was topped with sour cream, arctic char roe and finely diced raw red onion and served with a sprig of dill and a wedge of lemon. All the different elements of the dish worked really well. The red onions were actually a little sweet, despite being raw. The sour cream acted like a glue to bond everything together and add a velvety texture to each mouthful. This Raraka was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it.
I also had the Pickled Mackerel (£8.00) - a whole fillet of mackerel served with beetroot, pickled carrot and some salad leaves. Mackerel is one of my favourite fish. I don't know if its the way this particular piece of mackerel was cured, but the taste didn't sit well with my stomach. I would've preferred if the sharpness in the pickled beetroot and carrot was stronger too. As you might be able to tell from the photo, the serving size of this dish was way too big for a starter - hopefully Smaka will be able to get this right soon.
I opted for the Crispy Salmon (£15.00) as one of my mains, which was served with carrot puree, baby spinach, mash and a brown butter & dill sauce). The salmon was perfectly cooked and did actually have the crispy skin. The brown butter was a really good compliment to the salmon, as it combined all the different elements on the plate. A simple dish, elegantly put together.
Of course I also tried the Swedish Meatballs (£12.50) - served with creamy mash, cream sauce, pickled cucumber and ligonberries. Prior to arriving at Smaka, I'd done my research and stalked their Instagram, just so that I had an idea of what dishes to expect. Now I'm not sure if the chef forgot to put the sauce on my plate of meatballs, or if there just wasn't enough put on in the first place - because mine sure didn't look as saucy as the one on Smaka's Instagram! Luckily though, the meatballs weren't dry, and had a really good texture to them. The pickled cucumbers and ligonberries worked well to cut through the richness a bit too. The mash was also super smooth and comforting to have, especially on the cold and wet night that I was at Smaka!
I couldn't end the meal without dessert! So I had the Swedish Waffles (£6.00) served with homemade strawberry jam and cream. This was my first time having Swedish Waffles, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised! It was a really thin and crispy waffle, with a beautiful pattern.The strawberry jam was a little too sweet for me, but the cream helped to balance out the flavours and they worked really well with the waffle.
I also tried the Wine Poached pear with Chocolate Sorbet (£6.00). The pear itself was perfectly cooked but the taste was a little off for me, so much that my friend laughed at the frowning of my face! I think the chef was a little too heavy handed with the spices he added in with the poaching. I also think the chocolate sorbet, whilst it was really nice, was too rich and strong in flavour for the pear. I experimented with the the cream from my waffle with the pear instead and that worked better. So I hope Smaka takes on my suggestion to use a plain ice-cream with the pear instead, maybe like good old vanilla!
Overall, I had a pleasant time at Smaka. It's definitely nice to try something new in London. There's not many Scandinavian restaurants around, so I hope this kicks off for us! I think for the food I was having, I would've been quite upset if I didn't have the 50% off and had to pay the full £76.00. But things can only get better and improve with time. And I'm sure Smaka will take on the feedback from all their customers. I also hope they'll get their toilet fixed, as it wasn't available for use on the night and I had to run over to the Premier Inn opposite!
Address: 77 Alie Street, London, E1 8NH
Phone: 020 3358 0317
Opening Hours: Mon 8am-4pm, Tues to Fri 8am-11pm, Sat 10:30-11pm