As halal diners, we have a propensity to only eat at restaurants that provide halal meat options and therefore we tend to overlook that London also has an exceptional range of eateries that offer great vegetarian and pescatarian alternatives for halal consumers to enjoy.
During our search for non-halal alternatives, which still provide a unique experience for halal diners, we discovered Smaka, a Scandinavian restaurant in the heart of Aldgate East.
As we have never tried authentic Scandinavian cuisine before, we were truly excited, especially as the Nordics are renowned for their healthy eating, due to their staple diet of root vegetables, rye bread and fatty fish that are rich in Omega-3 acids, such as salmon, mackerel and herring.
The venue is spacious in size and the decor exudes a Nordic feel, with a wall covered in a mural of a Swedish birch forest, along with natural wood coloured furniture and industrial style soft lighting, which all goes towards providing a sense of serenity; a little oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Please note that Smaka restaurant does not offer any halal meat options, however there are a number of vegetarian and fish dishes to choose from. Vegetarian and fish dishes are prepared on different work stations to meat, as confirmed by the restaurant.
We began our Scandinavian odyssey from the “Dinner” menu, where we first ordered the “Horseradish cheesecake with lingonberry vinaigrette” from the “Starter” section. The cheesecake was smooth and light, with a subtle horseradish piquancy. For most diners, I believe the flavour of the horseradish is perfectly balanced, but personally, I would have preferred the taste of the horseradish to be stronger, so to make my nose flare with heat. The lingonberry vinaigrette was sharp and tangy and complimented the delicate flavour of the cheesecake. – Recommended
“Råraka (potato pancake) with arctic char roe, sour cream and red onion” was a enjoyable dish. The potato pancake was crispy and scrumptious, as it tasted similar to a potato rosti. The combination of the velvety sour cream, the salty arctic char and surprisingly sweet red onions, gave it a pleasingly fresh and vibrant taste, with all the ingredients working together in harmony. – Recommended
From the “Mains” segment of the menu, we opted for “Chanterelle and Västerbotten cheese risotto”, which was simply astounding. The dish was smooth, creamy and bold in flavour, and brought sadness to my palate as soon as the dish reached its inevitable end. – Highly Recommended
The “Rainbow trout with chive puree, beetroot & goat cheese with truffle vinaigrette and new potato” was once again another magnificent plate of food. The trout had a sensational crispy skin and the meat was soft and almost effervescent, with the flesh flaking off effortlessly. The entire dish tasted fresh and healthy, whilst bursting with flavour, which brought rapture to my taste buds. Only flaw to the dish were the new potatoes, which were underwhelming and lacked imagination (not shown in the picture). – Highly Recommended
To conclude our first Scandinavian food fest, for “Dessert” we were presented with the “Swedish waffle with homemade strawberry jam and cream”. The waffle was thin and crispy, the cream was smooth and sensuously sweet and the jam was saccharine and tangy. The dish as a whole was light and delectably delicious, and a glorious end to our meal. – Recommended
While we were impressed by the majority of the dishes, our primary critique would be that the portion sizes were diminutive, especially in comparison to the price of the dishes. Our recommendation would be to either reduce the price or to improve the portion size.
Nonethesless, overall Smaka, which is Swedish for taste, truly does live up to its name. The presentation, the flavours and the healthy ingredients will make your visit to Smaka a truly delightful dining experience.
*Disclaimer: We were invited to review the restaurant.