Norse, 28A Swan Road, Harrogate, HG1 2SA – Visit Now
After years based in Nordic café Baltzersen’s, Norse has finally fled the coop and set up shop on its own. As the name suggests, this Harrogate restaurant boasts a Scandinavian-inspired menu, full of dynamic bold flavours. Key to the menu is the focus on freshness, seasonality and local sourcing, but the Nordic influence is most evident in the preserving techniques used in many dishes, such as pickling, drying and curing.
The restaurant itself is a delight. Almost underground, straight out of a fairytale, there’s even a wall of living moss on the wall that practically demands to be stroked. The space is light and airy, everything laid out artfully and with more than a nod to efficiency. The soundtrack suits it down to a tee, all gentle folksy music by the likes of Bob Dylan.
The menu is a list of small plates, and we’re encouraged to try three each, one from the top and two from the middle and bottom. Carol Vorderman would be proud. Sourdough bread and grains make a pleasingly gentle starter, thanks in no small part to the subtle dill-infused butter.
The slow-cooked duck egg is our opening plate. Dotted with paper-thin slices of cauliflower and a sourdough caper breadcrumb, it’s a beautiful clean-looking plate, and tastes unique but deeply satisfying with it. The crunchy cauliflower contrasts wonderfully with the soft gooey duck egg. Hasselback potatoes have a similar nostalgic feeling, warm and comforting, smothered with melted Quicke’s cheddar with scatterings of pickled leek and watercress. A dash of neon green lovage purée circles the main event, adding a pleasing touch of pizazz.
The mackerel tartare is expertly prepared. A base of crushed Jersey Royal potatoes, plus smoked beetroot and chicory, set off by a blob of crisp white sour cream that somehow balances every flavour, holding it all together.
Try knocking that up in your kitchen after a day at work
A similarly complex dish is the poached sea trout, which comes with minuscule cubes of apple and dill, along with transparent slices of radish, the delicate and refreshing lemon verbena herb, and a green strawberry and oyster emulsion. Try knocking that up in your kitchen after a day at work. This combination of flavours borders on genius. Always delicate and subtle, but with each element playing a vital role.
Sticking with seafood, the confit hake is the standout dish of the evening. A thick slab of flaky white fish, resting on a potato-like circle of baked celeriac, some charred-at-the-edges roasted lettuce, all smothered in something mysteriously called “barbecued bone sauce”. And for the sheer hell of it, a soft, delicious mussel. This dish, more than any other, sums up Norse. Quietly intelligent and complex, all geared toward one goal: incredible flavour. It goes without saying the ingredients are as fresh as possible, everything bursts with life and vitality.
But while Norse might specialise in seafood, the meat dishes aren’t far behind. The confit pork is a memorable choice, for all the right reasons. A soft ball of pork which tumbles apart at the slightest touch, set off by a darkly-roasted, almost evil looking carrot that has no right to taste as good as it does. Throw in some maple glaze, burnt apple and whey soured onions and you’ve got one of the most interesting and delicious meaty dishes in the North of England. Close your eyes and you’ll even taste a faint fennel-like aniseed taste.
Any dessert would struggle to match up to these latter two courses, but the elderflower parfait does a fair job. It’s a bright, breezy bowl of colour, red, green and white, made up of cubes, blobs and leaves. It’s nice enough, but serves as more of a palate cleanser than a truly eye-opening dessert.
The sea buckthorn tart is a better choice, largely thanks to the moreish cardamom ice cream. Again it’s pretty as a picture, covered with delicate edible petals but it’s not an essential course.
Norse is a fantastic addition to this restaurant-heavy area of Harrogate. The menu might step outside the ordinary, but there’s a memory-tapping feel to each course, evoking traditional pastoral images, while each plate is presented with an artistic flourish you won’t find anywhere else.
Services and FacilitiesRestaurant, bar