North Road header (1 of 1) © 2010 . All rights reserved.

North Road in Clerkenwell, London

North Road is very post Noma by which I mean (and quoting from their website) “light, sometimes earthy dishes that successfully combine flavours and textures such as own-smoked ingredients, foraged wild herbs, British meat and ‘day boat catch’ fish“.  By which they mean forget the sun soaked joy of mediterrean dishes and prepare for all that is cold, wintry and foraged arriving on your plates.

Fish skin, pork skin, quail's eggs

I also get the feeling that it is about to be rather fawned upon by the Twittering masses as I have started to detect rumblings from Twitter about how “innovative” its cuisine is. I find this particularly interesting as its Danish chef, Christoffer Hruskovais, and his previous restaurant - Fig Bistro in Barnsbury – was rather moderately received by the critics and there appear to be distinct similarities between the two and their approach. Or to cut to the chase, it is the same kind of stuff but with a flasher venue.

Unfortunately, I can’t speak to what’s changed as, well, I have never visited Barnsbury but I have noticed they have employed a PR agency so maybe that is the solution.

Light smoked Scottish diver scallops with apple, bitter cress & hazelnut

As to the restaurant itself, I was tempted by those aforementioned rumblings on Twitter and the idea of eating something transcendentally different from what I have been eating in Hong Kong and, erm, I got it.

The venue itself is nice, all that we expect from Danish design, cut down and open to the eye.

The menu also reads interestingly. By which I mean it has Danish words.  This is all great and authentic and stuff but slightly unfortunate when the Russian (I think) waiter can’t pronounce the dishes on the menu or actually explain them. Whilst we all accept a bit of French on our menu, perhaps Danish is a pretension too far. Luckily the oysters with “Braedende Kaelighed” weren’t available anyway.

Norfolk venison loin & beetroot w/ burnt hay & smoked bone marrow

We started with the Danish equivalent of an amouse bouche. By which I mean, air dried pork scratchings, fish skin and jellied quails eggs.  They were all pretty enjoyable as a healthy equivalent to crisps but nothing to worry a French chef.

I had an excellent dish for a starter; scallops with apples strips and hazelnut (£9). Truly fabulous, fresh, light with innocent flavours lifting and complementing each other.  I also tried the cured lobster in buttermilk my friend, PT, got which was similarly fresh and enticing. I was beginning to feel this foraging lark might be great and get confident.

Unfortunately, mains arrived after a mere wait of 45 minutes from our starters and I had chosen venison and beetroot served on burnt hay (seriously) and smoked bone marrow (£20). This tasted like beetroot, smeered over everything and everywhere. With a touch of smoke. I would have rather had some proper tasting venison and a slug of Islay whisky to the side.  I also could have done without a burnt grit of beetroot soaked hay at the bottom  of my dish.

"deconstructed" or de-enjoyed bread and butter pudding

At this stage I was slightly worrying that maybe I don’t get this. This is probably going to be the next big hit and I am, well, just missing it. So I tried my friends’ dishes which tasted like smoked fish and smoked mutton. Hmmm.

Nervous that we were going to get smoked icecream with a foraged side of smoke for dessert we opted for a bread and butter pudding for dessert. This arrived “deconstructed” and joyless. Individual components broken out, luke warm, some tastes of spice and cloves livening it up a bit, but nothing to make your mum think “I’ll make it that way in future“.

All in all I”ll be interested to see how North Road fares.  It uses all the right words, hits all the zeitgeist buttons and serves food on burnt hay. Still, and forgive me for being countercultural, If the meal I had above for fifty pounds, no alcohol, and with not a hint of the joys of the Mediterranean is the future… I’m moving to Italy (after I get back from Hong Kong).

  • Price – £50 for 2 1/2 courses and not a touch of alcohol

PS – in my efforts to try and work out whether I was completely missing the point on this I stumbled across a review by Andy Hayler who, if you don’t know, is a rather reckoned foodie who works professionally as a food writer but has also as a hobby visited every Michelin starred restaurant in the world.  I was quite relieved he rated it a 0/10 on the food front but just wish I had read his review before i went.  His thoughts here.

North Road on Urbanspoon

8 Comments

  1. Ok, so your photos make the food look amazing, but it does sound like the sort of food you have to think about too much in order to get something out of it. Nice to see you’re back in town!

  2. Oh boo, I get a little excited about all things Scandi but this sounds kinda meh! Smoked ice cream might have been nice ;)

  3. Burnt hay – I feel you pain! It’s funny how trends transmit and whilst Noma is very popular, it isn’t entirely representative of eating out in Denmark. On my albeit brief and probably unrepresentative business trip to Copenhagen, the two places that I was taken to had warmly lit dining rooms and weren’t at all minimalist. The food had more French DNA than Danish and the menu was totally comprehensible, as it was fully bilingual. It helps too that the average server had a better command of English than most of those working in London! in other words, i’m not sure a Dane would feel at home at North Road.

  4. Oh. Ouch. Definitely sounds like style over substance. I can understand the beetroot-venison combo as the beetroot acts to tenderise the venison, but to have it so over balanced like that does not sound good. May be it was to make it look pretty? In fact, from reading your review next to Andy’s it sounds like this place is going all out for style and completely missing the taste part of the equation. Disaster. Hay is all very well (and fashionable etc), but if it doesn’t work on the plate, why bother? Give me the simply cooked and well balanced flavours any time.

  5. It’s while checking for dining possibilities in London (in preparation of a future tour of Europe and the UK) that I stumbled upon your review. I never heard about this restaurant before and I am taking good note of your experience there. Hopefully just a bad day at the office.

    • Hmm – I definitely think if you are just doing a limited time in London I would skip this. It is an interesting concept (albeit one which didn’t work for me) with some more misses than hits atm. If you lived in London perhaps, otherwise, there are better choices.

  6. Thank god I read YOUR review before venturing to North Road. I was kind of intrigued by the concept but fully believe you that it does not work too well.

    • I am still a bit in two minds about it North Road. A couple of reviewers have recently given it a better than average score. I suppose my thought is good cooking (in a technical sense), a few crappy dishes and overall better choices.

      If you do ever find yourself bored and flush though it is an experience…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked:*

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>