The Harcourt Marylebone
32 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HX
theharcourt.com/020-3771 8660Sometimes appearances are deceptive. Outwardly I look like an average 55 year old man, receding hair line, slight paunch and skin that has lost its elasticity. In actuality I’m a Nordic God-think Chris Hemsworth as Thor-with the power to shape worlds and the libidinous energy of an 18 year old oyster farmer. My inner deity is hidden inside the earthly frame that I inhabit just biding its time…
The Harcourt and I have a lot in common. From the outside it looks like an average boozer. Admittedly a well-kept one in that posh reservation for the wealthy that is Marylebone Village. Inside it’s an attractive festival of wood, bleached and dark with baroque glass fittings lighting the space and a secret twinkly microcourtyard for those in the know. There is art up on the walls, curated by a local gallery and a couple of sexy private rooms, the black or the white, depending on your mood. The Harcourt’s gastronomic USP is a Nordic influence that extends to Scandi-inspired cocktails and “fika” – Scandinavian afternoon tea. Fika showcases dishes such as Reindeer Scotch Egg; Pickled Herring on Rye and Danish including the iconic Cinnamon Bun. But Fiona and I weren’t at The Harcourt for tea…Finnish head chef, Kimmo Makkonen has just unveiled a new Nordic Express Lunch Menu and we had been invited to review it. It features dishes such as Gravadlax served with sweet mustard and a potato salad and The Harcourt Burger topped with Ogleshield cheese, thick bacon and pickled cucumber; finishing with either a cheese plate or Vanilla Pannacotta with poached rhubarb and shortbread. At £19.50 for two courses or £24.50 for three, it seems like a good deal.But then after a couple of well mixed cocktails, the sweet Freudian Slip-a blend of Akvavit, Lychee, Elderflower, Lemon and Prosecco, and the deliciously astringent Mama Spritz- Viognier, Pink grapliqueur, Mint, Apple, Elderflower, Lime and Soda, we were seduced by the à La Carte offer.I only mention bread in a review when it is exceptional. The Harcourt serves an on-trend sourdough and an amazingly sweet, nutty rye bread made from a secret recipe of the chef’s grandmother! Gravad Lax was a little under-cured for me but beautifully plated with cool pickled cucumber, quails eggs, apple and dill (£8)Briny Brittany Fine de Claire Oysters (£2 each) were perfect, served with sauce mignonette and lemon. We had moved on to a bottle of Grüner Veltleiner, Franz Anton Meyer, Austria, 2014 that was full of citrus and apple flavours and was a perfect match for the seafood (£32).The highlight of the meal was a whole Arctic char for 2 (£42). The meaty fish’s skin was barbequed within an inch of its life but the flesh was firm and had a fantastic flavour. I enjoyed filleting it and giving it a good slathering with a decent hollandaise and a sauce verte. We scoffed some crispy triple-fried chips (Fiona had most of them…) and a straightforward mixed leaves on the side (£4 each).Dark chocolate mousse with liquorice crumbs and salted caramel (£5) wasn’t really all that dark but definitely had that sexy chocolate thing going on…Blueberry tart with Crème Fraiche (£5) was like a Nordic Bakewell tart but with blueberries-the pastry was rich and stuffed with the fruity globules creating an enticing mouth-feel.A lot of effort and money has gone into creating The Harcourt and the team have created an offer that is idiosyncratic but still accessible; a really attractive interior with great food-it’s not rocket science but too often those fundamentals get forgotten. It’s well-worth a visit.