Tucked away on North Street across from St. Salvator’s Quad lies the newly opened, hip restaurant in town, the Räv. Sitting down with the owners, Gala and Alex, we had the pleasure of doing a mini interview and tasting.
A little background on the Räv: Former students Alex and Gala were inspired by the parallels between Scottish and Scandinavian culture. Alex (English), and Gala (Russian) reached out to Finnish chefs Kimmo and Elina and together they started the Räv. Kimmo and Elina have both worked at Michelin star restaurants in London such as Hedone and Aubergine . They use Scandi Kitchen as their supplier for typical Nordic produce such as cloudberries and lingonberries. The Räv also features a full cocktail bar specializing in house made cocktails using the Scandinavian liquor: Aquavit.
The owners made an emphasis on wanting to incorporate healthy, fresh, but bold flavours. They explained how they took inspiration from several extremely successful Nordic restaurants in London, and built a foundation on “healthy food being executed really beautifully.”
Alex and Gala explained that they purposely chose the name the “Räv.” The word “räv” in Swedish and Norwegian means fox, and was selected for its playful and mischievous implications. Alex explained that the mosaic fox that is displayed over the bar of the restaurant lights up in the evening, allowing people to escape into the night. The concept is to give restaurant and bar goers a new experience, with the Räv brilliantly decorated with unfinished wood, custom made light-fixtures mimicking the northern lights, and gold finishes throughout the bar. Alex explains “I want the Räv to be somewhere where you can eat, drink, and play. That concept is important to us.” While the food at the Räv is definitely a draw factor, Gala added “we also want to highlight the bar and encourage people to come for just drinks.” The bar manager, Gabriele, has created many original house cocktails that have already won over many St Andrews students.
One aspect of the menu that may be confusing to some but a delight to others is the section titled ‘Fika.’ Fika is a Swedish tradition where between the hours of 11-4, one must sit down, relax, and have a cup of tea or coffee along with a baked good. It is, in fact, encouraged that people should take a break for fika during a busy work day in the office. Alex and Gala were inspired by this concept and wanted to emphasise the need for a fika, a short coffee break, in such an academically strenuous university, and felt it would cater well to students who could definitely use a break once in a while. We definitely agree!
After speaking with Alex and Gala, we were fortunate enough to try a few of the house dishes. Below are the dishes and cocktails we tried and our reviews. One opinion is written by Editor-in-Chief Zoe, a complete novice to Scandinavian food. The other opinion is written by Hanna Ware, a Swedish citizen. We hope this will give readers the full review: someone who is unfamiliar with the cuisine, and someone who has grown up eating it. While scanning the menu, it is also important to note that there are lots of gluten free, dairy free, vegan and veggie options. This is really nice to see since a decent number of the St Andrews student population has dietary restrictions.
First up: Drinks
The Midnight Sun
Zoe: Absolutely delicious! I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much as I’m not the biggest fan of dill. It was a drink made from dill, ginger ale, and aquavit. I will 100% be coming back to the Räv for a few more of these.
Hanna: I absolutely loved it. Being someone who is quite picky about her cocktails because I don’t like tasting strong alcohol in them, this one definitely struck a great balance between alcoholic flavour and sweet/herbal notes.
The Fizzy Lifting Drink
Zoe: Though this drink was nonalcoholic, it was really tasty. It tasted to me almost like a spiced ginger ale.
Hanna: This mocktail actually made use of seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit, which I hadn’t heard of before, so I was a bit wary going into ordering a non-alcoholic cocktail. I was pleasantly surprised though as this drink was super refreshing and was almost like a cardamom and sweet ginger soda. Would definitely order every time I’m not up for a boozy night!
The Cabbage Roll (Vegan and Veggie)
Zoe: Sadly this was not gluten free, but it looked beautiful! Alex later told us that the cabbage roll can be made gluten free if you order it without barely.
Hanna: Impressive presentation! A large almost broth-flavoured cabbage leaf wraps around a grainy mixture with barley topped with mushrooms. I would definitely recommend this as a delicious option for vegetarian and vegan diners.
Chicken Liver Parfait (Gluten free w/o the cracker)
Zoe: I especially loved the presentation of this dish. The hazelnut and cloudberry garnish worked so well.
Hanna: This is a dish of complex flavours that all work well together. I’m not the biggest fan of liver, so would have preferred more of the cloudberry jam and the ‘knäckebröd’ (like a thick base cracker), but was still a treat and would cater well to more sophisticated taste palettes.
Pickled Herring (Gluten Free)
Zoe: This was my personal favourite. The herring, pickled beets, and potato combo was nothing less than excellent. Would 100% order next time I am in.
Hanna: The only issue I have with this dish is that there wasn’t more of it! Whilst herring is definitely an acquired taste, it wasn’t overpowering against the potato and beetroot and is a great dish for picky eaters to get a feel of traditional Scandinavian food.
Gravadlax (Gluten free)
Zoe: Growing up on smoked salmon, I have to say this was some of the best salmon I have ever had. It was so fresh and tasty Hanna and I devoured it in an astoundingly short amount of time. She actually was caught licking the plate clean.
Hanna: This was my favourite dish – mostly because I felt it was truly a dish with deep Scandinavian roots. Beet root salad is a traditional Swedish condiment, and it was perfectly executed along with the salmon.
For the full menu: The Rav