By day, Norse is a lovely Scandinavian themed coffee shop called Baltzersen’s, but from a Tuesday to a Saturday night from 6pm, this little coffee shop becomes a foodie’s dream!
Offering seasonal, fresh Scandinavian (with a name like Norse what else would you expect!) food, this is a gourmet diner’s heaven. Portions aren’t enormous, you are expected to try out a few dishes (between the two of us we had four), but the further down the menu you go (the cost should guide you here) the bigger the plate becomes.
If you fancy going all in, they offer a tasting menu where the portion sizes are reduced so you can try the best of everything on offer. Best of all, because of the changing nature of the menu, you can feel like coming back to Norse far more frequently than your wallet might want you to!
For our first time experience, we went with the option of trying a few dishes as Charlotte was slightly less than convinced about the food on offer here (something about the venison heart put her off!). I had been desperate to go for a while and convinced her that it was the perfect location for my birthday meal! Suffice to say once we sat down and were given a warm greeting by the waiting staff and had ordered a celebratory glass of cava, Charlotte felt more relaxed and had identified some good-looking dishes on the menu.
The amuse bouche at Norse was perhaps the most interesting I have ever sat down to. It was a mixture of grains with a nice thick sauce which might sound horrific but tasted fantastically aromatic and really provided some excellent textural differences. All in all, this was a wonderful introduction to a truly unique restaurant.
After this, we indulged in a great bread selection that we chomped through very quickly while honestly still talking about our previous food! Who knew grains could taste so nice.
We then moved onto the tough decision of what food to order after some tips from our waiting team, who had been helpful at picking through the menu to advise us if we were likely to be over or under-ordering. After much discussion, Charlotte decided to go for PX pigs cheek and then mallard. I, on the other hand, decided to go for hake and then loin of Scottish Red Deer. I was told my choice was the waitress’s favourite option on the menu (it pleased me to know that the staff had been given the choice to try out the food on offer to give a good description of it).
As the first two plates of food arrived, so did two shots of schnapps, which was a welcome and somewhat unexpected pleasure! After throwing them back for good luck, we tucked into our food! Charlotte has always been a fan of pigs cheek and this was no exception. Tender, rich and melt in the mouth, this was a wonderful dish that was made even better by the sweet caramelised onions and confit parsnip.
For my first dish, I had the hake, which was delightful. Beautifully presented (the presentation of dishes at Norse is immaculate) and celebrating the hake as the heart of this dish, the whole thing packed a wonderful flavour punch. In particular, the fish sauce made the dish beautifully rich whilst the celeriac purée was perfect for soaking up the silky fish sauce.
After a wonderful first course, even previously sceptical Charlotte had been won over by Norse, and this was before the mallard and venison dishes that were likely to be even better than the first courses had arrived!
When the venison arrived, I was delighted as it looked amazing! Charlotte was equally impressed by the beautiful looking mallard (duck to you and me!). The incredible mixture of colour on my venison plate was a treat for the eyes and the range of vegetables mixed well with the mouthwatering chunk of venison (that I believe was covering the smoked heart).
Once we started to tuck in, Charlotte was delighted to be trying the different flavours of autumn on her dish, enjoying the rich pumpkin purée and the perfectly cooked mallard while at the same time dipping everything in the nutty hazelnut sauce.
My venison dish was as mouthwatering as it looked. While the heart had a strong flavour, as did the BBQ shoulder, the dish was well balanced and the quince, beetroot salad and parsnip purée helped to make the dish come together. The venison itself was cooked to perfection and it was a real melt in your mouth experience that made me feel like I was eating something truly special.
With such a wonderful meal already enjoyed, it would have been remiss of us not to have gone with pudding (although the cheese board had provided me with sore temptation throughout the meal!). We decided to go for it and ordered the coffee cake and chocolate pudding as well as the condensed milk tart. With the main meals cooked so well, the puddings surely would match up to this level!
My condensed milk tart was a real treat, with the sweet condensed milk being well balanced by the sea buckthorn sorbet and the textures from the crumble and base of the tart. The beer braised apple was also a lovely point of difference with the dish and gave it yet another layer to add to an already wonderfully complex dish. Charlotte was a big fan of the chocolate pudding and coffee cake that came together as a gooey ice cream flavoured dessert that had little hints of ginger crumble throughout it.
All in all, this was an absolutely stunning meal. Norse may not be for everyone and in some ways it is marketed as a foodie’s dream and is perhaps not aimed at the average diner coming in off the street. However, if you can bring yourself to look beyond the titles and some of the odd ingredients on offer, there are some truly stunning dishes on offer here.
While Scandanavian food may soon go out of fashion, Norse is good enough to survive long beyond this as it offers food at a superb level in an intimate and friendly setting.
Categories: Restaurant reviews