"A British Noma Knockoff? Certainly Not."Review Rating: Reviewed by James Whiting
North Road under Chef Christoffer Hruskova are the Michelin new boys of London, and they seem to be justifying the new accolade, with a mouth-watering procession of intricate dishes.
Situated just along from Spitalfields Market the dining room is minimalist in terms of decor. There are low hanging table lights, which make both interesting focal points and a head-banging obstacle when popping to the toilet. Yet all in all the dining space fits with the food: classy. The service was coldly efficient to begin with, but softened as the night progressed, with each dish briefly explained as they arrived. The 7 course tasting menu was tremendous value at £65, and even our irritating requests to change the veal were accommodated by the kitchen.
A set of three canapés arrived, along with a small hessian sack of warm bread rolls. Two varieties could be found within, white, and rich malty chocolate brown. The accompanying ball of caramelised brown butter was sweet yet addictive. The canapés were a masterclass in how to raise excitement and anticipation levels at the table. Aerated pork crackling took on the form of the most delicious piggy prawn crackers. There were dock leaf balls deep fried atop a splodge of nettle purée, as intriguing as they were pleasant. Lastly the most intensely flavoured item of the entire meal, hay-smoked quail eggs. The lid of the stone dish was raised to let a puff of smoke escape, and the warm eggs were perfectly runny inside. A blend of smokiness and rich yolk exploded in the mouth, or squirted across wine glasses and the table if nibbled at incorrectly...
The first course was a meaty langoustine tail with caramelised cream purée and muesli. The shellfish meat was sweet and worked in harmony with the rich purée and bitter notes provided by the muesli and dried berries. One of the few criticisms that can be levelled at the whole meal was the lack of another tail to offset the pile of muesli that began to overpower towards the end.
A bowl of delicate razor clams was a triumph, particularly the temperature contrast between the clams and the buttermilk and horseradish snow. Theatre was provided by the pouring of mussel juice and cuttlefish ink, both dramatic and a adding flavour of the sea. The dish was reminiscent of deconstructed sushi.
Next up was a conceptual course called logs, soil and mushrooms. So often these creations fall short on taste. This was not the case. Baked salsify looked like wooden logs but contained a rich gooey root vegetable centre. The soil added a malty depth and pleasing crunch, with sprigs of greenery adding bursts of freshness.
The main courses were quite similar, picking the duck as the veal substitute, over the recommended replacement of mutton was an error. The kitchen should not be questioned is the lesson here. The grouse was expertly cooked, meaty, tender and packed a gamey punch. Chestnut wafers complemented the truffle purée and shavings. The mallard breast could have had crispier skin, but the cabbage purée was a revelation, the only way this should be eaten from now on. A finishing touch of pickle slices cut through the richness and were very moreish.
Seemingly there were no weaknesses in North Road's kitchen, with the pastry chef continuing the splendid tasting menu. The traditional sorbet was given a slightly Nordic twist, and was yet another conceptual dish that delivered. Simply named apple, the palette cleanser was a ball of ice cream encased in a red apple jelly. The imagery was fantastic, a malt stick as the stalk rounding off the look. Another little jug of sauce, vivid green sorrel this time, gave the waiter another chance to create a little puddle on the plate. The third and last slight criticism of the whole meal was the ice cream, it could have been more appley in flavour.
The end of North Road was nigh, and an autumnal bonfire was the finale. Yet another concept but still not style over substance. Sea buckthorn was another nod to Nordic roots, and what the crystal flames lacked in flavour the light and fluffy marshmallow, skewered by another malt stick, more than made up for. A hint of liquorice in the squid ink coloured meringues did not overpower. Likewise the hay infused ice cream was subtle yet essential to the plate as a whole.
A quick reflection on the best meal experienced in a long time was interrupted by yet more imagination in the form of petit fours. Traditional treats were flodeboller - light and fluffy with a gooey syrup centre, and Danish eclairs with a subtle almond marzipan flavour and custard centre. To finish, a return to childhood and a ball of bright white candy floss sprinkled with sweet cicely leaves. This was pulled apart in chunks and devoured.
Nordic cuisine is very much in vogue. Noma in Copenhagen is widely considered the best restaurant in the world and René Redzepi’s influence on the culinary world is widespread. Yet North Road is by no means Noma-lite. It has a distinct identity, curious, intriguing ingredients are elevated via excellent culinary flair. It is a London restaurant with flashes of Scandinavia clearly evident. The restaurant’s concept worked effortlessly, everything fit, and perhaps most importantly the price was an absolute bargain. North Road's star is definitely in the ascendancy, snap up a table fast and experience a flavour of the revolution first hand.
James Whiting reviewed North Road on Mon 05 Dec 2011