Anyone who has followed Sven Elverfeld’s evolution at Aqua will note that the cooking here has taken inspiration from Germand and Austrian classics. Whether that be the Handkäs with Musik from Frankfurt, or the Austrian Tafelspitz, Elverfeld’s cooking was focused on reinterpreting dishes that most Germans would have had many times. Another characteristic of the cuisine at Aqua was a richness in the dishes that made them easily enjoyable, and approachable; they were succulent.
Whilst Elverfeld still likes to evoke memories of Austrian and German classics, his menu has changed a little. We think that these changes have been for the better.
One of the interesting points to note is that the food here has become more nuanced and varied. Fresh, lively, and acidic dishes such as raw mackerel with clams, peanuts, avocado, rambutan, and cucumber, are sandwiched in between more robust, richer ones such as lamb’s tongue with white truffle, Comté, Jerusalem artichoke and quail’s eggs. The menu is now more exciting, and keeps you on your toes throughout.
Also, Elverfeld’s cooking has gained a degree of precision when it comes to pairing odd flavours. An aspect of the cuisine that is just as exciting as the reinterpreted classics is his constant search for original combinations. Sea bass is served with pistachios, elderflower, olives, celery and grilled peppers. This sounds like a very queer combination, but the plate does not only look stunning; the sense of harmony on it is baffling.
This extremely precise balancing act, which brings together flavours, textures, and temperatures, is equally captivating in a pork belly dish. Served with foam made from roast potatoes, balsamic gel, crackling, and apple, this is a riff on a classic barbequed pork belly. Instead of serving a thick piece of the meat, Elverfeld serves it in stripes, covering them with the other elements. There is a sweet/sour component from the apples and balsamic vinegar; a meaty smokiness from the pork; crunch from the crackling, completing the picture. This is a dish where everything is judged correctly, whilst remaining immediately appealing, and recognisable.
A final point worth noting is the more provocative, daring aspect of Elverfeld’s cooking. By combining white truffles with lamb’s tongue, he says, he will get more conservative eaters to try the offal. In a country where haute cuisine is primarily focused on prime cuts of luxury protein, this is to be encouraged; especially if the resulting dish is such a perfect background for the delicate and aromatic white truffles.
Elverfeld has been at the top of his game for a long time now. Despite this, he is definitely not resting on his laurels, and seems to improve bits and pieces with every return visit. Being a quiet, soft-spoken man, his cooking reflects his character: composed, intelligent, and subtle.