Lifestyle

Swedish soul at London’s heart

In a vibrant corner of London lies a unique restaurant with a distinctively Scandinavian twist. We pay it a visit on a night-time drive across London in the XC60 T8 Twin Engine

Words STEPHEN WORTHY | Photography SAM CHRISTMAS

Driving around London offers a unique set of challenges. Today, it is festooned with glass palaces, mighty cathedrals of banking and insurance that thrust skywards, but it remains a medieval city at heart. And yet if you are sat at the wheel of the right car, medieval London’s gift to the present day – these snaking avenues, cut-throughs and side streets – are to be enjoyed not endured.

Our XC60 T8 Twin Engine, packed with intuitive technology and fine details, proves to be the perfect late night companion, as we head to London’s Shoreditch for a rendezvous at Red Rooster, the first London restaurant of famed Swedish chef and restaurateur, Marcus Samuelsson. Finding a parking space nearby, which conveniently has a charging point so that we can hook up the T8 Twin Engine for a quick boost, we engage the Park Assist Pilot function, which helps guide us safely into the tight spot safely and easily.

Red Rooster’s culinary mission, like its elder brother in Harlem, New York, is a fusion of food that reflects Marcus’ upbringing. Born in Ethiopia, but adopted by Swedish parents, at Red Rooster he serves up soul food with subtle, fun twists. The punchy flavours of Africa, the comforting textures of the American Deep South and the zestiness and pickling prowess of Scandinavia all combine, magically.

A feast served with fun… and funk

Situated at a busy intersection in this exciting, edgy quarter of the capital city, you head down into Red Rooster via a set of stairs to a basement-level restaurant that is decorated throughout with vibrant, colourful artwork and wall hangings. There’s a Harlem Globetrotters basketball vest hanging over the entrance and impressive black & white photography counterpointed by mannequins clad in gaudy, glitzy suits – one even wearing the kind of wide-brimmed hat that has become a Marcus Samuelsson trademark. It has the mood of an upmarket speak-easy; buzzy, intriguing and full of fun. In one corner, a band is laying down some sinuous, lithe funk grooves as we tuck into a huge sharing plate of chicken – the Bird Royale Feast, a mighty, buttermilk delight accompanied by waffles, biscuits, pickles and mac and greens.

Swedish cooking has a tradition of innovation when it comes to creating flavour – a consequence of the long, harsh winters, where nothing much grows at all. It led to traditional preservation methods like pickling and smoking, which add salt and acidity to foods. On the menu at Red Rooster you’ll find lingonberries, pickled tomatoes and meatballs alongside the chicken, shrimps and grits.

Comfortable, useful and the power to respond

We head back into the London night and a chance to drive these historic streets at their quietest. Switching between Drive Modes we move from Hybrid to Power mode, allowing us to take advantage of a gap in the traffic on our way home. At the flick of the scroll-wheel on the centre console the XC60 T8 Twin Engine changes personality, from the calm progress of Hybrid to the effortless acceleration of Power, yet always remains a car that makes you feel in control.

As we drive into the West End, we use Voice Control – activated from the steering wheel – to search for an internet station which broadcasts from a studio near here. At this time of the day London looks different, sounds different, feels different, but still maintains a distinct, excitable hum. Inside the XC60, however, Volvo Cars has created a sanctuary from the world outside, with its blend of craftsmanship and beautiful materials.

You can, it seems, have the best of both worlds.