“This is somewhere very different”, said my partner as we sipped on our Hendricks Gin and Tonic cocktail (served with cucumber sorbet) in the newly refitted courtyard garden at Jesper’s Bar and Kitchen, before moving inside to dine in the upstairs restaurant.
Jesper’s is indeed a great addition to the Harrogate dining scene offering a small but varied menu that changes over the seasons. You will undoubtedly come across Jesper Callisen, the restaurant owner whose warm vision of hospitality is one which makes you feel valued – the service and food you receive will be second to none.
Having worked in restaurants and kitchens around the world, Danish-born Callisen has brought his experience and wisdom to Harrogate for the discerning diner who seeks unparalleled quality and freshness in the produce; the food is stunning, well presented, and most of all extraordinarily tasty.
Situated just up a few steps away from the railway station, with free on-road parking after 6pm, the restaurant stands on one of Harrogate’s grand terraces which seemed apt considering the fine dining on offer.
My partner opted for a starter of 24-hour confit pork belly served with pickled carrot, carrot and ginger puree and Parma ham crisp (£9.00). When the dish arrived, I immediately felt a twinge of regret at not ordering the pork belly myself as it looked magnificent and enticed the senses with its delicious aroma. Tender and cooked slowly, the rich saltiness and layered flavours of this hearty cut of pork made a perfect start to an exemplary dining experience.
Mains of honey and lavender glazed duck breast (£26.00) competed for our attention with charcoal chicken caesar (£20.00) or beetroot risotto, yellow courgette, pine nut and olive granola £19.00).
The winner in my partner’s case was the salmon fillet served with chorizo piperade, spiced lobster fritters and coriander oil (£24.00). The combination with the hot and spicy chorizo did not sit easily – the contrasting flavours between the salmon and chorizo perhaps not to everyone’s tastes. The salmon, however, was tender and cooked to perfection.
My choice of the more conservative filet served with fries (£34.00) was cooked to my preference of well done, served with some of the creamiest and strongest blue cheese sauce I have sampled.
Deserving to be discovered
The dessert menu is short but sweet with only three offerings of either Kiwi carpaccio (£8.00) or the chocolate and hazelnut slab (£8.00) or, for my choice, the 5-cheese board for one (£12.00). The head chef, Matt informed me that he chose cheeses that you would not necessarily find in your local supermarket, sourced from The Cheeseboard – the specialist Harrogate cheese shop. Expect to find a Delice De Bourgogne, a strong and tangy Buffalo Blue, Red Storm, Ribblesdale Blue, and a smoked charcoal cheddar. If, like me, you are a cheese connoisseur, you will be very happy.
Advice was given throughout the evening of the accompanying wine to each dish (Callisen is a qualified and seasoned sommelier) which complemented the excellent service that was attentive but not obtrusive.
For a special occasion or a treat Jesper’s would be our first choice the next time we visit Harrogate. This independent restaurant deserves to be discovered.