D&D London names Victoria site Aster, with Helena Puolakka as exec chef

By Hannah Thompson contact

- Last updated on GMT

D&D London names Victoria site Aster, Helena Puolakka as exec chef

Related tags: La tante claire, Chef

D&D London’s new London Victoria Nova site is to be named Aster, and will see former executive chef at Skylon and former La Tante Claire head chef, Helena Puolakka, join as executive chef.

The 10,000 sq ft space was first announced in March last year, and is set to open this winter, designed by Russell Sage Studios. Spread across two floors, it has a ground-floor café and deli, plus an upstairs restaurant and bar.

The menu will be created by Finnish-born executive chef Puolakka, combining her Nordic background with influences from her Michelin-starred French culinary training.

The superstar chef returns

Aster marks a return to D&D London for Puolakka, who was part of the launch team of the company’s Skylon site, and worked there until 2013. Her career has also included time as head chef at Pierre Koffmann’s three-Michelin-starred La Tante Claire, and working with Pierre Gagnaire at the three-Michelin-starred Hotel Balzac restaurant in Paris.

She was also chef director for the Cirrus Inns’ Epicurean Collection, and foodservice firm Company of Cooks, whose clients include The Royal Opera House, the Royal Academy, and the National Portrait Gallery.


Typical dishes in the café will focus on Nordic ingredients such as fish roe, pickled herring and wild berries, alongside cinnamon buns and open sandwiches of house-cured salmon on rye.

The restaurant will offer more refined dishes, such as meatballs a la Lindstrom, with beef and beetroot; juniper-smoked turbot with leeks and butter sauce; alongside a tasting flight of fish roes, blinis, and matching vodkas and aquavits.

A number of vegetarian and vegan dishes will also feature throughout the menus.

Commenting on the new restaurant, Puolakka said: “In Nordic countries, craftsmanship, the presence of handmade food and local produce has always been a key part of daily life.

“At Aster, a sense of belonging and the harmony in my Nordic-French cuisine is important, whether we are cooking for the laid-back deli or the more refined restaurant. I would like to see Aster become a key part of the vibrant life of Victoria.”

Victoria’s Nova regeneration


D&D London was founded by Des Gurnewardena and David Loewi in 2006, following a buyout of Conran Restaurants. It now runs over 30 sites globally, including some of London’s most high-profile sites, including Le Pont de la Tour, Bluebird, Coq D’Argent, Sartoria, Quaglino’s, and 100 Wardour Street, plus Angelica and Crafthouse in Leeds.  

The Nova development in London Victoria is part of the Land Securities regeneration of the area, and when finished will comprise five buildings, offering apartments, office space, restaurants, bars, and retail space.

At the time of the first announcement of the new restaurant in March, D&D chairman Gurnewardena said: “Ten years ago, Victoria was not a part of central London in which we were keen to open restaurants, but this has changed. We think Victoria is becoming one of the most desirable parts of central London to live, work, and eat out, and we are keen to be part of that scene.”  

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