Nordic Lunch at the Harcourt:
I love dining out – and I’m lucky enough to do more than my fair share of it. Sometimes though I get just a little blase about the whole thing. It’s refreshing then to turn up with no real expectation that the venue will match the press release and find that it does all that and more. The Harcourt apparently used to be a Swedish pub – now it’s a restaurant where the Finnish Chef and Swedish mixologist have elevated the Nordic tradition to something quite special.
A rather austere exterior opens to a series of immaculately decorated rooms. Scandi style meets Marylebone chic here. The private dining rooms are charming. I particularly liked the intimate black room upstairs. And, every bit of wall space is covered with decent quality contemporary art. It’s quite a showcase.
Seated in the conservatory area at the back we had the perfect light to take photos. And, to sample the cocktails – for me a nicely balanced tangy Mama Spritz (Viogonier, Pink grapefruit liqueur, Mint, Apple, Elderflower, Lime, Soda). I have a particular dislike of sweet cocktails – this was beautifully citrussy and fresh). My companion was a little less enthused by his Freudian Slip – Akvavit, Lychee, Elderf lower, Lemon, Prosecco – just a little sweeter than either of us would have liked. But that is personal taste. Both are priced at £11.
Meanwhile we’d been offered some bread to nibble on while we chose our meal. It does deserve a mention – not many restaurants in London serve rye bread made to the secret recipe of the chef’s Grandma.
It was deliciously nutty and deep. Trying my best to avoid over indulging, I avoided tasting the sourdough, but I’m sure it was *nearly* as good (nothing can be up to Grandma’s recipe!)
My starter of gravad lax (£8) came with little morsels of pickled cucumber, quail eggs, apple and dill. Truly delicious and very fresh I was more than happy with my choice. My companion meanwhile was indulging in a plate of Fine de Claire Oysters (£2 each) – I’m not complaining – I got one all for myself.
He was also working his way through the wine list and decided on a bottle of Gruner Veltleiner Franz Anton Meyer (Austria 2014). Now, I’d never have picked an Austrian wine but it turned out to be the perfect choice – citrussy and light but with enough depth to match our main course of Arctic Char.
There’s always a sense of theatre about being served a whole fish on the bone and here, in the charming surroundings at the Harcourt, the appearance of a whole Arctic Char on the bone ( £42 to share between two) was a real thrill. The skin was perfectly blackened while the flesh inside (something like a delicate mackerel) was moist and full of flavour. We were shown a photo of the kitchen barbecue – a veritable bonfire. To accompany a few crisp triple fried chips and a mixed leaf salad was absolutely spot on.
And then that moment when you shouldn’t really eat any more but the dessert menu beckons. The blueberry tart with creme fraiche was a kind of bakewell, but with a mixture of blueberry compote and whole berries. Utterly delicious I didn’t regret for a moment picking that.
My companion’s dark chocolate mousse with liquorice crumbs and salted caramel also went down very well, though I think he’d have preferred the chocolate to be darker still. Priced at £5 each these were both delicious.
We both really loved The Harcourt. In London, with a wealth of new openings it can be hard to stand out. But, a well stocked bar, tasteful interiors that manage to be different without losing any element of comfort and food that was reasonably priced and exceptionally well cooked and presented made this one a winner for me.
I’ll be back with friends to sample the Fika or the bar snacks. It’s the sort of place worth knowing about in a part of Marylebone that doesn’t have much else on offer
32 Harcourt St, London W1H 4HX