New Nordic arrives in Prospect right on time and right on-trend as the Scandinavian way of life and design is more influential than ever.
A thoughtful layout replicates casual dining spaces of Swedish eateries more than the trendy, refined style of Denmark. A mix of pastel colour, timber, white and black provides the framework for a venue that leans towards stark, but is comforted by soft chair throws and well-positioned greenery.
The word ‘fika’ is on display atop the main service bar. This is a time-honoured Swedish concept, akin to our morning or afternoon tea, consisting of coffee (black) and cake (delicious pastries, cookies or pie). It’s nothing revolutionary, just part of their everyday life, which I expect contributes to their status as one of the happiest countries in the world.
But this evening we are here for middag; that’s dinner for us English speakers. Seated on sturdy wooden chairs with sheep wool throws for added comfort and warmth, there are cocktails to start. Green Breeze is a delicate, zingy drink spiced with ginger and cloves. The taste of gin is barely present in a tipple that aims to help fill your sails, and it does. At the opposite end of the cocktail spectrum, Pineberry offers dinner and a show. Using a blowtorch, our mixologist sets a small pile of pine leaves alight next to the purple coloured drink, and this blueberry, maple and cranberry delight also has an environmental message: “Plant trees so that future generations may enjoy their shade”, that is, right after you burn their fallen fronds to create an immersive drinking experience.
The menu at New Nordic features a long list of traditional favourites and a few unknowns. Naturally, we order too much. Juniper-flavoured gravlax is cured just beyond raw; it’s served as it should be, with cucumber, fennel, walnuts, and mustard. Added feta provides a salty kick, which challenges but never overbears the delicate fish.
More robust in flavour and texture is a generous pot of smoked fish paté with a piquant gelee top, accompanied by shaved and pickled cucumber and served with extremely crunchy crostini. More fish in the form of a gubbröra, a creamy and flavoursome pickled herring tartare, with remoulade, dill and boiled egg crumbled on top. This might push the boundaries for those who avoid strong fish flavours, but for me it’s perfection. Easily the highlight of the night.
Roasted roots with smoked almond dressing are less impressive, and a little too woody and overly bitter, particularly the turnip (or Swede, the otherwise brilliant waiter isn’t sure either) — fortunately the dish is saved by pungent herbs and scattered pomegranate seeds offering sweetness.
Perfectly fried Australian sardines sit atop a power salad that resembles a nicely put together ‘slaw, with pepitas for crunch and dates that add a sweet pop with each bite, this is well balanced and moreish.
Having visited Scandinavia many times over the years, I have a strong benchmark set by restaurants throughout the Nordic lands, as well as traditional fare in the homes of Swedish friends, and their mothers. A dish etched in my culinary memory is Agneta’s elk meatballs, simply served with potatoes, brown sauce and lingonberry sauce — with views of deer bounding through snowy Swedish fields, no-less.
New Nordic’s version of ‘Mamma’s meatballs’ come exceedingly close, theirs served with a creamy pink beetroot salad (typically also a breakfast condiment) with more of that delicious pickled and shaved cucumber, fresh lettuce and stompa flatbread. The meatballs are small and flavoursome, and the delicious memories come rushing back with each bite.
A little piece of Scandinavia has come to Prospect and I hope they’ll stay.
98 Prospect Rd
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 7am to 9pm, Sunday, 8am to 3pm
Photography: Sia Duff