Born in Stockholm, Martin Brudnizki was the perfect candidate to deliver this concept, and was keen to move away from simplistic interpretations of Nordic culture.
“This is one of the first projects which has allowed me to truly reflect my influences from growing up in Sweden,” he says. “Nordic culture is often presented as a little one-dimensional, revolving around a handful of quite similar and over-simplified looks.
“I think Aquavit reveals a side of Scandinavia different to what else is out there; it still has the cool simplicity but incorporates a heighted elegance in the materiality, detailing and color palette.
“Created by Philip (CEO of Aquavit London) and myself, it reflects our experience of growing up in Sweden, and I hope people will enjoy our interpretation of Nordic culture.”
Swedish architecture, and more specifically Gothenburg City Hall, formed a major reference point for Martin. “The Gothenburg City Hall stands as a beacon of modernist architecture in Sweden and has always been a source of inspiration for me,” he explains.
“I think Aquavit reveals a side of Scandinavia different to what else is out there; it still has the cool simplicity but incorporates a heighted elegance in the materiality, detailing and color palette"
“I love the way the space feels cathedral-like with a great open nave in the centre surrounded by a smooth, curved mezzanine level situated above. With this in mind, Aquavit’s interior echoes the flowing style of the mezzanine at the city hall.”
Given the Grade II Listed structure in which the restaurant is housed, Martin and his team gave much time and consideration to honouring and preserving the original bones of the building, whilst creating a cosy, intimate feel for a dining crowd.
“The ceiling height and mezzanine level was pre-existing and whilst this might ordinarily have proved a design challenge, it actually worked well for us as it cemented the Gunnar Asplund reference.” he says.
“Though Asplund’s Gothenburg City hall is a cavernous space, there is a real sense of intimacy and this is largely thanks so the materiality used. Aquavit shares this ambience; with the full ceiling height working alongside the beautiful marble and warm seating arrangement.”
Clad in simple timber, Aquavit’s pared back aesthetic provides the pefect canvas for the many Scandinavian furnishings and references throughout. Amongst these are fabric panel inserts featuring Josef Frank patterns in the private dining rooms and striking wall hangings by Scandinavian artists, Olafur Eliasson and Babro Nilsson. Even the marble selected is Scandinavian, sourced from Borghamns Stenforadling, a stone producer in central Sweden.
The vibrant emerald green hangings are a key focal point, complete with abstract sunburst and geometric detailing that is mirrored in both the seating and flooring of the restaurant, and the polished brass elements that run throughout.
The bar area, meanwhile, showcases the restaurant’s namesake, Aquavit, with an impressive tiered stand complete with distinctive Schnapp Fish decanters from Svenskt Tenn. Bespoke leather seating surrounds the bar area, further reinforcing the relaxed and sociable ambience synonymous with the Nordic region.
"The vibrant emerald green hangings are a key focal point, complete with abstract sunburst and geometric detailing that is mirrored in both the seating and flooring of the restaurant, and the polished brass elements that run throughout"
The restaurant also incorporates two private dining rooms, situated on the mezzanine level. Here, simple Swedish furniture and design details have been selected to reflect the modest style of the contemporary Nordic home. A blend of leather, silk and wool create textural variety here, intespersed with antique chairs and bespoke wooden dining tables.
With its refreshing, authentic vibe, Aquavit is the perfect match for the much anticipated St. James’s Market redevelopment. Philip Hamilton, CEO of Aquavit London, explains: “The St. James’s Market area has had a chequered and intriguing history, having started off in the form of a working market place in the 17th century before sliding down the echelons of society in the early 19th century when it became an area of disrepute.
“The placement of Aquavit marks a new era for the area, both through introducing contemporary style and new cuisine – it perfectly embodies the area’s quest to renew and inspire.”