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Douglas Blyde: Review of North Road, London

Published:  10 February, 2011

Noma' in Copenhagen won best restaurant at the San Pellegrino sponsored 'World's 50 Best' awards. No doubt this hastened the arrival of Christoffer Hruskova's 'North Road' closer to home.

Noma' in Copenhagen won best restaurant at the San Pellegrino sponsored 'World's 50 Best' awards. No doubt this hastened the arrival of Christoffer Hruskova's 'North Road' closer to home.

The substantial sequel to Islington's 'Fig Brasserie' spans two floors in the culinary fertile St John Street, Farringdon. Serious care has informed the design. Handmade chairs stand on blonde parquet while the long marble bar counter is illuminated by lights which are as cool in style as they are in temperature. On my visit, the intention to capture crisp Scandinavia was hampered only by a wobbly table and dummy door through which many customers (myself included) determinedly tried but failed to enter.

Compiled by Hruskova, the wine list is divided into European country and quirkily, the 'Tri-nations'. Supplier, Liberty is given prominence, with supporting roles by Thorman Hunt and Lea & Sandeman. Hruskova's cuisine being clean and delicate, precision bins are preferred over the brawny or not always immediately pure tasting 'natural' wines.

Although tempted by the set lunch at a notably un-Danish price (three courses £20) my gourmet guest and I opted to thoroughly test-dine the à la carte. A tasting menu also operates in the evenings.

After wholesome homemade bread spread with a firm scoop of nutty, brown butter I started with Kent vegetables, pink fir potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke purée. This was aromatically coated with black truffle shavings and pretty, zingy wild herbs. Notably tenderly cooked, I wished all vegetables could be treated this kindly. Our well informed waiter suggested the intense, angular, lime flavoured Kilikanoon Clare Valley Riesling 2009 which proved incisive while drawing out the green elements from the dish. Incidentally, the crockery used is specifically intended to enhance the dish's earthy colours.

My guest chose plump glazed veal sweetbread softened by delicate, surprisingly acceptable milk 'skin'. Cave Grands Crus Blancs' M?con Vinzelles 2009 brought enhancing cinnamon, satay and citrus notes and a bright acidity, taming baby onions in rapeseed oil and intriguingly, pickled green elderberries. On the palate, these gently detonated like brined peppercorns.

Although Zweigelt (Wachau Blauer 2009) would not have been my first pick with Cornish monkfish tail, whose lobster like flesh was revealed under lustrous sea beets and pickled clams, my guest approved of the Austrian red's unobtrusive sweet cherry scents, mild tannins and firm acidity.

My precocious Ribera del Duero (Abadia Retuerta Seleccion 2007) bore the same tint as the vertically arranged, wafer thin beetroot discs in Hruskova's arrestingly beautiful signature main. Beneath a charred crust of baked hay, deer loin flesh was uniformly pinkly succulent. A complementary silken sauce of smoked bone barrow mingled satisfyingly with the salty ashes. Big but balanced, the oak bevelled wine's power proved perfectly pitched, bringing harmony to this profoundly flavoursome dish.

A shared pudding of organic Devon sheep milk yoghurt described 'in textures' was sprinkled with muesli (Danes, I'm told, adore cereal) and freeze-dried raspberries. Although I wondered why we should receive what my guest termed 'an Alpine breakfast' at lunchtime, the airy, subtly sweetened, quivering, whipped mass was enjoyably leavened. Alongside, Raisins Gaulois owed nothing to Imperial Tobacco's French cigarettes but grape variety, Petit Manseng (Alain Brumont 2009). Perfumed, but never overtly sweet, it coaxed a little of the Heston Blumental-like Douglas fir essence from the dish.

Despite Hruskova's self-confessed cheese fanaticism, particularly of the soft white from his hometown, Funen, the British cheeseboard felt days past its best.

Still in its honeymoon, North Road strives to assure simplicity, from its good-looking dining room to enduringly flavoured and artistic dishes. We left from the main rather than dummy door feeling fed but not distressingly full.

In these post Christmas days, going for a Dane may well deliver a welcomingly gentle option..

NORTH ROAD 69-73 St John Street
London EC1M 4AN
T. 0203 217 0033