For inspiring cuisine, beautifully thoughtful food and something a little different, Scandinavian restaurant Norse is a must visit. Tasked with taking a food blogger out for a birthday meal, my better half wanted to find somewhere a little unusual that neither of us had tried before. As we were in the lovely Yorkshire town of Harrogate for the weekend, Norse, based in Baltzersen’s cafe on Oxford Street was the one to challenge our tastebuds for the evening.
The night of course began with a cocktail - an Indian Summer (£6.95). A trio of cardamom gin, green tea and strawberry shrub, this was the perfect warming, fruity and refreshing cocktail for an Autumn evening. Asking the waitress for a light and floral beer offering, she recommended the Blossom which was exactly this - botanical and thirst quenching.
In true newbie fashion, we decided to go for the £49 tasting menu in order to let the restaurant strut its stuff. The menu showcased a mix of vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes, however any dietary requirements can be taken care of by the accommodating staff with no problem at all.
The tasting menu, which can be ordered with recommended wine for £22 each, was a series of five savoury courses followed by two sweet. A complimentary house infused honey and thyme schnapps later and we were ready to delve in! There was also an impressive gin menu from around Britain and the rest of the world. To enjoy with our meal, we went for a bottle of French Viognier, Domaine des Vigneaux (£27) on the suggestion of a light and slightly peachy white.
Firstly we were presented with a mixture of breads, grains and organic butter, which you can eat together or on the bread as you wish. The grains were beautiful on their own, although my new favourite thing is their toasted grains and lashing of real butter on their fresh bread.
To begin we enjoyed the Maple cured sea trout, pickled radish and lemon verbena granita. A light, ice cold dish to whet our appetite. Trout is one of my favourite fish as I find it lighter than salmon and it's often used in Scandinavian cuisine.
The next dish was a Pumpkin and ginger velouté with pumpkin seeds, shallot and Keenʼs gougères which was finished at the table. Pictured behind were the gougères, which were like savoury choux pastry and filled with a cheese and truffle butter - really delicious and not too heavy at all.
The staff were very knowledgable about all the dishes and at each stage explained the ingredients and any questions we had. Believe me - I had many! This had a comforting and savoury taste with slight sweetness of the toasted seeds. I could have eaten a bowl of it but it was for the best that it was kept light - we had lots to come!
One of the plates which worried me a little beforehand was the Smoked Lincolnshire eel, carrot, beetroot and spinach salad, horseradish dressing and sorrel sauce. Although I love all kinds of raw Japanese sashimi, Italian calamari and French mussels, the idea of eel is new to me and I was concerned I might not like the texture. To my surprise, it was nothing like squid and instead a very tender, white meat with a subtle smouldering aroma which balanced the tart salad. We were also told the darker green leaf tastes exactly like oyster, and interestingly it did have a slightly seafood-like inclination.
Following from that was the Pigs Cheek, confit parsnip and pickled pear salad and caramelised onion. Long time readers will know I'm not a fan of fruit with meats, although I understand the concept. I'm beginning to realise that done well, it's delicious. Still not something I'd order on its own, but with the fall-apart pork and honeyed flavours alongside each element enhanced one another.
Hake, celeriac puree, caviar, Morteau sausage, artichoke, roasted fish sauce and puff pastry was the next course, and I think ended up being my favourite. The hake had been cooked to exactly 49 degrees, I'm told the perfect temperature, and served alongside earthy celeriac, salty caviar, sea vegetables, smoked sausage and crunchy pastry. So many beautiful elements that were just the right balance with being confusing or overwhelming. Really well executed and I've been thinking about that hake ever since.
With flavours gradually getting stronger and more intense throughout the tasting menu, the last course was definitely the most rich and meaty. The Loin of Scottish Red Deer, BBQ shoulder, smoked heart, quince, beetroot salad and lovage purée was undoubtedly beautifully presented and showed off all elements of deer. Again with the deep beetroot salad and to accompany, the fruitiness of the quince and aniseed flavours lifted the dish of tender Scottish meat.
The tasting menu was a resounding success for both of us, putting our trust in the knowledge of the staff to find new and exciting combinations to intrigue and delight.
Have you ever tried Scandanavian cuisine? What dish appealed to your tastebuds?
22 oxford street
Note: We paid in full for our meal. Well, it was my birthday treat.