Go north. Eat Norse

How do you say Harrogate? Harrow-gate? Or, maybe if you’re more of a local, Harra-gut? If it’s more like option number two, you might be more Scandinavian than you think says Sarah Whitehouse @SLCasablanca…

That’s because ‘gut’ is similar to the way Scandinavians say their word for street. So it’s apt that Harrogate’s newest restaurant, Norse, is Scandi-inspired. And it’s worth the trip up north.

Norse has had a strong following since it started out as a pop-up, after-hours dinner service at Balterzens Scandinavian café back in 2014. Now, thanks to a £20,000 kickstarter campaign, Norse has reopened in a snazzy new home on Swan Road.

It’s hard to escape hygge at the moment. And Norse feels standardly Scandi, with its minimalist grey and ice blue moulded chairs, beech tables, and bringing the outside in, in the form of a full-length moss wall.

But what about the food? The menu is split in to three parts: snacks, smaller plates (from £4-£6) and larger plates (from £12-£16), so you can enjoy three or four dishes tapas style, or go for the more traditional course option.

The snack plates, like the smoked cod roe crackers (£3.50) and celeriac chips with whipped smoked curd (£3) make a great at-table canapé selection.

There’s an impressive pre-dinner gin list too, featuring gins from Sweden to Sheffield, via old-favourite Masons Yorkshire gin – distilled using Harrogate Spring Water, no less. Served over ice with Fevertree tonic, it’s a fairly reasonable £5.

Head Chef Simon Jewitt uses traditional Nordic techniques like curing, pickling, fermenting and dehydrating in his innovative creations, all made from locally-sourced produce. And it works pretty well. A small plate of charred mackerel is complemented with chicory, pickled rhubarb and roe scraps for a tasty Yorkshire-Scandi fusion.

Another small plate, lamb shoulder with beetroot, fennel, oat and cultured cream, is fabulously presented, but the oats feel like an unnecessary addition, padding out the shoulder when it doesn’t really need it.

We ploughed our way through the ultimate comfort food: hasselback potatoes oozing with molten Keen’s cheddar and broccoli, to the more refined larger plates: duck breast and leg with fermented plum, hazelnut and salsify.

But the winning dish has to be, surprisingly, one of the sweet options: Skyr cheesecake, gin-compressed strawberry, tonka meringue and strawberry sorbet. The tonka meringue is the perfect bitter antidote to the sweetness of the strawberry sorbet – absolutely delicious.

Speaking to Founder and Director Paul Rawlinson, Norse set out to create an innovative, accessible menu – and I think they’ve managed to achieve just that.

Harrogate’s getting to be a serious contender on the independent Yorkshire food and drink scene. Hoxton North looks intriguing for a coffee, and it’s nice to see Leeds-favourite North Bar propping up a venue on the walk back to the station. But Leeds independents heading north isn’t just a one-way street – you can find Norse’s pop up in the Corn Exchange as part of Leeds Indie Food Festival kicking off next month.

One comment

  1. My friend Maudlin O’Booze had a somewhat similar experiences at a local café a little while ago – if you go by what you read in the Roundhay Irresponsible

    New Authentic Food Café Opens in Oakwood.

    Maudlin O’Booze samples the fayre at Narratives Authentic Food café in Oakwood.

    Wandering out of Pooters after a late morning snifter I noticed what I thought was a new estate agents or solicitor’s office had opened on the parade. I should have realised as I stumbled over the IKEA wire backed chairs (so Festival of Britain) on the pavement outside that no this was some sort of new café.

    I peered unobtrusively to see what was going on and my polychromatic sunglasses darkened at the hi-gloss white, grey concrete floor and bent plywood interior glaring intensely under the spotlights. Some blurbling electronic sounds were being emitted from the concealed speakers in ceiling and store front. This was major change in interior styling from the shabby industrialism from Pooters.

    There didn’t seem to be much food on display and I could immediately appreciate from the lengths of the servers’ beards and razored hairstyles that this was not really aimed at my demographic but what the hell – who dares wins. I took a pew or rather sat on an excruciatingly hard mid-century scandi chair relieved somewhat with diagonally patterned habitat style cushion.

    There isn’t much on the menu but all the ingredients are “authentically and sustainably sourced” from within five miles of the café. I gather that if you are rushing for the bus to get to work in the morning you can get homemade granola, yoghurt and maybe an open sandwich to go or perhaps eat in if you have more time. If you are not too early you have baked items from Joe’s Kitchen Door Bakers – if he has got up in time to do the baking: supplies can be a bit irregular.

    But I was in for lunch and the choice was exotic: a crisp of wild roses and Lidgett Lane allotment peas; rabbit ragu with peas, spinach and parsley; pigeon and bacon burgers with hedgehog puree and a game curry consisting of pigeon, hare, pheasant, squirrel and wild boar -all locally shot. All these dishes come with sourdough or rye bread and a green salad, again home baked or allotment sourced.

    For desert moss cooked in chocolate or mushroom fondant with sour cream from Mikes Creamery in Gledhow was available.

    To drink, in addition to the usual artisan coffees, herbal infusions, cold pressed juices, Gledhow Valley spring water was also available by the carafe.

    I chose the pigeon and bacon burgers as a main assured that the pigeon had been humanely netted on someone’s lawn and the pig had been hand reared at Meanwood Urban Farm. The burger rolls were offered seeded or unseeded and a glutton-free option was also available. The side salad was provided in pure white angular dish but eating out of it was impractical. The burger was well formed and tasteful on the palate. It worked particularly well as the sweet-smokiness of the bacon offset the richness of the ironey red pigeon meat to a treat.

    I’m not too sure what happened with the mushroom fondant as after a few minutes the room began to spin and the table in front of me began to get larger and larger. This was beginning to get a bit reminiscent of the bad acid trip that befell me at the Isle of White in 1970. As I began to make gesticulations I was ushered outside and laid out in the recovery position on the pavement trembling wildly. The last thing I heard mentioned as I was sedated in the ambulance was something about picking the wrong sort of mushrooms.

    Happy days.

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