The iconic hunter’s chairs are no longer to be found in front of the fireplace in the inn’s main hall – the first thing to catch your eye when entering Southern Funen’s Falsled Kro. The chairs were destroyed in connection with a serious burglary at the inn in late 2016. Nonetheless, a peaceful calm quickly falls upon us as we take our places in front of the fireplace on new Børge Mogensen chairs, armed with a glass of champagne and the season’s first lumpfish roe. The meal itself takes place at a large table with thick white tablecloths as the warmth of the open hearth radiates throughout the inn, and where waiters donned in sleeve garters kindly and discreetly serve us. Time stands still here – in a good way. Falsled Kro is old-school luxury, as are the plates sent out of the open kitchen by Chef Per Hallundbæk. A wood-roasted onion peel with smoked sweetness conceals razor clams and sea snails below, in a rich and creamy clam sauce. Every bite is absolutely delicious. A cut of steamed cod – wonderfully firm in structure – is served with fried kohlrabi leaves and a crisp roll of raw kohlrabi with oysters that provides full and salty minerality with an intense watercress sauce to tie the dish together. The generous body and rich quince aroma of a viogner from Château de Beaucastel proves a nice pairing with the oysters – an often difficult feat. Fried duck hearts with a mountain of highly aromatic black winter truffles, morel cream and 36-month Comté provide umami with small acidic explosions of pickled golden beets. The sommelier’s only misstep here is a rather lukewarm blaufränkisch. Our disappointment dissipates as a “pigeon chop” of perfectly pink roasted breast and thigh of pigeon, forged together with chicken mince and caul fat, arrives at our table. The chop is an aesthetic work of genius that seduces the eye with its size and brown-glazed presentation. The condensed meat flavour is accompanied wholeheartedly by porcino mushrooms and an intense demi-glace seasoned with warm Christmas spices. The rich flavours are joined with the bitterness of red cabbage and much-needed acidity from quince, pickled mustard seeds and green grapes, while a Spanish tempranillo served at the proper temperature matches the dish with spicy oaked intensity and dark berries. The dish powerfully demonstrates that this agrarian Southern Funen kitchen is still running like a well-oiled machine. The inn’s garden supplies year-round produce to the kitchen, which is keen to pickle and preserve for the winter months. When the inn’s legendary cheese cart rolls up to our table, we take the last few steps up to heaven. Our waiter knows the story behind each of the 35 well-ripened cheeses, all at the right temperature and the majority are French and unpasteurised. We are welcome to taste them all, he adds. Three glasses of wine for the challenging cheese board prove a boisterous but prudent choice. Among these is a sancerre whose grassy aroma and crisp acidity make it a perfect companion with the fresh goat’s cheese. Coffee and exquisite homemade chocolates by the fire round off a nearly perfect experience. Falsled Kro is by all means worth a trip.
Considering Norway’s unparalleled access to some of the best seafood in the world, one would imagine its capital was overflowing with great sushi restaurants. Unfortunately, they are rather scarce, and mainly consist of cheap, mass-produced take away or overpriced upscale joints. Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, Restaurant Fangst appears. Located in the basement of a Majorstua hotel, doubling as the hotel’s breakfast room, it’s a rather grey and not so inspiring looking restaurant. But don’t let its dull looks fool you because Fangst is a rare catch in this town. It’s run by two enthusiasts who have gathered quite a following among the local residents who flock to the small bar counter. The menu is short and focused on what’s in season, offering both à la carte and a set menu. We especially enjoy the serving of deep-fried cod tongue topped with bleak roe and fresh wasabi. A miso soup is made with dashi and langoustines, served with a delicious Norwegian king crab – an excellent blend of local produce and Japanese flavours. Our bet is that these boys will move on to better and more suitable facilities soon, and we’re looking forward to it!
It begins with a drink list called “Drinks and Roostertails”, a joke followed by the name of the first drink: “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven”. They offer a lot of entertainment here, which is probably why Far i Hatten reigns in the People’s Park. The restaurant’s name has been around since the park’s inception in 1894. The old pavilion has been spruced up but retains a certain charming patina. In the summer the place attracts people to the large outdoor terrace. Far i Hatten has otherwise profiled itself as having an idiosyncratic kitchen and a beverage range that suits the hipster crowd from nearby Möllevångstorget. There’s a lot of green, natural and organic. The baked carrot with sea buckthorn, marigolds and cream with rye crisp is tangy, crunchy and caramelly with natural wine from La Grapperie in Loire that’s mushroomy and fragrant with berries. Sommelier Jonas Letelier pilots with a sure hand through the dishes and drinks. A Beaujolais from Fleurie is in total symbiosis with one of their autumnal plates – a pumpkin with pumpkin cream, Danish cream cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds. A “Kinder Surprise” of flavours. There are two menus – the vegetarian “green” and the “red” with a hint of meat. The green one beckons with a real beauty, a variation on kohlrabi with Skåne pears, chervil and chestnut crisp. Fresh goodness, enhanced by an improbably tasty orange wine from Friuli. The red menu offers, among other things, a delicious tartare of Skåne lamb with caviar, sea coral and trumpet chanterelles. Rich umami notes of forest, lake and sea. The tempo of the servings is high and the flavours are exciting.
sexy, indie jazz version of “Light my Fire” is strangely appropriate in Farang, a restaurant just below street level in a period building which also houses an art museum. A smooth ride through the tempting flavours of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia is about to begin. As the music deteriorates into some fusion ambience, the dishes reveal one secret after another. We inhale the aroma of the mussel in turmeric curry and as soon as we’ve slurped up the creamy mix, it leaves us with an unquenchable desire for more. This is exactly what an amuse-bouche is supposed to do. We take a sip of Wittmann Silvaner's “100 Hügel” which tingles on the tongue and tastes like tropical melons with a dash of minerality. With perfect timing, the green papaya salad arrives adorned by cherry tomatoes. The acidity is nice, even necessary, but the salad is disappointing in its unrelenting sourness. However, it does clear the palate for the crispy pork ribs in a roasted coconut dressing served with jasmine rice. A dish called “Morning Glory” arrives, a chunk of tofu that’s tender as a scallop on top of pak choi. Umami, smoke and sweetness mingle on the palate, cleansing it yet again for the Phanaeng lamb curry to follow. With coconut, nuts and cucumber relish on the side, it is enough to make your head spin even without the Jaspi Negre from the distinctive Montsant terroir in Spain – although a brave match, this combo doesn’t work. The Mekong River makes its way to the table in the form of a banana cake with crunchy tamarind on top and coconut ice cream. In this case, the dessert wine is a treat from the village of Monbazillac. Take your time on this journey to exotic lands because you’ll need it, both to digest and to dream a little.
Farm’s curious window display has a way of stopping passersby in their tracks; a party of taxidermied, feral animals having a riotous feast around a rustic dinner table. Who wouldn’t stop for that? But can the food and drink behind such a frivolous storefront be taken seriously? Estonians are considered reserved. Estonia’s culinary heritage could be regarded similarly––it lacks color and taste. When Estonians tell their children not to play with their food they are dead serious about it. Farm thankfully behaves differently, the animal fiesta is perhaps the complete opposite of dead serious, and that’s a good thing. When stepping into this dining room, to the tunes of sober background music, you’re greeted by a slightly over-dramatized interior, and an open kitchen that doesn’t leave room for gimmickry. The restaurant is a brave promoter of new Estonian cuisine, there are no taboos, but there is no playing with food either. The appetizers and soups are particularly successful––even the names reflect the imagination with which the food is prepared. The spiced sprat is offered as an ice pop, cow tail aspic is presented as a warm soup under a cloud of horseradish-spiked sour cream, and the traditional rustic sauerkraut soup leaves you altogether speechless. We have hardly ever seen traditional Estonian food take such bold directions. You should pay close attention to the small Estonian flags on the beverage menu, they represent the local, mostly craft tipples. Rhubarb wine from Allikukivi Wine Manor is a pleasant aperitif, it’s also interesting because its taste evolves as its temperature changes. Good craft drinks are produced in very limited quantities in Estonia, so seize the opportunity to try local berry wines, or if that seems too extreme, a cider or a beer. Estonia’s drinking culture is developing much faster than its cuisine these days.
Feinschmecker could not be situated anywhere other than Frogner. Although the facade is rather unassuming, it is in a neigbourhood with an aura of money, evidenced not only by the clientele, but also by the prices. Run by celebrity chef Lars Erik Underthun, this lush restaurant has been among Oslo’s elite dining venues for over twenty years. The menu reflects this stability – there’s a sense of comfort and tradition throughout the courses. It focuses on execution and luxurious, rounded flavours. There are few elements of surprise, but the feeling of satisfaction is omnipresent. It’s a sinfully pleasant treat to start off with foie gras with oxtail, rhubarb cream and fried brioche while eavesdropping on the various conversations in the stylish, but somewhat confusing dining room. An absence of music and the poshness of the surroundings makes this a radical choice for the young foodie movement; expect a rather high percentage of families and mature couples out for a bite. Neither you nor they will be dissatisfied with the menu. A rich, seasonal chicken breast with fatty, salty rillettes in a sherry sauce paired with sweet onion is a current favourite. The cod loin flavoured with chorizo and contrasted with fava beans doused in a nutty butter sauce will render you perfectly content while chatting with the staff and Under-thun himself, who always takes the time to converse at each table. The flavours and staff make you feel at home and welcome, with a stability and warmth that explains the decades of delighted customers.
A restaurant located in a building that also houses a culinary school? You know it’s going to be great. Chef Māris Astičs’ Ferma is all stylishly decked out in exquisite dark furniture, geometric wine shelves, black ceiling fans and paintings of plants on the walls. The name speaks for itself, everything is local, straight from the farm. And naturally, when the chef heads a hospitality school on the same premises, technique and execution are not going to be shabby. Latvian tomatoes, venison, herring, beef and that most Latvian heavy-hitter bukstiņputra, a real farmer’s lunch stew of barley and potatoes. That’s just the tip of the gastro-iceberg. Astičs highlights the unique character of each ingredient. Try to experiment with wine: scallops with mashed peas go beautifully with an American Riesling, its lemongrass- and passion fruit aromas are an exquisite match for this dish. And if you’re visiting in the summer, squeeze yourself onto the restaurant’s popular verandah that abuts Viesturdārzs park, it’s like having a picnic, only without the ants.
Festningen restaurant is perched on top of 700-year old walls at Akershus Castle. From this massive brick building that once housed a prison you can enjoy central Oslo’s best views. The interior of the historically protected building has been carefully refurbished to house a tasteful if somewhat corporate-looking modern restaurant with an open kitchen. If the weather allows, you can sit on the west-facing terrace looking over the sparkling fjord towards shadowy Aker Brygge. The clientele on our visit consists mostly of visiting tourists or groups of friends out for a meal. We overhear some Americans complaining about the incongruous “boom-boom music”, but the food is well worth a try. A crispy croquette of pork knuckle in a panko crust is juicy and flavourful and the rich filling is offset by a pleasantly tart salad with capers, cornichons and onions. The pan-fried cod is served with a purée of charred aubergine and a slightly undercooked cassoulet of borlotti, canneloni and fava beans. The roasted spring chicken in the form of breast and confited leg is moist yet crispy, with an additional taste of spring in the form of peas and asparagus. The same creamy mash accompanies the cod and the chicken, and both compositions are slightly heavy on the salt, but the food is generally well cooked. A white Bordeaux from the extensive wine list is a pleasant compromise to suit both dishes, suggested by the friendly sommelier. The staff are efficient and pleasant, but you need to find your own way through the self-service wardrobe and up the stairs to the restaurant. Once there, enjoy the view and be grateful that the door is unlocked and the food far more pleasant than the prison fare of yore.
These exact words describe Ken Trahv, the chef at one of Tartu’s newest restaurants. The status quo of the city’s restaurant scene had dragged on far too long, young and angry energy was bound to hit it at some point. Now it’s here, flexing its muscles at Fii, in Hotel Sophia, next to the Lõunakeskus Shopping Center; two things that can make a food enthusiast cautious––hotel dining and shopping mall malaise. In this case, however, you might want to swallow those preconceived notions, or you’ll miss out on a stellar young and angry food extravaganza. Trahv has worked in Estonia’s best restaurants, forming his culinary style along the way. It’s interesting to observe how his previous experiences are maturing into something personal; facsimiles of dishes he cooked elsewhere are gradually becoming his very own creations. Fii’s menu offers familiar main ingredients with somewhat surprising finishing touches, such as eel with mango, Jerusalem artichoke with pumpkin hummus or lamb with edamame beans. Tartu’s new generation of choleric chefs is rapidly making up for the culinary stagnation that has hitherto ruled in the city’s kitchens; Fii is the best place to get a taste of this development. And if you don’t like it you can always go shopping instead.
Fina Fisken really delivers. Diners can be sure to get well-prepared food made with the finest ingredients. As often as possible, the “new owners” (they’ve been new for 10 years now) see to it that the ingredients come from fishermen, farmers and other producers in the immediate vicinity. Everything is taken care of in the best way. The portions are generous and very nicely presented. The seasonings raise the culinary experience, and the condiments and vegetables are beautiful accompaniments. The menu has shrunk somewhat, but is varied seasonally to take advantage of what the season offers. Everyone from visiting foreigners to children can get a taste of Scandinavian specialties and international cuisine. The memory of a chanterelle soup with sweetbreads and sliced truffle followed by a plaice in red wine lingers long. And their classics are also memorable, like fried herring with mashed potatoes. The service alone is worth a tribute. Fast, knowledgeable and accommodating without applying pressure. And it makes the meal experience feel personal even though the garden and the dining rooms are full of people. In the evening Trädgårdsbaren is Trosa’s watering hole. In the comfortable lounge sofas under the sky they serve dishes from a simple bar menu, and exciting drinks, such as five different flavours of G&T and a variety of champagnes. A bakery with take-away options has further increased our options. But check the opening hours and book a table, as sometimes you can be unlucky and find it closed for a special theme.
Finnjävel is Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen’s big restaurant dream come true. Both men have some twenty years of experience working in traditional restaurants in the French tradition. Then came the awakening, and the quest to find out what Finnish cuisine is all about. They consulted old cookbooks, delved into their own heritage and fortunately found living traditions that can still be found in different parts of Finland. It was obvious that poverty and necessity had been great sources of inspiration. Finnish cuisine also had influences from Scandinavia to the west, and Russia to the east. These Finnish (dare)devils distilled their ideas and the result has been a highly successful restaurant at a prime location beside Helsinki’s harbour. The nostalgic flavours and the smells of freshwater lakes and saunas are sure to appeal to every Finn, and are mostly familiar to fellow Scandinavians – but they also happen to appeal to the curiosity of foreign visitors. The kitchen is strict about using only traditional ingredients. Close connections with producers and foragers have been crucial. Imported items are only used if they were already being imported some hundred years ago, like herring, coffee and lemon. Today environmental regulations limit the use of some ingredients, like wild salmon, otherwise the sky is the limit. Even the choosiest international visitors have found something familiar in the menu, like meat jelly, and blood sausage. There are two menus – one with six courses and one with ten in which the different dishes are supposed to complete each other. A lot of the more familiar dishes take the form of something unrecognisable. Take the national dish of Karelian pie, presented here as a heap of rice porridge, boiled egg and rye crackers. But most of the treats are more conventional. The amuse-bouches are interesting, like buttermilk from the restaurant’s own dairy, or “From the pit”, an oven-baked onion. Part of the concept involves the design, which was created specifically for the restaurant by Atelje Sotamaa. All of the tableware and furniture are for sale. Not everybody likes the idea of inventing fork and knife again, and some of the ideas aren’t very practical, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of Finnjävel’s popularity. The food is paired with superior wines and other beverages and the enthusiasm of the staff is contagious. However, the team behind Finnjävel has only committed itself to remaining in operation for two years. On their web site the days are busily ticking off until spring of 2018. But who knows, with success like this, they might be tempted to go on with the show.
The premises have been freshened up, the gold details seem to glisten a little more than before, and the atmosphere seems to crackle on those evenings that Bifångst is open. (Bifångst is a small restaurant inside Fiskekrogen that offers a specially composed menu to 15 guests.) Otherwise, most things are the same at Fiskekrogen, this temple consecrated to the delicacies of the sea. After all, Lars Ahlström has steered the ship for two decades now, and at this point he is wise enough not to change too much in their winning concept: really well prepared dishes using the finest fish and the freshest seafood the west coast can offer. In addition to the popular seafood buffet served on Fridays and Saturdays, the classics are the biggest attractions. Smooth lobster bisque with lobster mousseline; hearty turbot with horseradish and beets; and not least, Ahlström’s codfish balls served with caviar sauce, can make anyone nostalgic. The desire to innovate at Bifångst, which means “Bycatch” (think caviar with pig’s blood and burnt cream) does infect some of the dishes at Fiskekrogen, like those under the title “Together” in the menu, which includes mini dishes, and the intent is that you should eat many of them and preferably share with your party. Crab salad with jalapeno miso, pears and salsify is a few steps too far from the kitchen’s comfort zone and doesn’t play at all, while the tartare of fine bonito is quite excellent in the company of bleak roe and cherry vinegar. The voluminous wine list has a bias towards the classic and is especially crazy about Burgundy. The clientele consists of mainly of business diners and large groups.
Karl Erik Pallesen runs the kitchen at this fishmonger by day, hotspot by night – a place that is widely known for having the best fish soup in the kingdom. As seasoned readers probably know, this is a typical claim written on every blackboard along the touristy pier and around Lågen, from the run-down local dive bar to the more posh establishments fancied by oil executives. The creamy soup with shrimp and ling fish feels like a feast. Here the vegetables are crunchy, and the emerald green oil tastes just as brilliant as it looks. The rumours are true: this is the best fish soup. A ramson risotto follows, and comes out on top. The risotto has a vibrant green colour from the wild and garlicky Nordic leaves. The shrimps and mussels are moist and have the right bite to them. The sweetness of the seafood is matched by pickled carrots. The baked Atlantic cod comes with a butter sauce with salmon roe, cauliflower, cucumber and red oxalis. The menu is written on a big blackboard, and the waiters tour the small dining room with it, at times with such struggle that we’re surprised they don’t feel compelled to put it down on a piece of paper. A group of men who are celebrating something cause the service to come to a halt, though it was attentive at first. In the end it is nearly impossible to get the staff’s attention as they hastily fly by us en route to the men with heavy trays of beers. Fisketorget Lågen is a good place to let your mind wander while enjoying the great seafood this region is known for.
There is no need to throw a coin in the wishing well that you pass on your way to the underground lair in downtown Reykjavik where “The Fish Company” is housed – not to improve your chances of having a great meal anyway. This is one of the most popular restaurants in town so rest assured they can handle a full house and still give you a singular experience. Fresh local ingredients appear in interpretations inspired by exotic kitchens from around the world. The presentations of all of the courses are outstanding – starting with appetisers served from a log and nitrogen cooling at the table. All of our taste buds are triggered. The connection to France is established through deliciously sweet and mild fried monkfish and langoustine with a foamy and elegant nutty foie gras sauce, both fresh and pickled Jerusalem artichokes, Jerusalem artichoke ice cream, and crunchy roasted hazelnuts, all embellished with watercress and parsley. One of two Icelandic starters on this world tour is “all in” on cod: a slowly cooked fillet of cod is served with cod caviar mayonnaise, chunky cod and almond crumble, smoked cod foam with sharp notes from pickled celery, and a refreshingly sour lemon and celeriac purée. The trip to Malaysia is a decorative, tasty serving of mild and buttery diced tuna with a soft, rounded mustard emulsion, restrained green chilli notes, a fresh liquorice taste from fennel, and sesame crisp. The kitchen has won our confidence, so we dare to enjoy the contribution from Canadian cuisine in the form of a very pink pan-fried duck breast with a crispy skin, tender and juicy duck leg confit with exotic apricot jam and fried wild mushrooms, egg yolk sauce and honey-glazed carrots with smoked almond and apricot granola. After such a great world tour, we cannot help but wonder if perhaps all those coins are from satisfied guests flipping one in the well on their way out.
When the thinly sliced pieces of minke whale fillet meet the heat of the Japanese Robata Grill for five seconds, magic occurs. The bitter surface seals the juicy, fleshy flavour from the tender whale meat. The experience is enhanced after we dip it in soy and ginger. The meat is topped by grated horseradish where bits of red currants give an acidic kick to the bitterness and umami. With this we drink a Hrefna Belgian Strong from Borg Brugghús with deep, fruity forest notes of crowberries and blueberries. It’s sensational. Restaurateur and Chef Hrefna Sætran has not only brewed the beer, she is also responsible for the interior in the old yellow wooden house – one of the Reykjavik’s oldest – where the walls are decorated with moss and old tree stumps. The light from the table lamps with shades made of fish leather creates a nice ambiance, to which a knowledgeable and light-hearted service staff contribute. Throughout the meal we choose dishes to share, like a stylish lemon-glazed char with an intense green purée of edamame beans and crispy rye bread. It works well with the sour Leifur beer. The beer and wine pairings are consistently creative. Like a bitter hops Úlfur India Pale ale with red beet-coloured tempura-fried shrimp with melon and jalapeño dressing. Or a bittersweet Úlfrun paired with a lightly salted cod with dried cranberries, sweet celery salad and a silky potato purée. The confited leg of lamb belongs to the island’s best, served with preserved beets and a variation on mushrooms. The Garún Icelandic Stout holds its own with a burnt sweetness. The conclusion is notably good: a grand Icelandic dessert with exotic fruits, ice cream and a smoking crater of raspberry mousse and liquorice.
On a long stretch of Vesterbrogade where fine dining bastions are few and far between, a grey bunker-like building stands proud, having housed a gastronomic forerunner of Copenhagen’s restaurant scene for more than a decade. The team behind formel B (formula B) can boast of having endowed the city centre with both its light-hearted little sister Uformel (Informal) and the king of smørrebrød restaurants, Restaurant Palægade, not to mention Restaurant Sletten in Humblebæk with its stunning sea views. As soon as you open the heavy door, you get the sense of having entered into a secret lodge where the butter is nobly embossed with a B and the international brotherhood of guests is privy to fact that formel B delivers to the fullest every time. We are greeted with a warm and professional reception, and the keen team of waiters quickly establishes a good rapport with their guests. The sommelier’s proud presentation of recommendations and the fixed menu pairings are akin to exploring the big questions of life with a trusted older family member. He exudes impressive authority despite his young age. Leave the decisions to him or have a deeper, exploratory chat with him about the menu and the cellar’s many other options in terms of both conventional and natural wines, with an emphasis on the latter. A jazzy atmosphere prevails in this tightly designed restaurant where the warm light of the kitchen shines through the glass window separating the din and bustle from the diners’ cosy surroundings in one section of the restaurant. The tables are placed so that you can sit in peace and enjoy the reverent parade of delights, from a Danish squid encircled by pickled onions and smoked foam to a rich dill emulsion. The remarkable take on surf and turf is certainly one of formel B’s signature dishes: a crisp yet succulent fried turbot with braised veal tail in a deep green parsley sauce. We recall this dish from our first visit in 2006, and it completely swept us off our feet back then, too. This time it is wonderfully paired with a mild and lightly spiced gamay. A dark, refreshing syrah escorts corned beef brisket, a crisp toast with morel pâté, thin wafers of celeriac and a glaze with such an amazing depth that it shines in tandem with the intense cherry notes of the wine. Formel B is the epitome of excellence in gastronomy and a place we instinctively want to revisit again and again. May it stay that way for decades to come.
If the food at Fotografiska weren’t so full to the brim of personality and soul, we would be tempted to think that the place was dreamed up by an advanced think tank with the task of condensing all of the current food trends into a single format. But thanks to the confident flavours and the focus on ingredients, the concept of “medium-sized plant dishes”, with clear ambitions for zero food waste, feels anything but contrived. And this year, the service staff have also stepped up and contribute to the experience, something that has previously been a bit uneven up here in the beautiful space with spectacular views over Stockholm. Four dishes per person are recommended – and don’t worry whether or not plants alone will satisfy you. A few “sides” in the form of meat or fish are a great way to take the animal protein out of focus while maintaining a little lifeline to a more traditional restaurant meal – but it is hard to imagine that guests will miss the meat after four vegetable dishes. The best is the delicious little tagliatelle made from beetroot and sea spaghetti algae topped with a Sanda egg yolk, Parmesan cheese and liquoricey tarragon. Hmm, no black pepper? We have just enough time to wonder, before the first sip of the amphora-aged natural wine, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and trepat, hits our tongues and gives the dish the peppery smack it screams for. A baked onion, lovingly burnt around the edges, is pepped up by truffles and rich mushroom cream – and gets textural juxtaposition from fried Jerusalem artichoke. A delicious slow-baked carrot plays the lead role in a composition with coriander seed, almond potato purée and basil and still we don’t miss the meat. But when the perfectly baked char and small, intensely flavoured wild venison tenderloin makes its entrance our hearts are gladdened – for the subtle display of craft in letting fine ingredients speak for themselves. Sea buckthorn and carrot we have seen before. Or so we thought. Then we are floored by the dessert, an ice cream made from boiled cocoa bean husks (“it’s white but tastes dark”, the waitress aptly notes) paired with almost raw carrot coins, crushed meringue, cacao nibs, super sour and piquant sea buckthorn berries and something as fun as a meadowsweet granité. The dessert is built as much on texture as taste – it is chewy, creamy and crunchy across the board – and unlike many one-dimensionally sweet desserts, it is interesting to the last bite.
On a bitterly cold winter’s evening, one can only dream about the magical summer lunches on these verandas bordering Frederiksberg Gardens, but everything in due time. We are comfortably inside, where the decor is stylish and polite, and where the kitchen delivers a culinary experience that incorporates both sublime classics and Nordic experiments. What remains constant is the competent and extremely friendly service. The menus of three to five courses are based on the à la carte options, but even before we reach the first course, we receive snacks that set the bar impressively high: dried wild mushrooms and potato are formed into paper-thin crisps, fried and served with a cream of pine and juniper berry and powdered with burnt leek – a wonderful palette of crispness and umami from the forest floor. The first course is sharp and classic – a silky-soft celeriac soup with a caramelised scallop and roasted apple. The second course, however, is a confusing vegetable dish with fried carrot. The plate combines carrot purée, truffles, and creamed Høost cheese in wonderful harmony, but the carrot itself, poached and fried in pistachio and walnut, lacks sweetness, and the rustic breading is far too dominant. The main course is a safer bet. Apart from the misplaced cubes of glazed bacon, the beef rump from Skåne with creamy polenta and lightly salted broccoli stalk is purely delicious. There isn’t much room for modern ventures on the classic wine list, but we find a cabernet franc from Loire, Domaine De La Chevalerie, which has a fine balance of acidity and fruit; it keeps us company throughout the meal, all the way to a sweet and sour dessert of white chocolate, coconut macaroon and lime cream.
It isn’t easy to get a table at Frederikshøj. Like everything else about this place, the booking system is out of the ordinary. You can’t just click on a desired date – you actually have to write and request a table. But once that request is granted, a unique experience awaits. Chef Wassim Hallal’s strong personality and creative soul permeate every aspect of Frederikshøj. It’s a place for going all-in, and you’ll drink classic wine in divine pairings that will live on in the annals of your memory. Despite the arrangement of large round tables for two, the immaculately skilled staff create a warmth and comfort that make you feel like you’re sitting in your very own oasis on a gastronomic expedition. A torrent of seven humorous and tasty appetisers arrives with undertones of richness, sweetness, umami and smoke. Among the innovative and playful bites is a bowl of attractive stones, two of which are edible. These are “potatoes in potatoes” with lightly smoked fish and a marbled potato membrane to create the illusion of a stone. You can’t help but smile. Culinary acrobatics with form and texture are one of Wassim Hallal’s trademarks and they continue throughout the meal’s 15 courses. An oyster is not just an oyster, but a crisp flake of dried oysters with an oyster cream and springy salicorn: a wonderful taste of the sea. Another standout among the many original and characteristic dishes is the tuna; the marbled cuts are barely browned on the edges, garnished with parsnip (both creamy and crispy) and topped at the table with a heap of almonds in browned butter. The characteristic umami of the tuna and the flavours from the Maillard reaction in the browning butter combine remarkably with the crunchy texture of the almonds: an amazing interpretation of a classic Barcelona tapa, further elevated to ethereal heights by the smoke and hay notes of a Loire Valley wine, Montlouis-sur-Loire "Les Borderies" from Le Rocher des Violettes. Next is a potpourri of ingenious desserts: a facsimile of a cherry with cherry filling, crumble and sorbet, followed by a chocolate sphere that looks like a ball of yarn filled with passion fruit, finished by “washing the plate” with a convincing copy of a scouring sponge that turns out to be an edible sponge cake with passion fruit “dishwashing soap”, and lastly, an edible soft-boiled egg of sour fruit and white chocolate, and a gold-plated edible chocolate bar. To complete the extravagance, the coffee comes with a petit four cart brandishing small ice cream sticks, filled chocolates and classic French confections – all executed with elite aptitude and featuring a bevy of distinct flavours in each little bite. Thus concludes an original and impressive meal underpinned by exquisite wine pairings featuring classics carefully chosen by the talented sommeliers. All-round, it’s an experience of the highest calibre.
Præstø is often considered to be an unremarkable dot on the outskirts of metropolitan Denmark, but this is where Chef Jonas Mikkelsen creates small gastronomic miracles on par with the nation’s finest restaurants. He has a flair for creating incredibly delicious cuisine with just a few simple ingredients, as exemplified in the highlight of the evening: a slice of hay-baked rutabaga, fried in butter and smoked in a pan with the hay. The soft, sweet rutabaga is covered by a layer of crunchy black sesame seeds and a sauce of warm crème fraîche, salted to the max. This exceptional dish is soft and crisp, sweet, acidic, and smoky-rich, all at once. It unequivocally deserves signature status at this establishment, where they are driven by seasonal awareness and where even the likes of rutabaga and celeriac can be kings for an evening. We too feel like royalty, sitting in the sunroom’s comfortable chairs at large tables clad with stiff white tablecloths. The deliberately antique interior is a fun wormhole through time, but the room is a bit large for the few tables and the acoustics are poor. We have the feeling that other guests can eavesdrop on our conversation if we raise our voices even the slightest. However, nearly every dish is perfectly balanced. The snacks alone offer a deft array of sublime flavours. For example, the luxury take on sour cream and onion crisps, here with dill and vinegar dust and a cream of smoked witch flounder. The intensity of a small cup of mushroom broth with fermented celeriac juice brings literal tears of joy. The kitchen masters both the subdued and the elegant with preparations built on classic French cuisine. A prime example is the perfectly steamed lemon sole with burnt Tuscan kale and a wonderful sauce nage with a meticulous balance of buttery richness and acidity, held in the tight corset of a firm, mineral white from Languedoc. Other times, the ingredients speak for themselves. A large langoustine tail is served naked and then bathed in pine oil, browned butter and reduced cream. The richness and sweetness are distinctly underpinned by a skin-fermented natural chenin blanc from South Africa. The unconventional wines are well chosen and have at least one leg in the world of natural wines, though they are not presented as such. Instead, the waiter provides an insightful and engaging account of their pairing with the dishes. The desserts fall fully in the throes of Nordic traditions. An airy walnut mousse is freshened up with a French sorrel granité and tiny cubes of green apple and celery. Such desserts often end up as an exercise in sugar-free asceticism, but in the hands of Mikkelsen it proves a happy marriage of the sweet, rich and fresh. A creamy celeriac ice cream with caramel and layers of caramelised chicken skin and mushroom dust is a rich and earthy autumn greeting, paired nicely with a caramelly dessert wine from Friuli made from dried grapes. Hotel Frederiksminde has emphatically made Præstø one of the gastronomic shining lights of provincial Denmark.
Fredo is every office worker’s favorite new lunch spot. It’s not hard to understand why. If the overloaded soup- and salad bar isn’t enough to convince you, the daily specials, scribbled on a large chalkboard, and the tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchen should do the trick. Best of luck choosing between the specials or the à la carte menu! The grilled caesar salad offers a twist on the classic, with grilled hearts of romaine adding a pleasant, smoky balance to the assertive garlic dressing.
Frenchy brings a little bit of France to the trendy Telliskivi area. If a snug French bistro married a large, modern industrial space, Frenchy would be their lovechild. Despite its gargantuan interiors, Frenchy’s owner Heili Mäeveer-Le Masne manages to add Parisian charm to the space and an “à la bonne franquette” soupçon to the menu that’s filled with classic, rich dishes like foie gras, cassolette with escargots, and raclette. The lamb confit is the ultimate, winter comfort food. And, you can practice your French with Mäeveer-Le Masne as she tells you about the wines, which she imports directly herself.
Fru K, the prestige restaurant at hotel mogul Petter Stordalen’s most lavish hotel, The Thief, has rebranded itself once again. Now it’s both meat-free and a lot smaller than before, which was probably a wise move, as the old restaurant was way too large, leaving diners with a feeling of being alone even on a busy night. The shift to pescetarianism is also a smart move, as the kitchen lacked focus before, and now it’s trading in the new and trendy currency of vegetables and seafood. We start with a snack of white asparagus tops, pickled carrot and beetroot to be dipped in a sauce of unknown origin – though it tastes great, for vegetables and dip. But once the first starter arrives, all is well again. We’re treated to a show of great and simple dishes: grilled green asparagus resting in a light asparagus sauce, lobster from Midsund paired with a lobster hollandaise. A perfectly cooked trout with crispy skin, vendace roe and a brown butter sauce comes with the rest of the aforementioned white asparagus. A superb serving of pumpkin, with reduced cream and kale, is bloody good without the blood, and we don’t even miss the Sunday roast. The turbot served with lemon curd and pickled onion is cooked to perfection. This is great quality food and an excellent showcase of amazing produce. The service is just as one would expect at a world-class hotel but when, halfway into our meal, the maître d’ starts setting up the surrounding tables for tomorrow’s breakfast serving, we are reminded that we are indeed in a hotel and not a regular restaurant. We don’t recommend drinking here unless you have deep pockets. The wine list is a bit top-heavy with very few wines priced under four digits a bottle and the wine pairings might be the priciest deal in town as they do not offer much bang for your buck. But, considering the hotel brand and the whole area of Tjuvholmen, the regulars probably do not mind.
Since Chef Tommy Friis and his wife Birgitte took over Fru Larsen in 2012, they have maintained a very high culinary level. Don’t be fooled by the traditional and stuffy-but-cosy décor of the dining room, this kitchen elegantly combines equal parts classic techniques and modern experimentation ensuring that a meal here is never boring. A miniature bowl of delectable and comforting bacon broth with an edible wrap filled with potato and lovage is a great start, and the tartare of dry-aged beef with croutons and capers is both the perfect temperature and deeply flavourful. The first dish, halibut, is served raw and still (a bit overly) frozen atop an oyster cream, cucumber and white asparagus. An herb jus is sprayed over the dish, adding colour along with herbaceous notes that blend subtly with the aptly paired albarino from Rias Baixas. A salt-baked slice of white cabbage is the base of the next serving. The cabbage, which still retains some bite, is doused in a rich, lemony beurre blanc and topped with dried and fresh Romø shrimps and crispy chicken skin. The wines are well paired throughout the menu, although one could argue that slightly more daring choices would have lifted this creative kitchen’s flavours even higher. Then again, it’s hard to whine too much when the earthy, iron notes of a perfectly cooked pigeon breast mingle with the classy Bourgogne from Liger-Belair. Venison from red deer comes wrapped in a thin mushroom gel “package”. It’s at the centre of a dish that contains, according to the menu, a “sauce mysterie” whose spices keep us guessing. We settle for “gingerbread” to describe the warm, Christmassy flavours that suit the sweetness of the sauce, which is a tad too sweet for the Rosso di Montalcino, but the combo pulls off the pairing thanks to the venison’s wild, gamey aromas. A solid piece of advice at Fru Larsen is to save some space for dessert (or a lot of space if you also plan to indulge in the cheese selection). The spectacular ending of the meal comes in as a perfect sphere that we knock open with our spoons. It falls apart like an eggshell revealing a kefir ice cream and shavings of white chocolate with hempseeds and pumpkinseeds. Together with tangy sea buckthorn and earthy chamomile dust, the combination is a wonder of balance, and it’s utterly delicious.
The town of Drammen has never been known as a culinary destination. Even though the surrounding area has historically been considered the most important farmland in the vicinity of Oslo and the town boasts two of the best-known quality breweries in Norway, Drammen has had no restaurants worth mentioning – until now. Frukt og Grønt (Fruit and Vegetables) is a delightful improvement to this town. Everything about the place – the food, the décor, the excellent service, the wine list and their attitude – is a breath of fresh air, and not just for Drammen, but for the whole region. The menu is simple: two starters, two main courses and two desserts, enjoyed as a 3-course menu or à la carte, with set wine pairings or by the glass. It’s a great deal, whichever you choose. Their wine list is fairly up-to-date, providing options on both sides of the classic vs. natural feud, and the whole list is even available by the glass at fair prices. The food is all over the map; it’s a mixture of trends and styles, but mostly it’s just delicious everyday fare. Some of the modernistic techniques are a bit out-dated (we haven’t seen spherification in a while), but we enjoy them nonetheless. Frukt og Grønt is the perfect place for a dinner or a glass of wine when you’re in town. We just hope the locals realize it, and keep them in business.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.