Chef Shane Davies-Nilsson – Introducing Nordik Kitchen
“As soon as we landed in Sweden I was always ready to go. I was like ‘Mormor, can we make…?’ and I could guarantee she already had my little ‘pallen’ (stool) set up. She’d have my little apron ready to go, and my little oven gloves, and as soon as I came through the door she’d pop my apron on…and we’re baking bread. Those memories have always stuck out for me.”
Few things are as powerfully evocative- for all of us- as smell and taste. For Cardiff-based chef Shane Davies-Nilsson, they evoke powerful memories of childhood visits to his family in Malmö.
For a young chef- he’s still only 26, but has been working in kitchens since he was 15- he has a fascinating CV. He lived and worked in Iceland for a year at Dill, which would go on to win the country’s first Michelin star in 2017, then developed his pastry skills with the Tom Aikens group, learning in their Birmingham restaurant under the head pastry chef who worked at his two Michelin star kitchen.
He spent time at Birmingham’s acclaimed Harborne Kitchen with Jamie Desogus, Gordon Ramsay’s former Chef de partie at Petrus; more locally, there’s a very good chance you have already eaten his food: he was head pastry chef at Heaney’s Cardiff.
That’s his background and inspiration then. What about now?
Well, the next step is his own place. Nordik Kitchen. A small, relaxed restaurant where he can express his style and influences. The food will be a modern take on the food he grew up with. For example, kåldomar is typically mince wrapped in cooked cabbage leaves; but Shane imagines it as panko-crumbed lamb breast with roasted white cabbage purée, and lamb saddle finished on the barbecue. You can see a similar inventiveness in his hasselback potatoes: his are roasted in foaming butter, and might be served with smoked eel and pickled apple.
He writes menus with a minimum of description, leaving your imagination to fill in the blanks (Langoustine, buttermilk and sea buckthorn… Lamb, tarragon, yoghurt, onion…Burnt butter, cinnamon, orange…)
There will be beers from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. A wine list that includes small-producer biodynamic and organic wines from across Europe. Kombuchas, house-made sodas, and seasonal mocktails.
He has set himself a target of Summer 2022. Talking to him, it is clear how much he has put into planning this: he knows how the space will look, and more importantly how he wants it to feel. Homely, not mass produced and commercial: something that feels the opposite of generic. The restaurant will seat between 24-32 people (depending on the size of the premises) with four of those seats dedicated to the chef’s table. And yes, he has already picked the local carpenter to build it.
“If I’m going to do something, I’ll do it my way. It will be small and intimate, because I want it to feel like you’re coming to my home. I want you to feel at ease, not stuck in some pretentious thing. I don’t want you to feel out of place, but to feel relaxed, with good food over multiple courses. For people on the Chefs Table for example, I want them to interact, to ask ‘What’s going on here then..?’ As long as they’re happy for me to blab away about what I’m doing, that is… the key thing is to be comfortable. You don’t go out to feel someone has stuck a poker up your arse, you go out to relax and enjoy yourself.’
Shane has a Go Fund Me campaign to help toward the cost of setting up Nordik Kitchen, but he understands very well the pressure many are under in 2021: so alongside his daily graft he is launching a series of popups in and around Cardiff.
The first of these will go on sale on Thursday 26th August at 7pm, and we will be sharing ticketing information on Find My Dine.
In the first instance, Shane will be cooking a pop-up tasting menu on the 13th and 14th October at the Little Man Coffee Co in Cardiff. This is a business with a track record in supporting young businesses in the city, and it’s lovely to see them carrying that on: and isn’t it always exciting to see talent flourish?