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Chowing Out: NUR Development Kitchen


"Light" and "nourishing" are not words I would generally associate with a ten course tasting menu, but NUR defies expectations in that respect, and in many others also.

The clue is in the the name - nur literally means light in Arabic. It also references the brainchild behind the concept, British Chef Nurdin Topham, whose culinary CV is anything but light. The food offering at NUR draws inspiration from Topham's decade with master chef Raymond Blanc, at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and his eponymous cookery school, but also carries a distinctively innovative Nordic touch - no doubt influenced by his time at Rene Redzepi's NOMA (widely acknowledged to be the best restaurant in the world) and at Redzepi's food research institution Nordic Food Lab. With that collective work experience, plus the fact that Topham is also a qualified nutritional therapist, it's a safe bet that you're in the hands of someone who knows his ingredients, and how to get the best from them.

The theme of this development kitchen dinner was sourcing, and its difficulties in this part of the world. Topham was the first to comment on the challenge he faced with trying to source as locally as possible while retaining the quality of the ingredients used. The sourcing perimeter has been reduced significantly since the restaurant first opened in April of this year, and much of the produce we sampled came from local Hong Kong farms - including NUR's own herb garden - and Japan; course 7, the pigeon, originated from Guangdong, to my surprise! In his own words, Topham's struggle to further eliminate the carbon footprint of his ingredients lies mainly with sourcing protein, but his ongoing efforts to look locally as much as possible is to be admired. Says Salma Gaj, NUR's Creative Director and Topham's partner, "one of our first investments in the restaurant was to hire a good Sourcing Manager" - an unusual request by Hong Kong standards, but one that was absolutely necessary for NUR. Topham's insistence in understanding the local flora and fauna, and how and where things are grown, was first instilled in him by Blanc; he now views sourcing and purchasing as political decisions, and chooses to support responsible, local producers who share in his respect for the food chain. 

This is all well and good in theory, but is the end result truly satisfying? I'll admit I was somewhat sceptical about Topham's brand of nourishing gastronomy when I sat down at the start of dinner, but he had me converted even before the first course with his appetisers of beetroot tacos and dehydrated carrot with cumin infused cream. The first course of lightly pickled heirloom tomatoes served with herb flavoured water was a marvel - a little dish packed with an astonishing amount of flavour. With this dish, Topham is evidently throwing back to the moment when he tried his first Raymond Blanc tomato creation, taking his diners to the point where he realised all those years ago that fine dining could be light and balanced. 

The flavour profiles of each of the courses to follow is much the same - the ingredients are interfered with as little as possible, allowing the raw ingredients to speak for themselves. The Maitake mushroom, served simply with a little mushroom jus, was quite remarkable, as were the onsen egg with sweetcorn and crisp chicken skin and the aforementioned medium poached pigeon, accompanied by charred pear, radicchio and béchamel sauce. I'm yet to be convinced by onion ice cream with pickled radishes as pudding; the standout among the dessert offerings was the fruit salad - comprising jackfruit and guava and served with a baba. It is also worth noting that every dish emerging from the open kitchen was beautifully presented, with the different colours and textures of each plate or bowl adding to the overall aesthetic. We were all pleasantly surprised that Chef Nurdin managed to successfully run the pass and stop to talk us through each course!

I emerged from NUR feeling unusually comfortable - without any feeling of having overindulged in spite of eating Topham's ten+ courses. NUR is to be congratulated not only for pulling off this light and nourishing fare, but also for introducing a new and holistic pseudo-Nordic dining experience to the Hong Kong restaurant scene. As a true gem in Privé Group's restaurant portfolio (NUR was today given 1* Michelin status), I can't wait to see more from this talented chef and his ambitious restaurant.

NUR 3/F, 1 Lyndhurst Terrace / 2871 9993 / www.nur.hk

Valerie was a guest of Privé Group; all views are independent. The tasting menu sampled will be available at NUR from Saturday, November 1.

10.11.14 Update: I returned to NUR with Mr. Chowdown for our anniversary, and the dining experience certainly didn't disappoint! I was, however, saddened that the fruit salad had been axed from the new 9 course Feast menu. At HK$988 a pop, NUR is definitely a treat for pay day or special occasions - but one that is well worth it for the quality and quantity of chow they dish out.


Jan said...

Thank you for coming! :D

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