With Nordic cuisine all the rage at the moment, Danish chef Christoffer Hruskova's new restaurant North Road in London's Clerkenwell seems to have its finger very much on the pulse. Kerstin Kühn reports
When Rene Redzepi's Noma in Copenhagen was declared the best restaurant in the world last year, the global foodie community went wild for all things Nordic. So it's no surprise that Danish chef Christoffer Hruskova's new restaurant, North Road, has been one of the most talked about new openings in London.
So far it's been impossible for food critics not to liken North Road to Noma. Though it's clearly helped his profile, the comparisons haven't all been positive. "Of course it's flattering to be compared to Noma but some of the comments have been a bit unfair," says Hruskova. "We're not trying to be like Noma - we don't have 30 chefs in the kitchen and aren't aiming for three Michelin stars. And some of the dishes that are similar to Rene's I've been doing long since before Noma ever even existed."
Indeed, Hruskova, like Redzepi, trained at the Michelin-starred Kong Hans in Copenhagen where he acquired his knowledge of the Nordic culinary ethos and honed his skills. He then travelled the world before settling in London where he opened Fig in 2006. Late last year, he acquired the new site in Clerkenwell, turned Fig into a bistro and launched North Road to really showcase his cuisine.
Whether it's a fair comparison or not, Hruskova's culinary principles, like Redzepi's, strongly adhere to the foundations of Nordic cuisine - simplicity, purity and fierce loyalty to seasonal, local produce. So instead of using Scandinavian ingredients, his menu is focused on British produce including foraged wild herbs from Kent, seafood from Scotland and Cornwall, and meat from Norfolk.
Also typical for Nordic cuisine are old preservation techniques such as smoking, curing and pickling, which are evident across his menu.
A case in point is a starter of smoked Scottish scallops with apple, cress and hazelnut (£8.50), a delicate and subtle dish where the light smokiness of the scallops is balanced with the acidity of the apple. "We smoke the scallops very lightly before pan-frying them and then serving them with apple jelly, raw Braeburn apple and a sauce made from hazelnut oil, rapeseed oil and bitter cress," he explains.
Similarly clean and pure in flavour is a dish of cured native lobster served with buttermilk and horseradish snow, sea shore herbs and mussel vinaigrette (£15).
Meanwhile a dish of Kent vegetables and wild herbs (£9) is much more earthy and wintery, offering Jerusalem artichokes and pink fir potatoes on a bed of Jerusalem artichoke purée topped with shavings of black truffle and a sprinkling of rye crumble made from malt flour, dark beer and hazelnuts.
Among the main courses, one of the best sellers is venison rolled in burnt hay with raw and salt-baked beetroot and smoked bone marrow (£19.50). A dramatic colour display of red and black, slices of venison are served rare, rolled in burnt hay ash and topped with smoked bone marrow.
Desserts (all £7) continue in like vein and include Comice pears poached in vinegar, sugar and cider, served with smoked ice-cream, malt, mint and pumpkin seeds; and a dish of flavours of woodland including birch bark, walnuts, chestnuts and wild herbs.
Hruskova's cooking may not be as creatively brilliant as Redzepi's but his loyalty to his roots must be applauded. With all things Nordic being in vogue at the moment, he seems to have his finger very much on the pulse.
Sample dishes from the menu
Galloway short rib beef and milk skin, wild herbs and leeks £8
Raw, pickled and dried vegetables, slow poached duck egg yolk and fried bread £8
Cornish squid and pickled kohlrabi, dill granita, cream and sea herbs £9
Gressingham duck breast, heart and tongue, beetroot, thyme and dried blueberries £17
Slow cooked leg of Gloucester old spot in hay, celeriac in textures, Kent truffle and dried, crispy pork sauce £18
Cornish halibut and Maldon rock oysters, wild stems, seaweed and roots £18.50
Ripe Comice pears and smoked ice-cream, malt, mint and pumpkin seeds £7
Jellied butter milk and swede, rape seed oil and mint £7
Liquorice and caramel in textures, soft, crispy and cold £7
North Road 69-73 St John Street, London EC1M 4AN
Tel: 020 3217 0033