Iceland is a place of serene beauty and mystical qualities. It is a place where people ask the fairies first if it is ok to build a house on a particular part of the earth. It is also a place where fish cheeks are on almost every menu in every restaurant (which are a seafood version of beef cheeks really… sublime) and home to some of the most beautiful langoustines I have ever eaten. Chef Agnar Sverrisson hails from this special land and carries with him to his London restaurant “Texture” a lot of it’s magic.
Firstly the interior speaks of elegance and fairytales. There are white river birches lining the walls reaching towards a vaulted embellished old English ceiling, all painted a creamy white. The dining room leads into an open kitchen that has live silhouettes of branches loosely curtaining the chef and kitchen staff cooking your dinner. There is a softness and earthiness to the space, but in a graceful feminine way, as compared to a hippie earth mother approach. The art is simple, abstract, and organic pairing well with the mystical vibe the room presents.
The cocktail list is also quite elegant with the use of a lot of champagne. I tried the luxury mojito which was fresh and lively with mint and sparkle. We also tasted the ginger fizz which was simply champagne and ginger infused syrup, but it’s simplicity and cleanliness was quite appealing. Served with our drinks was a bowl of “bacon-ed” popcorn. I liked the use of the bacon dust instead of salt, very witty. Also served were a variety of paper thin crackers, some made of seaweed, some of cod skin, and some with fried oats. There was a simple raita like dip to sink the crackers into which created a light sour elegance in your mouth. The mixture of textures from the snacks were really refreshing and inventive. although I can’t say they were incredible in flavour, but I really enjoyed the feminine playfulness in my mouth.
When we were seated we were served a beautiful warm straight from the oven loaf of bread crusted in oats and grains and simply served with a soft clean Spanish olive oil. Apparently he is one of six owners in the world to a very special olive extraction machine. He also has a policy of no butter. All I can say is that it was purist (in a good way) and delicious.
We spoke briefly to the sommelier requesting a mineral like white, something full and round like an alto adage or a dry gewürztraminer. He seemed to understand, but then presented us with a very sweet gewürztraminer which would have paired beautifully with a Thai or Indian meal, balancing out the spices, but certainly not clean crisp Icelandic. It was an odd choice. We later ordered a French Chablis which in comparison made us realise just how sweet the gewürztraminer was, almost dessert wine quality. He also had a really bad attitude, as if he couldn’t wait to finally finish the evening and we were all in his way to do so. It really put me off. I dislike very much to complain, but it’s truly the only negative thing I can say about our experience. Otherwise I would happily rate this place five Avocados… I guess if he had done his job right I would have forgiven him a little more for the bad attitude, but he really steered us down the wrong road and then seemed annoyed to be asked questions about his choice.
The amuse bouse consisted of two tiny sweet succulent prawns gently laid atop a salt cod, avocado, and potato purée, reminding me of the Spanish and Portuguese dish, Bacala. It was extremely soft in flavour and a quiet serene opening to the meal.
The first course was made as if by fairies themselves. I had a gently steamed plate of sweet giant asparagus served with Parmesan “snow” and bits of seaweed playfully strewn about the plate. Hazelnuts created a lovely contrast and complemented the nuttiness of the asparagus. There was a lovely pale green creamy juice blanketing the dish and bringing it together. Again the appearance of the oat cracker, which was lovely in texture but I felt it was becoming repeated a lot later through the dinner. Although slightly under seasoned, I thought it was quite a beautiful take on this classic dish and flavour combination. It was so light I felt would fly off my plate. We also ordered the salmon gravlax, a typical Nordic dish. It was served with a round skinned chunk of softly pickled cucumber lightly dusted with more “snow”. There was a sprinkling of salmon roe and dashes here and there of dill and seaweed, and again a super thin oatmeal crisp. It was like a soft dance across your palate, again very fairy-like and feminine.
I ordered a starter as my main, as I could not resist the crab, and the waiter lovingly gave me a larger portion. It was gentle and soft in texture and melted on my tongue. A crisp slightly pickled radish gave it contrast and a bit of spunk. Wild garlic perfumed the meat, which I thought a beautiful pairing as regular garlic would have been almost to harsh. Baby new potatoes dotted the plate, but I found them a little boring and too many of them. In fact I had my dinner date eat most of them. Crunchy salted fennel or slightly grilled cucumber could have been a much more interesting match. We also ordered the icelandic salted cod, which is a traditional Icelandic dish. Usually one has to “de-salt” the cod over a period of days, changing the water and nursing it back to life. It is traditional all over Europe, this ancient method of pickling fish, and one of my favourites. Here it is served with corn tasting and nutty quinoa, an interesting and playful choice, cauliflower, sorrel, and a dose of prawns dancing about the plate. I loved the paper thin slices of cauliflower, again hitting the nutty vibe of the quinoa. I really enjoy how “chef” creates so many textures, but keeps it as if a soft romantic symphony, everything gently and soothingly crooning together.
We didn’t order dessert, but at the end we were presented with a lovely “forest scene” of delights. Madeleines were made with seaweed and were delicate and perfectly cooked, being moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. I actually adored the hint of the sea, like a mermaid biscuit. Sweet yellow macaroons were a lovely second bite, and I started to love the cheese plate- like order of sweet bits. Next was an overly powerful dark and very bitter chocolate “stones”, in which I found actually unpleasant and heavy. But maybe that is what a “rock” should taste like? This was an odd choice but visually worked on our “forest scene “. Finally we tasted the toothpaste like “mushroom caps”, cutely affixed onto wooden spikes, and had a look of a giant enoki mushroom. Charming and very faerie, but literally had a Listerine quality which I found slightly unpleasant.
Overall “Texture” is an experience, a taste of food art, a study of food, described as if one was eating within a fairytale. I wouldn’t go to Texture to fill my belly, but it somehow satisfies the spirit. Sometimes these types of restaurants are a rare and special treat, and to be regarded as such with like-minded people who can appreciate this approach. I wouldn’t take my little brother’s football coach. Don’t miss this unbelievable place.