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Peek into the windows of Baltzersen’s café in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate a little after 5pm and you’ll see a transformation taking place.
After a full day of serving cinnamon buns, open face sandwiches and locally-sourced coffee to enthusiastic café-goers, Paul Rawlinson and his team convert their friendly Scandinavian-inspired café into a friendly fine dining establishment serving spectacular Nordic cuisine. Rawlinson has given this relaxed establishment a fitting name: Norse.
Inspired by his Norwegian grandmother Liv and the delicious food she would serve to him as a child, Rawlinson opened Baltzersen’s after leaving the army. But it wasn’t until sometime later that he had the idea to turn his friendly café into a proper restaurant at night.
Rawlinson says: “The restaurant came about after I got talking with Murray Wilson, a chef who used to visit before starting his shifts at The Yorke Arms. He was looking for a change, so we opened Norse together in April 2014.”
With Murray recently moving on, former sous chef Simon Jewitt has taken the reins. Together, Jewitt and Rawlinson create beautiful, Scandinavian-inspired dishes in a laid-back atmosphere. But there’s one aspect of Norse that remains particularly British: its long and impressive gin list.
“We want guests to eat some interesting food in relaxed surroundings and drink something great at the same time,” Rawlinson says. To that end, his team keeps an ever-changing roster of between 10 and 15 craft gins on the drinks menu.
“We’ve actually reined the list in a little bit of late,” he laughs. “I suppose without really thinking about it, between the team and our guests, we have tested more than 50 gins and the list represents an even split of old favourites and new gins.”
Rawlinson opened Norse with a strong list, but as the craft gin movement began to flourish in the UK it became a more central focus.
He says: “With the explosion in the craft gin market we are trying to seek out smaller distilleries. We want to support local distillers, then regional and then anyone else who is doing something interesting and perhaps a little bit different.”
Rawlinson’s adventures in gin have even gone international; naturally, Norse lists Scandinavian gins now and again, including July's Gin of the Month. “Hernö in particular has been incredibly popular,” he says. “The clarity of the juniper flavour is fantastic.”
While Rawlinson himself prefers to drink his gin with ice, a splash of tonic and a garnish, Norse’s cocktail list is an incredible celebration of Scandinavian flavours and the wonderful local produce of Yorkshire.
Rawlinson says, “The short cocktail menu generally uses fruit and vegetables that are in season or that have been preserved for use at a certain time. It could be the use of new season elderflower around now or elderberry cordial later in Autumn.”
A perfect example of this is the Brimham Bramble, one of Norse’s beautiful signature cocktails. This drink utilises the wild bilberries that grow in and amongst Brimham Rocks, a formation of ‘balancing rocks’ formed by water and wind erosion of millstone grit located just outside of Harrogate; it’s the perfect combination of Scandinavian spirit and Yorkshire ingenuity.
For the cocktail:
30ml Lime juice
25ml simple syrup
25ml Bilberry liqueur*
Lemon, to garnish
Add the gin, lime and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well.
Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with tonic water as required.
Trickle the bilberry liqueur over the top, creating the ‘bramble’ effect as the liqueur sinks to the base of the glass.
Garnish with lemon.
*For the Bilberry Liqueur
Collect bilberries, wash and place in a jar. Fill the jar with gin or vodka and add sugar to taste.