Open Monday to Thursday 11am–11.30pm, Friday to Saturday 11am–midnight, Sunday midday–10.30pm
I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Scandinavia. Not just the place itself, but the people, the weather—that grim, beautiful weather—and, yes, even the food. Scandinavian fare often flies well under the radar when it comes to people’s appreciation of European cuisine, especially in the shadow of its more renowned neighbours: the countries that grow lemons and devour olives and do bad things to geese. Indeed, it’s often just too easy to dismiss Scandinavian cuisine as little more than fish and potatoes and, frankly, not much else. The truth, however, is leagues apart—and I’ve known nowhere outside of Norden (and few places within, in fact) to have demonstrated this truth quite so masterfully as the Harcourt.
It is a place of English charm and Scandi warmth—both a pub and restaurant, at once casual and elegant. The staff are as attentive as they are familiar with their menus and—here comes that soft spot—I cannot ever stress enough how wonderful it is to be met at the door by a friendly face with a real, proper northern accent. On a cold evening in November, after a gruelling walk through Regent’s Park and down Baker Street, the dim lights and oak walls of the (Grade II listed, don’tcha know) Harcourt offered not so much a welcome as they did an embrace. Yeah, okay, so I sound like a press release—but not a word of this is a lie.
Top marks for the food, which, at the price you’ll be paying, you should be glad to hear. To start, my gravadlax (£9.50) proved excellent: it’s a classic Nordic dish of salmon, potato salad, mustard and pickled cucumber, each component of which complemented the others rather nicely, coming together to offer a suitably light, finely-made dish. My guest opted for pumpkin soup (£6)—not a dish you can get wrong very easily, but nonetheless a pleasing menu option for evenings out in the dead of winter.
Next, my Swedish meatballs (a rather shocking £18), cooked in a brandy sauce and lingonberry, was a nice, rich twist on a dish I don’t often care for, and was accompanied by some of the finest mashed potato (a side I very much do care for, almost religiously so) I’ve had in quite some time. My guest’s lamb rump (an even more shocking £24) was superbly tender, while the light touch of herring in the accompanying Jansson’s temptation offered a subtle yet welcome dash of something else to the dish.
Don’t expect an empty wallet to go far, then—dinner at the Harcourt is anything but affordable. For your money, however, you’re getting exemplary food inspired by an utterly underrated culinary culture, some honest-to-gosh fab wines and one of the cosiest, downright loveliest places to eat in the area. And, as the winter deepens, what else could you possibly want?