Nordish is all about Scandinavian influences brought to life in a little corner of West Yorkshire, writes Amanda Wragg. Pictures by Gerard Binks.

Nordish, Saltaire
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Something quietly remarkable is happening in a corner of Saltaire. In the months before opening, images posted on Instagram offered tempting glimpses into what was to come, starting with ‘we’re having a little spruce up and chucking out the chintz’ followed by mouth-watering pictures of pumpkin, rye and chocolate bundt, lingonberry mazarins, smoked wood pigeon Knäckebröd with beetroot and blackberry and roasted fishbone soup.
I haven’t had the pleasure of Noma, Maaemo or Fäviken so have to fess up that my experience of Scandinavian food is limited to Ikea’s meatballs and lingonberry jam. But like everyone else I’m aware of the all-encompassing Scandi zeitgeist that’s influencing our world, from Hygge shops to mid-century modern wallpaper. Who hasn’t been seduced by those lifestyle photos of pink cheeked people dressed in cashmere nursing a hand-thrown ceramic cup of twig tea, sat around a fire pit, laughing and tossing back their manes of golden hair. It could work here, right? We’ve got a similar climate?

Smoked Ham Hock, Pickled Baby Onion, Mustard

I’m not sure I could rock that vibe but after lunch at Nordish I’ve become a raving fan of the food. It’s perhaps the look (not a blob, splatter or smear in evidence) but it’s most certainly the taste (clean, sharp-at-times and tidy). In fact everything about Nordish is uncluttered. The light, white room with its wooden floor and blond furniture. The plain, unfussy plates and mugs. The Lilliputian, brief, neat menus. Sigur Rós on the stereo. I love it all.
Beth O’Reilly and Sam Leach are two young people on a mission. They don’t proselytise, they just go about their business with calm intent. A huge amount of time goes into preparation – in fact most of the week. They’re open only 3 days (Saturday evenings have just been added) and the rest of the time they’re feeding their sourdough starter, smoking fish and meat and pickling and fermenting. Very little is bought in. Monday is set aside for foraging, and because neither of them drives, Beth fetches stuff on her bicycle. Everything is made here – the rye loaves, the extraordinary cinnamon buns, Kladdkaka (Swedish sticky chocolate cake) and ginger, cardamom and chocolate tea loaf with orange butter.

Beetroot Salmon Gravadlax, Skyr, Beetroot, Apple, Shiso

On the lunch menu are four ‘snacks and small dishes’ and three ‘Smørrebrød’; Nordic Tacos are wafer-thin slice of celeriac filled with apple, ‘cured yolk’ and nasturtium and are things of such elegance and delicacy we can hardly bear to put them in our mouths. A sliver of silver pickled mackerel is studded with tiny cucumber squares, dill fronds and petals, and buttermilk spiked with a hint of horseradish cuts beautifully through the fishiness. A less pretty but sublimely flavoured plate of food is a slice of Sweetheart cabbage, subtly charred and sitting on fermented mushroom sauce – it’s robust, earthy and screams ‘autumn’.
‘Smørrebrød’ is essentially an open sandwich. Here, the bread is

Nordic Taco, Celeriac, Apple, Cured Yolk, Nasturtium

seeded rye sourdough. One is wild mushroom with grilled Ogleshield cheese and pickled walnut; we have Beetroot salmon gravadlax (if it’s not already a Farrow & Ball colour, it should be) and smoked ham hock. I thought I had strong views on intricately presented food. Strong in the ‘for heaven’s sake can you really be arsed to place edible flowers one by one on a plate with a pair of tweezers?’ But I’ve got to park my prejudice today. They really are little works of art, but more importantly, packed with flavour.
Sam Leach has form. He was in Simon Rogan’s brigade at Rogan & Co and spent time with Moor Hall’s Mark Birchall and you can draw a line between then and now. He’s using a set of skills that equipped him for the rigours of working in a Michelin kitchen but now he’s on his own turf, doing it his own way. There’s just him, in the open kitchen he built, making the magic happen. Beth is the most charming FOH; warm and funny, full of knowledge and wisdom. She steers you sweetly down the menu and offers up stuff you might not have thought of.
Wines are biodynamic and natural – there are a couple of reds and whites, and one orange, from Spain.
A slice of fermented plum custard tart is, well, exquisite. The fruit all but shimmers on top of possibly the best pastry I’ve ever had the pleasure of, and the cinnamon bun (made with sourdough pastry) is a revelation. I’ve no idea if the food here is the real deal; I do know that it’s fabulous. It appears to be simple, and that’s partly its appeal. But when it’s as good as this you know there’s a lot going on under the bonnet.
Fridays are coffee (North Star – excellent) and Fika (cake) but I urge you swing by on Saturday or Sunday to explore the wider menu and the fine food culture which is a little bit Nordic, a little bit Swedish. Nordish, in fact.
Nordish, 79 Victoria Road, Saltaire, BD18 3JS @NordishSaltaire t: 07780 476632.
Friday 10 – 5 (coffee & cake), Saturday 10 – 8 (full menu 12 – 3, 6 – 8), Sunday 10 – 5 (full menu 12 – 3).

About The Author

Amanda Wragg

Mandy Wragg is a freelance food journalist, writing and inspecting for the Yorkshire Post, Alastair Sawday, the Morning Advertiser, the AA, Cool Places and David Hancock's Inn Places. She co-writes www.squidbeak.co.uk, an independent guide to eating, drinking and staying in Yorkshire.

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