The Tabac defines itself as a Social Club. Their combination of a barand kitchen is a novel one - a testament to actions coming first and being only much later followed by the words and expressions to describe them. The door opens into a classical bar. This isno means a deceptive impression. The bar isan outstandingly good one, too. The signature cocktails are without doubt the most interesting part of the extensive drinks list. (They borrow a fair few ingredients from the kitchen.) But beware: don't get lulled into an evening of drinks without ordering something from that kitchen of theirs. We wrote KITCHEN in all caps in the title because that’s what the Tabac’s kitchen - as a bar kitchen - is. It takes the modern Estonian cuisine forward more than many restaurants do. The Estonian Sushi is a simple dish. It consists of the two perennial favorites of Estonian homes: potato and Baltic herring. The Baltic herring hasbeen salted, then washed and ever-so-gently grilled. Gone is the overpowering fishy flavor. Itis replaced by slightly salty, refined nuances common in rare and precious fish. Forget about wine, by the way. The food is best enjoyed with cocktails. The truffle-flavored negroni is a flawless partner to the sweet and salty dish of grilled rice, smoked eel and cured salmon.
Local ingredients have become a matter of course at Denmark’s leading restaurants. But few manage to make local fare such a complete experience as Tabu. We begin with snacks from the Limfjord: poached oysters with a tart crème fraîche, surrounded by parsley gelée. The presentation is aesthetically pleasing, spherical and green, while the dish has a delicate and refreshing taste of the sea. The same flavours are taken up a notch in the next snack, mussels with crisp pickled cucumber, followed by a grilled langoustine with smoked bacon and dried carrot that further increases the intensity of flavours. Perfect-temperature halibut from Skagerak is topped with the year’s first lumpfish roe and covered with a velvety canopy of grilled ramson gelée, giving the dish a creamy texture and the complexity of grilled flavours. The halibut is perfectly balanced, preventing any one of the many delicate flavours from dominating. A cream sauce split with aromatic oil brings it all together, with fresh baby ramson shoots providing a sharp edge and balance. An Italian chardonnay from Friuli proves more than capable of embracing both the delicate lumpfish roe and garlicky ramsons with sufficient fresh acidity and slightly bitter notes. Every wine is well paired, but the presentation is a bit inconsistent, ranging from factual descriptions to more chatty stories; they would benefit from tightening up the ship with a more uniform approach. The dishes are nicely explained by the chefs themselves, with the common thread being a vibrant and personal account of the ingredients’ northern Jutland origins. The in-between course of venison ragout tenderly melts on the palate, garnished by variations of Jerusalem artichoke. Thinly sliced crudités form flower petals around a confited egg yolk, which thickens the bold bouillon flavoured with Jerusalem artichoke and venison. Pickled Jerusalem artichokes add a tart touch, while fresh thyme leaves elevate the dish with a fragrant aroma. In our glasses we have amontillado sherry, a very astute match with fine acidity and walnut tones to accentuate the nutty flavour of the Jerusalem artichokes. On our previous visit to Tabu, we were thrilled. Now the kitchen appears even stronger, with sharper dishes and unique gastronomic storytelling that shines a brilliant spotlight on locally sourced ingredients.
On Brunkeberg hill, Stockholm’s new entertainment district is emerging under the name Urban Escape. At the top of the building is Tak, one of the most talked about restaurant openings in recent years. Chef Frida Ronge’s (formerly of vRÅ in Gothenburg) Nordic Nippon kitchen now has a new home and the food is an appealing, clever mix of Swedish and Japanese ingredients, flavours and techniques. One example is the house “algae potatoes”, which are grown 25 meters from the sea, covered with algae, resulting in a firmer texture and more nutrients. They are served with Arenkha caviar (herring roe), sour cream and herring with a mild, smoky taste; unmistakably Swedish but with a Japanese sea note. Some things are finger-licking good, like the house donburi – a mixture of chicken, sweet and sour pickled rutabaga, rice, sweet caramelized onion and a perfectly baked egg whose flowing yellow yolk binds it all together in a delicious mix. Sure, the flavours get a bit messy, with all those potent ingredients in one deep, beautiful bowl. But it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Another perfection is the grilled redfish that flakes beautifully when it hits the fork joined by a complex “salad” of rice, almonds and iceberg lettuce, moistened with a mayo made from roasted garlic and chicken. All of this is topped with shredded dried pork. Oh yes, it’s seriously extravagant and dastardly good. On the concise list of sweets (there are only two) a tasty ice cream of roasted rice stands out. The restaurant is smart and modern, and the dining room designed by Wingårdh is very “now”. The open floor plan has stylish room dividers and in the background a large tattooed entourage in white coats prepare the food in the kitchen. It’s fun, playful and yet elegant with gold metal, wood, leather and concrete as base notes. The flow of light through the large windows is dazzling – as is the view, with large parts of the city at your feet. On the beverage side, sake plays prominently in different styles and temperaments. This is the place to get more closely acquainted with the complex world of rice wines. The large terrace outside is guaranteed to be this summer’s most coveted place in the sun.
The sound of tambora drums echoed across Copenhagen when Taller opened in 2015. The completely unpredictable, exotic and alternative world of flavours was exactly what gastro-Denmark was lacking. The style remains wild, daring and unusual, but on our visit this year it feels like they have sanded down the edginess. They still cook over a fire in the open kitchen where an old workbench serves as the prep counter. From your shiny copper table you can watch as the food is prepared, and the chefs come out with the dishes when they are ready. The menu features a unique combination of ingredients. Where else would you be served oysters with ham fat, tomatillo and granité made with two types of grapefruit? And when did you last dine on cassava with dulse seaweed, dill, diced fennel and creamy leek mayo? The local Nordic influence, combined with the Venezuelan connection to Chef Karlos Ponte’s homeland is clear in the selection of ingredients. Take, for example, the intense mouthful of meaty flavour in a thinly sliced chayote squash, served as a taco with a filling of braised beef cheek and dried scallop dust. Meanwhile, a Danish octopus sliced into fashionable ribbons is served in a sauce with curuba (aka., banana passion fruit) and deliciously crunchy minced pork rinds. The crisp potato-like olluco, topped at the table with a hollandaise with fermented ants, is also worth noting if only for its unconventionality. But as with a number of servings, the dish lacks sufficient heat and could have benefitted from more flavour. While the food is highly unpredictable, the wine pairings play it much safer. Champagne with snacks is a matter of course, but it appears here in a somewhat disappointing version of three grape varieties from the organic winemaker Bourgeois-Diaz. The other dishes are served with chablis, chardonnay from Jura and two varieties of red Burgundy, all of which are safe food wines. The best pairing is Peter Sisseck’s Psi 2012 from Ribera del Duero, whose red fruit and spiced barrel notes perfectly accompany the dish of lamb fillet rolled in ramson and leek ash with a wonderful bright green guasacaca sauce made with citrus, herbs and chipotle. Restaurant Manager Jacob Lauridsen is not on the floor when we visit, and the wine explanations are sometimes a bit nonsensical. For example, a welschriesling is presented as a type of riesling and dolcetto as Barolo. These errors are quickly forgotten, however, as both the waiters and chefs contribute to a relaxed atmosphere that perfectly matches the spirit of the restaurant. We love the casual rascally mentality of our Irish waiter and we love Taller when the kitchen shatters culinary paradigms for how sour, salty, sweet, bitter or umami-rich a dish can be. But this year’s visit offers fewer of these trademark “wow” moments.
The one-man restaurant Tammuri is slowly but surely changing the notions and behaviour of Estonians. About two or three years ago, many chose not to visit the farm because it was unheard of for a farm restaurant not to patiently wait for its patrons all day long with a pot of porridge ready on the fire.
People were cautious of the fact that one man prepares all the dishes primarily from what he grows or picks from the forest himself. But Erki did it. There are no more random visitors in Tammuri.
Tammuri is a place for the most interesting culinary tales in Estonia, as the chef is intimately familiar with every crumb, flake, and sprout on the plate. Even the drinks to accompany the food are chosen or made by Erki himself.
“Homemade, well made,” says an old Estonian proverb. Nowadays, it is not always the case, but when it comes to food, it definitely is.
Tango is a small, bright, elegant restaurant located within sight of the harbour – a place to see and be seen. It has a great view of the city, which is only exceeded by the view from their rooftop seating area, where the restaurant serves food from the grill throughout the summer. At first glimpse Tango might seem to have a fine dining concept. The staff are perfectly groomed and formally dressed in suits behind the welcoming desk. The tables are covered with white linen, and the diners are also formally dressed. But when the waitress comes over to have a seat on the couch next to us while she presents the five-course menu, we realize the place is a little more relaxed and informal than it appears. Tango defines its offering as "rough dining" , and there are several reasons why, including the loud noise from the bar and the fact that the bar and the restaurant share restrooms. The menu captures the essence of Stavanger in a classic but technically diverse way. The two first servings are like tiny jewels of white asparagus and herring with egg cream. They are gone in a second and easy to mistake for teasers, especially as they are not accompanied by wine. The two following plates have a very different style. They are bigger and more traditional. A trout from Sirdal is served with ramsons, pickled cucumber, fried noodles, fennel and chervil. Both the trout and the new interpretation of lamb fricassee attempt to balance on the border between an everyday Norwegian dinner and a luxurious dining experience, but unfortunately end up on the less exciting side of things. Tango offers a reliable restaurant visit when it comes quality and expertise, but the menu and the classic wine pairings are very expensive in comparison with what you get.
Raw food is in. Raw beef tartare is common in Estonian eateries, but restaurants where raw food underlies the whole concept are non-existent. Or, rather, were non-existent - until the founding of the TarTar Bar & Kitchen. The menu lists a whopping ten different tartares and carpaccios as well as a ceviche. Fantasy gets free rein. Even the names of the dishes channel it: Mimino, Bruce Lee, Lappi, Frenchy... The latter is a beef tartare with foie gras, shallots, black truffle and estragon cream. The name and ingredients list together make their point. The Frenchy is well matched by either a coupe ofcrémant or a tall glass ofbeerby the local Raasiku craft brewery. The service depends on the guest. Who expects no more than food service will getno more. But those who take an interest in their food and drink will be informed aboutitin depth. The TarTar Bar & Kitchen is a fresh breath ofwind among Estonian restaurants.
Gustav Öhman, the restaurateur at Taxinge Krog, lives for food and loves talking about food with his customers. He is excited about the chewy gluten strands of the last delivery of Warbro Kvarn’s flour, about the taste of the meat from the six-year-old cow that he had the privilege to come by, and the delight in a childhood memory of BigPack ice cream now reinterpreted in a version containing strawberry, porcini and spruce shoot ice cream. In the next second he’s acting as sommelier, presenting his selected drinks with equal amounts of engagement and knowledge. He explains how the flavour of the beers or the organic and biodynamic wines will pair with the food. Non-alcoholic beverage pairings are also available, with different flavours of house-made barley waters. He is currently assisted by a young Swede who, during his internship in Paris, was referred to Taxinge because it is considered to be at the forefront when it comes to green and sustainable cooking. The rumour has reached Europe. It’s true, Gustav probably runs one of Sweden’s most sustainable restaurants. The plant kingdom forms the basis of the food served here and he uses as much as he can of each ingredient. The season governs what is collected, grown, picked, fished, butchered and prepared. The menu is fixed at six to eight small dishes that vary week to week, depending entirely on what his small producers and entrepreneurs from the neighbourhood have to offer, or what they find in the forest and soil.
At our first visit, we find the Tchaikovsky discreetly impressive. And the impression only amplifies with each subsequent lunch and dinner. Its symphony begins with quiet classicalbackground music. It intensifies with the dramatic black walls decorated with massiveornate metal picture frames, some containing paintings, some empty. And it culminates with the white swan origami napkins (and one black!) on the tables. The Tchaikovsky begins to captivate the visitor on the way in. And it continues at the table. One of the champagnes available by the glass is Dom Perignon 2009. The food is inspired by18th-century aristocratic Russian-French cuisine to its very origins. Go ahead and order the Blini Royale with a trio of caviars (osetra caviar, golden pike roe and trout roe). The round blini, a couple of centimetres thick, is baked according to the original recipe of the court chef of the Russian Emperor. Crisp on the outside. Airy on the inside. Three caviars. A drop of sour cream. That is all. Back then, food did not compete with architecture or fashion in grandiosity. Or if, then inrich table display s at grand feasts. Each separate dish looked unassuming, but was made of the best ingredients and tasted refined, aristocratic. Anxiously novelty-seeking food fashion hasno place at the restaurant at the elegant Hotel Telegraaf. Nor do the Tchaikovsky’s visitors want itto. Phones stay inbags and selfies are off the map. A restaurant should offer an elegant atmosphere and a permanently high level in food and drink. The discreetly impressive Tchaikovsky fulfils these requirements to a T.
Tore Wretman knew what he was doing when he opened the doors to Teatergrillen nearly five decades ago. Across the street is the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s stage entrance and the goal was to attract the best-known names from stage and film. Specially discounted prices after performances did the trick and the place became a veritable celebrity magnet. Even today the crowd consists of entertainers, albeit of a different kind – these come from the financial world and the political scene. And they have a decent amount of money. Which may be needed, for it is expensive at “Grillen”. In exchange one gets to see one of the country’s most complete restaurant experiences come to life. This includes the gentle clatter when the silver carriage rolls over the wall-to-wall carpeting, the mannered murmur of a self-conscious and sometimes recognizable crowd, along with well-mixed cocktails. The spot-on 60s interior design by Yngve Gamlin does its part to establish the Mad Men aura, with nicely divided rooms, marble, theatre props and red velvet. Even the output from the kitchen rests on a classic foundation. From the aforementioned silver trolley comes a hearty piece of salt-baked beef that’s carved tableside and served with a lovely tarragon-laced béarnaise. Another feature taken directly from Wretman's era is Tosca pears, which it’s fair to say is rather simple for SEK 145. The cod bourguignon with beef brisket and fried almond potatoes as well as a foie gras terrine with fried oyster mushrooms are as well prepared as they are apropos. The masculine service staff are stoic and knowledgeable and match with the environment and the atmosphere. In the small entrance bar you can order slightly simpler fare: a burger or toast Skagen with a glass of wine.
In the midst of the minimalist era Markus Aujalay has invested deeply in its total opposite: fuchsia, turquoise, plush fabrics, cosiness, pillows, chandeliers and warm ambiance en masse. And actually, we note how our shoulders sink a few centimetres when, without resistance, we are embraced by the comfortable armchairs. The furnishings and soft jazz streaming from the speakers are an effective counterpoint to the extreme urban location in one of the city’s main traffic junctions. But can the food from this master chef judge withstand the same harsh scrutiny that he himself subjects to aspiring chefs on TV? Indeed it can. The simple little burrata serving manages to eclipse most interpretations in the genre: the creamy cheese is the perfect temperature and served with intense, cured tomatoes and powerful herbs. The halibut carpaccio, which is more like a love child between carpaccio and ceviche in style, is even better. Massive slices of supple halibut topped with well-dosed amounts of both lemon and piment d’Espelette. Among the heavier dishes we are impressed by a perfectly cooked piece of venison, paired with red wine and coffee sauce and an orange-braised, slightly bitter endive cleft. It’s an impressive balancing act where the bitterness of coffee and endive functions like clockwork with the wild game’s iron bloody sweetness and the fruitiness of the orange. The food is straightforward, tasty, and very well thought out. And the drinks? Yes, there is a bevy of fun cocktails, a well-curated wine list, and knowledgeable staff to help you along. Our wine selection is handled as carefully as the food, and the staff are just as wonderfully untrendy (aka., genuinely warm) as the pink, plush furniture. A new favourite restaurant is born.
Telegrafas, the Kempinski Hotel restaurant, is situated in the very heart of Vilnius, facing the cathedral across the central square. The atmosphere, foodand drink are accordingly elegant and measured. Even the pace of time seems to disengage from the rush of the city behind the tall windows. Itis customary here to start the dinner with an aperitif at the bar or the restaurant itself. The cocktail list, while very short, is drawn upof signature drinks closely tied to Lithuanian customs and preferences. The Taste of Victory blends the local ancient monastery liquor Krupnikas with sea buckthorn juice and old school moonshine for a dry, slightly bitter overall impression. The state of Lithuania recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Perhaps this is indeed the taste of hard-won freedom. The ingredients used in the restaurant are valuable, carefully selected and often imported from faraway places. But the menu always includes a specially chosen local dish, whose history is noted down for the visitors’ edification. We have always opted for those dishes and taken pleasure in the way flavours change with the times in a classic, long-established restaurant.
The main attraction of the TV Tower Restaurant - the highest in all of Northern Europe - is, naturally, the 360° panoramic view. In case ofgood weather and perhaps assisted bybinoculars, this vantage point lets you see half the country. The country, which is well introduced one the menu. The selection oflocal drinks, from sparkling rhubarb wine toeaude vie, is particularly broad. And believe itor not, some of the Estonian fruit wines are a good choice togo with food. For instance, the otherwise tart Mamm&Frukt gooseberry wine gives a whole new angle to the velvety-sweet creamy onion soup. The TV Tower isoneof Estonia’s major tourist attractions. Restaurants in places like this are often tourist traps. The TV Tower’s is nothing of the kind. The broad restaurant, decorated in dark colors, with subtle lighting and big candles, evokes a slightly mysterious atmosphere during dinner hours. The view over Estonia is accompanied (since the restaurant serves modern cuisine based on traditional Estonian raw ingredients) by a lesson in the flavors ofthis country.
With just over a year under its belt, The Balcony is already firmly established as more than a passing fad with delusions of grandeur. We begin a spring evening in March with a glass of champagne blanc de blancs from Henri Mandois and a rain of snacks. The most memorable ones include the caramelly Jerusalem artichoke purée in its own crisp, fried skin, elegantly presented on a platter of fresh Jerusalem artichokes, and a couple of citrusy oysters with Havgus cheese, served on nitrogen-steaming beach stones. The bar is hereby set for the rest of the evening. A portion of eminently fresh lumpfish roe is joined by a salad of red sorrel and beetroot as crudité, gelée and juice, paired with an archetypical Austrian riesling from Stagård, whose crisp acidity and touch of white pepper make it a perfect partner for the menu’s first course. The flame-grilled halibut of the subsequent course is outshined by its own garnish, which is so brilliant in all its simplicity that it could carry the dish all by itself: sweet, raw Greenlandic shrimp on one side, poached leek from Funen with dill and pickling brine gelée on the other, and a rich fish fumet with dill oil and light liquorice notes, uplifted by a floral vino bianco from Malvirà in Piedmont. The choice of the wine pairings has proven to be a good decision. The wines are sublimely paired and the service is top-notch with Restaurant Manager Kasper Winther at the controls. His deep experience, cultivated through many years at Molskroen and Falsled Kro, is palpable and remarkable. The parade of delectable flavours continues with a fermented cabbage packet with umami-rich mushroom soy sauce, browned butter with hazelnuts, diced apple and a bright green, slightly acidic purée of Granny Smith apple. This vegetarian dish is nicely supported by a delicate orange sauvignon blanc from La Grange aux Belles, Anjou. The ambition is sky-high, and with the skilled Peter Steen Hansen and Anders Jensen in the kitchen at the thermomixer, tweezers and burners, the gourmet quality shines through clearly and precisely. Having enjoyed flawlessly executed luxury from beginning to end, our elation following an evening at The Balcony in Odense comes as no surprise.
The atmosphere is fun, the crowd is cheerful and the oysters are fresh. The interior is playful yet stylish with plenty of amusing details. Popular restaurants have been located at this address for over 50 years and restaurateurs Ville Relander and Richard McCormick have been running the business since 2015. The menu contains worldwide influences and its fair share of crowd-pleasers. Beef tartare is served with egg yolk and frisée salad, and seasoned with dried horseradish – a simple presentation with rich flavours. A classic, perfectly cooked steak-frites needs some more seasoning, but it is accompanied by a delicious béarnaise sauce with fresh acidity and coarsely chopped tarragon. Innovative and classic cocktails are available at the bar along with a focused selection of wines. The tasty food is on an even keel, but the main attraction is the ambiance and the restaurant’s distinctive personality.
“This wine is damn good with the steak”! Our waiter tries to convince us to order the newly arrived bourgueile, and of course he is right. The young tattooed waiter knows his stuff and has an attuned ear for service: he’s straightforward, witty and has a twinkle in his eye. Björn Frantzén calls this restaurant off Mälartorget a gastropub but, note that they do not serve regular pub food here – and especially not at regular pub food prices. The bill can easily run up to SEK 2000 for two. The environment is an upscale interpretation of a pub, robust and elegant at the same time, with wood and leather as a backdrop. The clientele is also in line with the concept: it’s a fun mix of colleagues out to dinner, peppered with a remarkable number of couples in different configurations. A hand-cut lamb tartare is a fine tribute to classic Swedish flavours when it intermingles with a mayo tinged with acetic acid, pickled carrots and onion. It is also stylishly presented in a hefty cast iron casserole. The Kalix bleak roe with pork belly and brown butter is a dish with a similar spirit. Quite simply, yummy Swedish food. The house fish ’n’ chips succeeds in being crispy on the outside and beautifully flaky inside. And the aforementioned steak comes with porter-glazed onions, fried straw potatoes and a fantastic gravy. The thick pancake with macerated cloudberries is a heavy finish. A lot of fun and complex stuff streams out of the beer taps here. Behind the restaurant hides Back Bar, a simpler section with a focus on beer and music. Here you can show off your smarts in a recurring music quiz.
The Nautilus is a seafood restaurant offering four different milieus to enjoy your food. The open raw bar showcases the fresh food laid out on ice. Itisour favorite among their dining halls. The broad windows offer a panoramic view to the Pikk Street of Tallinn Old Town. Inthe summer, when it’s warm, these windows are thrown wide open, and it feels like eating on a terrace. A separate, small room, outfitted in dark colors, lets you watch the hot dishes being prepared in the kitchen. Those looking to enjoy their company in privacy are shown to a separated part of the room on the other side of the kitchen. And wine lovers can discuss grapes and much more in the wine bar, which has a separate entrance on another street. And thus, The Nautilus offers four different reasons to come; yet the first and the foremost attraction is their seafood, the best and freshest seafood in all of Tallinn.
For more than 100 years, the crisp white palace in Skodsborg by the sea has housed a wellness centre for the upper class and delicate artistic souls seeking to uplift their wellbeing. With last year’s opening of a new gourmet restaurant named after Head Chef Erik Kroun, the spa hotel’s proud traditions have undergone a striking gastronomic overhaul. We sense this immediately as we tread inside on the soft carpet of the elegantly decorated pavilion with just seven tables and a fabulous view over the waters of Øresund. We are escorted to our seats by the evening’s competent waiter duo, headed by Restaurant Manager Martin Troelsen, who provides superb service – equal parts responsive, knowledgeable and highly attentive. The evening opens with Billecart-Salmon bubbling on our palates, and the Bee Gees in our ears, as we admire the magnificent wooden chandeliers hovering high above our heads. We choose the full menu, whose tongue-in-cheek Danish name is akin to “full blast”. First comes the obligatory salvo of starters. The last one, an onion soup that is to die for, has so much umami and intense poultry flavour that it almost runs circles around the first course, a small and round beauty in New Nordic robes: cured pollock topped with crisp slices of black radish and small dabs of lemon and dill on top. The lemon encroaches on the delicate richness of the fish, amplifying the taste of the sea. A little sprinkling of toasted oats adds complexity with delicious dry firmness, while a young, flinty chablis perfectly flanks the dish’s discrete notes with citrus aroma and succulent acidity. A truly elegant opening. Kroun’s tribute to Danish classics – a theme throughout the evening – continues with the next dish. A freshly caught female lumpfish arrives at the table, opened wide to reveal the year’s first mild, saltwatery lumpfish roe, arranged directly from the fish onto potato blinis with homemade crème fraîche, chopped red onion and chives: an ode to simplicity and sublime ingredients. White Burgundy from Leflaive is just about to out-manoeuvre the taste of the delicate roe, but the butter-fried blini grabs hold of the wine’s buttery notes at the last moment, saving the day for a perfect landing. The quality of the wine pairing menu with the food is outstanding throughout the evening, so we decide to stick with the pairings rather than venturing on our own through the otherwise extensive and impressive wine list. Another example is a mineral Chassange-Montrachet with smoked butter in the nose, served with a smoked scallop in beurre blanc with Baerii caviar: a perfect pairing with yet another creamy and refined dish, accentuating Kroun’s seasonal hotel cuisine as one of Greater Copenhagen’s leading culinary comfort zones. It’s cuisine that never goes against the grain, liberated from technical grandstanding and strict dogma; in almost Italian-like fashion, it pays homage to simplicity and delicious flavour with sublime ingredients, while delivering with great precision. The Restaurant By Kroun is not overwhelmingly avant-garde, but it is top-class neoclassical retro fare.
In uncertain times, it always is nice to find yourself in a safe harbour, a place where time seems to stand still, where quality is more important than constant change, and where you can sit for a couple of hours while you enjoy a glass of port and contemplate life itself and how you ended up here. Theatercaféen could have been one of those places. It is not. It has actually blended its posh, luxurious history with a breath of inspiration from the more pulsating and greener present day. The menu has elements that will please everyone, and all are welcome in this room where unspeakable things have been done in the name of art. Here you’ll find timeless classics like a traditionally executed tartare, Olso-stlye open-faced sandwiches and waiters dressed the old-fashioned way. The big red disk of hand-cut meat with the condiments on the side and the yolk in its shell for you to blend in yourself is like time travel on a plate. Kalix bleak roe comes on white bread from the French bakers in town with a generous portion of sour cream. It might seem simple, or easy, but the chefs show their strength in not messing up a classic dish, and by just using great ingredients, and that is admirable. Theatercaféen is stylish; it’s tradition, history and future.
You can’t help but think about the parties and dinners that have been arranged in this stately mansion over the years, even if today it is primarily the haunt of conferencing groups. A lot of foodies find their way here too, and with good reason. A menu is served here every evening and soon after one is shown to the table the sommelier sneaks in to talk about the evening’s beverage pairings, with or without alcohol. The amuse-bouche consists of small pieces of fried sweetbreads with an emulsion of tarragon, and it immediately gets us in the mood. The first course is a delicate balance of seared scallops, creamed clam and a beautifully cut pointed cabbage roll that, to the untrained eye, resembles a sheer piece of leek. It’s a bit strange, though, that part of the dish is cold while some ingredients are lukewarm. But the porcelain is beautiful and there is a well thought-out unity in the presentation. The main course of lamb is tender and tasty but it’s the crown dill emulsion that makes us howl with pleasure. We find the same intense flavour explosion in the dessert, a phenomenally beautiful arrangement of “apple pie”. Here they have paved the plate with crumbs of cinnamon and chocolate. A light green sorbet of Granny Smith constitutes the dish’s centre, and it is flanked by thin flakes of cider-flavoured meringue with a tingling acidity. This is truly the menu’s crowning dish and when the golden drops of Brännland’s ice cider slip down our gullets, we shudder with happiness.
Nowadays they play popular Swedish rock at Thörnströms. And at relatively high volume, too. Thörnströms turns 20 years old this year and for 20 years has offered a predictable and traditional fine dining restaurant experience. The mature, loyal, affluent clientele who still sit for long dinners on the padded seats have now been joined by a younger crowd since Hakan Thörnström’s successful stint on television. And the staff! Last year the more serious, suited service staff started being replaced by young girls in black jeans with corkscrews in their back pockets. This year they own the floor fully; unpretentious, professional, charming and easy-going. The kitchen on the other hand has rarely produced so much heavy metal. An egg royale with cauliflower and drifts of truffles is like eating hangover food at first, due to its flavour-fueled, cheesy-creamy indulgence, but it’s fun in combination with a mature champagne. The amuse-bouches are multiple: a cheese-filled macaroon is a sweet intro and chips with horseradish cream are post-modernly stylish. Among the cold starters there’s a chilled rabbit ballotine encrusted in pistachios accompanied by a product of the year’s zero-waste craze: fried carrot tops (which, it should be said, also have zero taste). The main courses are protein-heavy calorie bombs. Six tender slices of venison flanked by a thumb-sized venison sausage and an herb-disguised stew. We look desperately for acid among the plate’s greenery, where a few thin apple slices fight valiantly among some twigs of rosemary. But then, oh! – a super-cute cookie jar appears with the coffee, packed with old-fashioned shortbread cookies like brysselkex, lingongrottor, kolasnittar, and schackrutor.
Since 2001, Ti Trin Ned (“Ten Steps Down”) has been a culinary oasis in Fredericia under the whitewashed vaulted ceilings of the former fermentation cellar of a distillery. White damask tablecloths, Wegner chairs and golden designer lamps create an unpretentious elegance, and the staff demonstrate a finely-tuned ability to maintain relaxed precision in their presentation. This isn’t the place to come for avant-garde provocation, but for classic craftsmanship and cuisine with roots in the local soil. We begin with snacks that come from the restaurant’s own farm outside of Fredericia: honey-glazed carrots sprinkled with fruity blackcurrant powder, Jerusalem artichoke skins filled with a luxurious cream of truffle oil and sunflower seeds, and delicate kohlrabi slices folded as dumplings around pungent sauerkraut. “Fish sticks” made of bakskuld (salted and smoked witch flounder) and cod are perfectly crisp and salty, while a meatball with malted barbeque sauce is umami heaven-on-a-stick. It’s an impressively promising start. We are paying our visit in the midst of darkest February, when kale is the first – and only – harbinger of spring. The kitchen bravely serves four variations – purée, powder, leaves and kale sausage crumble – with poached cod from nearby Skærbæk Bay. The seaweed-like intensity of the powder and a metallic tingle on the palate is counterbalanced by the acidity of a classic Danish “grandmother dressing” (traditionally made with heavy cream, lemon, sugar, salt and pepper). It’s a beautiful and honest interpretation of the season. The fine art of constructing a dish from many elements with a unified result is on display throughout the evening. Tartare of salt-baked beetroot is served with horseradish cream, sour gherkin gelée, shredded duck breast and ramson capers; it almost tastes like kimchi. It’s superbly composed and the cool fruit of a 2015 Planeta from Sicily’s Etna region is a competent pairing. The wine list sticks mainly to Europe, and the menu’s pairings are not from the hipster cellar, but sure-as-Sherlock prove masterful. Of particular note is Château de Montifaud’s Pineau des Charentes, where faint alcoholic strawberry notes are superb with the butter ice cream, parsnip purée and sour plum. But prior to that comes the main course: fillet of beef with bordelaise; a classic dish from a classic cut of beef. The sauce is silky-smooth and beefed-up with bone marrow, while the meat from Grambogård finds fresh contrasts in the crisp garlic and pickled celeriac. The dish is like a decadent reward for our Protestant journey through the empire of cabbage. Ti Trin Ned excels at both classic craftsmanship and seasonal vegetable-based cuisine. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing that the kitchen would aim more for ultra simple but daring dishes, such as the sublime sorbet served as our pre-dessert, made with birch sap from the restaurant’s own farm, but no one can dispute what the couple behind this establishment has achieved: 16 years with international honours, the affinity of the local community and a kitchen deserving of its prominent standing in the world of Danish gastronomy.
One of the culinary staples in town, this is a go-to place for locals to fulfil their fine dining needs. Given its affordability and high quality over a number of years, it a force to be reckoned with. The ambience gives the otherwise loud-mouthed Trønders a sense of ceremony and quietness, in contrast to the cheery and jovial (but still highly knowledgeable) staff. The recipe for To Rom og Kjøkken’s success is based in big flavours with an emphasis on ingredients found nearby served with a French spirit – like proteins prepared in butter with plenty of sauce. The three-course menu is generous, but if you find room add the cheese course where Trøndelag’s best local specialty, the Munkeby, plays a large role. The restaurant’s stand-out feature is nonetheless the dish of the day, which is served during dinner time and changes daily. It’s a rustic, hearty meal for well under NOK 200. There are a few other welcome attributes that give the place a huge advantage in Trondheim’s steadily growing restaurant scene, such as a designable kid’s menu for aspiring gourmands, a heralded mixologist (not equally kid-friendly) and one of the largest and best local craft beer selections around.
With wide balconies stretching up the multi-storey facade, Vejle’s Hotel Munkebjerg most of all resembles an Austrian guesthouse where you could expect watered-down bier vom fass and Wiener Schnitzel the size of manhole covers, but make no mistake: the hotel’s ambitious Tree Top restaurant is headed by Columbian-born Bryan Francisco – crowned by White Guide as the 2016-17 Rising Star – with his acclaimed fusion cuisine, where distinct Asian flavours and techniques meet European classics. A well-established tradition at Tree Top is washing down the first wave of snacks under the vaulted ceilings of the wine cellar with Munkebjerg’s house champagne from Charles Gardet. The highlight of this opening heat is the puffed rice crisps with saffron dust, served on a bonsai tree and accompanied by bakskuld mayo – a serving whose eclectic components and fine balance of richness, fish, smoke, crunch and saffron aroma exemplify Francisco’s crossover philosophy. Upon arrival at the restaurant’s dining room, we are delighted by the freshness of the air and the peaceful, almost recording-studio-like calm that only occasionally is interrupted by a couple of crackling chirps from the flames of the open fireplace in the corner. We are served throughout the evening by a team of five waiters who take turns presenting the drinks and food in an informative and welcoming, but predominantly formal tone. The strongest dishes of the evening are the maritime and innovative servings rooted in fusion cuisine. A slider on a corn flour bun filled with succulent pulled duck and kimchi is a superb manifestation of respect for ingredients where less is more. The mini-burger is accompanied by a young, dry Mosel riesling from Weingut Schmitges; the pairing is a delicate reminder that riesling and fermented foods dance in unison like Fred and Ginger. The fusion spectacle continues with raw tuna, marinated in various citrus juices, with yuzu, sesame and freshly picked coriander: a transparent ceviche-inspired dish where each element comes through clearly on its own, yet accentuates and supports each other. We make a brief descent to Earth with a cut of beef tenderloin wrapped in various beetroot textures, accompanied by a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a little age. It is an intensely violet-coloured dish, and although the earthy tone of the beetroot variations mesh nicely with the wine’s oaked notes and the crisp Maillard symphony of the beef, the innovation altimeter falls to more ordinary heights here. But, overall, Tree Top impresses.
Located in a former monastery next to the Church of St. Catherine, this trinity preaches a new religion - the cult of food and drink. It consists of a restaurant and two bars, andwewould warn you against limiting yourself to just oneor two of them. The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. The aperitif bar is impressive. Tall vaulted ceilings, dramatic black furniture, many lush green houseplants and flowers. The same repeats through the restaurant and digestif bar. The Primitivo G&T, with its touch of Primitivo wine accentuating the gin and the tonic, is a good choice for the aperitif. The red wine billows slowly downwards and complements the striking space in look and in taste. After a cocktail or two, you ascend the stairs to the restaurant. Take some care. Werecommend ordering one course at a time, because a starter along with a main might bemore than you can handle. The beef tongue entrée, two silky-soft pieces of tongue the size of regular hamburgers, is served with seasonal vegetables. The bartenders are clearly experts in their field and will gladly rise to the challenge of crafting cocktails that fit each course even better than wine. Virtual angel wings wave welcome and goodbye alike on the wall of the digestif bar. The relatively young, pleasure-seeking crowd has gathered to honor the cult of good food and drink.
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.