Another year has passed and we’re closing in on our second birthday on 4th April this year. It doesn’t feel like that long since we opened the doors at Norse for the first time. Things do tend to take a brief pause after Christmas so it gives us the opportunity to reflect, plan and let you know what the plans are for the year ahead.
We’re pretty sure that this year is going to be about evolution not revolution. Operating such a small menu we’ve always felt a lot of pressure to ring the changes on a regular basis so we always have something new to offer regular guests. Over the last few months this has eased a little and we are more comfortable leaving popular dishes on the menu for a little longer making small tweaks rather than wholesale changes.
This year we’re going to be dipping into what is a fairly sizeable back catalogue of dishes from the last 20 months with the intention of revamping and refining them. It means that we can devote more time to each dish improving smaller components rather than constantly reinventing the wheel. It’s always an interesting process looking back year to year to see how the food has developed. Murray and the team have certainly come a long way from the early days but lots of the ingredient combinations can be built upon and presented in a way that represents what we are doing right now.
We have a slightly larger store of dried, pickled and fermented vegetables that we have collected over the Summer and I am sure these will be making appearances not he menu in the first three months of the year whilst we wait for new produce to arrive.
The team in the kitchen are always taking inspiration from different mediums with Instagram in particular being a rich source of ideas. The latest cookbooks on the kitchen shelf are Benu (Corey Lee, San Francisco), Bouchon Bakery (Thomas Keller, California), The Nordic Cookbook (Magnus Nilsson, Faviken), Nomad Cookbook (Humm and Guidara, New York) and ‘Beyond Essence: Le Champignon Sauvage‘ (David Everett-Matthias, Gloucester).
The kitchen are starting projects this month including work on bread, petit fours and various new attempts at fermentation.
I’m happy to be able to say that there are no immediate changes coming up to the team either front of house or out back. Murray still heads up the kitchen with Sous Chef Simon and Commis Chef Dom.
Restaurant Manager Gareth remains in place out front ably assisted by Kasia, Nichola, Claire and most recent addition Catherine.
I (Paul) remain in the background doing bits and bobs and stepping in for holidays and sickness as required.
The New Booking System
If you’ve already booked a table in 2016 you will have noticed that we are now asking you for credit card details to secure bookings and you may be wondering why?
At the end of November and into early December we went through a number of weeks where guests were failing to arrive for their tables and cancelling tables at very late notice. This was a frustrating time because not only does it affect the financial viability of the restaurant and the job security of those who work in them, it also means that we are unable to offer these tables to other guests. After 25+ cancellations/no shows over three weekends (in excess of 10% of our total capacity) we took the decision to make a change.
We now request credit card details to secure a booking. These details are held by a 3rd party so we do not have access to them at the restaurant. Guests are welcome to cancel or amend their booking up to 48 hrs in advance of their booking. Any changes within the 48 hr time frame may lead to a cancellation fee of up to £50 per guest. Naturally we will make every effort to re-sell tables that cannot be used and if this is the case then there would be no charge. Each case will be judged on it’s merits and a decision taken between Paul (Owner), Gareth (Restaurant Manager) and Murray (Head Chef).
We are conscious that some guests are going to be unhappy with the new arrangements, we accept this. I am sure it will mean that we will lose some bookings but we are hopeful that overall it will improve availability across the board and mean that we can stop worrying about guests arriving for their tables and focus entirely on providing great service once they step through the door.
After the success of our collaboration with our next door neighbours ‘The Champagne Concept‘ in December we’re continuing the offer into January and February.
Enjoy a tasting flight of 3 champagnes follow by a three course dinner and tea/coffee at Norse for just £36 per guest.
This offer is valid on Thursdays in January and February 2016 (with the exception of 28th January when Norse is closed) and must be booked direct with the restaurant on 01423-202-363 quoting ‘Champagne Thursdays’.
We were really delighted to be invited to attend Leeds Feast as part of Leeds Indie food in 2015. We were even happier to hear that the event was a roaring success and will be held again in 2016. It’s the early planning stages now but we’re planning something suitably big and celebratory. Keep your eyes out on our social media feeds and the like for details because we’d really like to coax some of our Harrogate customers into town to enjoy the event with us.
Awards and Guides
We had a good year for awards in 2015. Murray scooped the Harrogate Hospitality Award for ‘Best Chef’ and we were nominated in ‘Best Newcomer’ too. We missed out on ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Yorkshire Life awards but soon found out we’d been listed in the Waitrose Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide – both firsts for the restaurant.
Towards the end of the year we were runners up in the ‘Best Restaurant’ category at the Observer Food Monthly Awards. That said L’Enclume was also a runner up in our category so we’re willing to roll with the punches on that one!
We’ll have to see what this year brings. Murray will be looking to improve the cooking score in the Good Food Guide I am sure and it’d be nice to perhaps achieve some rosettes from the AA Guide.