As the little brother of Noma, 108 has yeti-size shoes to fill, though on previous visits the restaurant has proven more than ready and willing to meet that challenge head-on. The cuisine has grown progressively sharper as the freshness of some dishes in the establishment’s early days has given way across the board to great flavour. 108 obliterates the conventional wisdom that New Nordic cuisine lacks punch. The servings are simple, featuring few but attentively prepared elements. One of our favourites is the raw Skagen shrimp, decoratively served as a flower encircled by red sorrel atop small salted green strawberries – a fine, elegant dish packed with fantastic flavour from sweet shrimp of the freshest quality. Ribbon-like slices of octopus in bacon broth – a New Nordic spin on ramen – is a 108 classic whose pure simplicity and deep intensity steal the show, with small pieces of glasswort adding the taste of the sea. Batter-fried oxtail meatballs with fir shoots is an ultra-hyped yet heavenly mouthful; we find ourselves compelled to order an extra round. Another dish deserving mention is the salt-baked celeriac, decoratively sliced into ribbons, rolled into spirals and topped with a rich, thick sauce featuring aged Gammel Knas cheese and grilled parsley, with subtle burnt notes providing the finishing touch. The service is exceptional and attentive, as 108 benefits greatly from its relation to Noma, whose magnetic attraction draws in passionate chefs and waiters from around the world. Sommelier Riccardo Marcon directs the proceedings with an impressively unpretentious and knowledgeable approach, and predominately natural wine pairings. Follow his recommendations and delve into an exciting world of wine that both challenges and pleases. The challenge stems from the characteristic acetic acid in the natural wines and ciders, which can prove to be a tart pleasure. But it is also fantastic to be served a powerful oaked savagnin from Jura full of body, acidity and complexity – and to discover how a light and slightly bitter, almost meaty cabernet franc from a non-appellation region outside Provence perfectly matches an animalistic serving of beetroot, blackcurrant and smoked veal heart. 108 often takes it to the limit, both in terms of food and wine, and that is precisely where a restaurant experience turns truly exceptional: on the border between madness and genius. Yet we land on safe ground every time, as flavour wins over ideas at this tightly run ship, where unpretentious waiters guide the experience with a steady hand from start to finish.
It’s impressive how quickly you can get from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen’s Nyhavn to the peaceful surroundings of Refshaleøen. Here one finds Charlotte Amalie’s Bastion, a gunpowder magazine built in 1744 and now the home of Restaurant 56°. The old wooden beams holding up the whitewashed ceilings and the lambskin-clad wooden furniture are reminiscent of Noma, and 56° certainly shares Nordic cuisine as its guiding star. The room has a warmth and tranquillity, enhanced all the more by our pleasant waiter, who provides impeccable and informal service. The menu’s three courses showcase seasonal ingredients, some of which are grown by the restaurant itself while others are sourced from local biodynamic farmers. A couple of appetisers in the form of poached quail egg with fermented garlic and pickled Jerusalem artichokes in a Jerusalem artichoke foam set the Nordic stage before we move on to the first course featuring lumpfish and horseradish. At the centre of the dish is a moulded horseradish mousse packing a spicy kick. It’s topped with lumpfish roe and surrounded by smoked lumpfish, wild herbs and crisp pieces of pear. The pear proves essential with its succulence and crispness, providing an exquisite contrast to the tender lumpfish and soft mousse. Our waiter pours an exotic still white wine of pure pinot noir from Beaufort in Champagne, which is far too acidic on its own, but paired with the dish is a perfect match – a daring and impressive choice. The main course combines the rustic and elegant: young pork shanks on the bone, served with pommes fondant, herbed mashed potatoes and an intense cognac sauce. The dish could have used more of the pickled slices of daikon for freshness in this somewhat heavy serving made from otherwise excellent ingredients. A rich desert of coffee caramel and dark ale ice cream round out a superb meal, where rustic and refined techniques go hand in hand with the beautiful surroundings.
With high ambitions in terms of ingredients and the technical execution of complex dishes, Aabyudengaard serves an inspiring array of re-envisioned Danish classics, taking a playful approach while surprising us along the way. We begin with a tour de Denmark whose route passes through Northern Jutland, Funen, the Wadden Sea and Bornholm. The technical finesse of the kitchen is evident in their take on a Danish classic “Sun over Bornholm”. A beautiful egg yolk confit in a velvety coating of smoked cream accompanies a wonderful smoked herring, topped tableside with a potato salad in chiffon form: an amazing combination of rich flavours, soft textures, salt and smoke. Our tour moves on to the Wadden Sea with a fresh and deliciously composed oyster topped with aquavit foam and rosehip gelée. A surprise comes as the waiter removes the empty oyster shell and reveals the second part of the serving: turbot with saltwort, sweet jelly and crisp breadcrumbs, topped at the table with a split seaweed sauce. This cheeky and intense surprise is initially somewhat unattractive in appearance, and the fish drowns in the flavours, but the fresh and highly acidic 2015 trousseau from Baud in Jura is an intelligent and solid pairing. For dessert, we end up on the island of Funen with Denmark’s “brunsviger” cake, traditionally made with a yeast dough coated in a brown sugar glaze. Here it begins as a wonderful apple crumble on a delicate ice cream with goat’s cheese, all of which goes nicely with an Austrian trockenbeerenauslese. The second part of the serving features a daring and successful combination of apple granité with the flavours of brunsviger in a kefir cream with vanilla and nuts. The coffee is brewed at the table and served with a sublime sea buckthorn sorbet with caramelised white chocolate, rounding off an exquisite evening with surprising, innovative and ambitious double servings.
The guys behind the Ved Stranden 10 wine bar have embarked on an ambitious new project. At Admiralgade 26, the excellent wine is joined by cuisine that is personable and unassuming, yet still maintains an edge. The decor reflects a controlled chaos with designer furniture scattered throughout. Each evening they choose to adorn one of the raw wooden tables with a Damask tablecloth, making it the “elegant” table that diners may end up at by chance. The bistro also has an academic touch, with its own newspaper featuring such luminaries as Rilke and Kafka. Consideration must also be given to sustainability, various dietary interests and other matters of importance in the upper echelons of the gastronomic world. The restaurant’s chosen style is assured with the adept Chef Jonas Hillgaard (formerly of Relæ and Manfreds) in the kitchen: there is room here for culinary enjoyment and luxurious indulgence. The menu inevitably offers oysters and caviar, but in combination with great creativity and artistry. The starters tend to be stingy in size, but the house bouillabaisse is nonetheless worthy of mention. With a reduced, rich fish stock, loads of fresh fish and shellfish, and a generous use of liquoricey herbs, this soup teems with flavour. The main course of hanger steak is succulent and intense with bits of rich marrow and sharp, pickled onions. The juicy pata negra pork is wonderfully chaperoned by a wealth of small chanterelles and slightly bitter cress sprinkled generously on top. Mustard adds an edge to the flavour of both meat dishes, which are of the highest class in terms of ingredients and preparation. Many of the wines are within the realm of organic/natural, though not dogmatically, and every wine on the menu is also available by the glass – a sympathetic touch. We enjoy a 2010 Barolo from Eugenio Bocca in La Morra. With a remarkably elegant combination of classic notes of warm herbs, white flowers and tobacco held together in a highly tannic body, it’s the type of wine you dream of meeting again. Add to this the competent and empathetic service, and it should come as no surprise that we certainly will be paying a return visit.
We begin with a champagne called Mémoire. Crisp, with some depth, it proves a good pairing with the evening’s many snacks. It is also a harbinger of things to come: a parade of beliefs and memories manifested as dishes. Renowned for his social engagement and bold creativity, Chef Rasmus Munk compels diners at Alchemist to contemplate a wide array of perspectives. We are whisked away to every corner of the world Munk has visited, into uncharted waters with ingredients such as live insects, udder, blood and offal. The dishes push us to the limit, some gently and others more forcefully, yet the experience is held together by the careful selection of ingredients, impeccable flavour and cordial, humorous and knowledgeable service. Alchemist has but one menu and it contains 45 servings. It is all-in from the get-go with a tart sprinkling of ants over a mouthful of frozen apple foam and picturesque flowers. The kitchen’s affinity for molecular gastronomy and miracle powders is immediately clear as it conjures up juice-filled “cherries” with a hard chocolaty shell, chips with tomato powder in an edible bag, and mushroom quiche featuring a sphere that explodes on the palate with the intense flavours of mushroom and thyme. The meal is interwoven with entertainment and deliciousness, as evidenced by the gin-based drink we sip through straws from an iced lemon to the sounds of Balkan disco. The electronica-heavy soundtrack, curated especially for the restaurant, is a story in itself. Diners arrive throughout the evening, however, so it may be pure coincidence that a scathing violin intensely accompanies the proceedings as we stuff ourselves like caged geese with foie gras cream and freeze-dried maize. It tastes good, but the serving is not exactly pleasant and the symbolism is hard to miss. The same is true when Munk rolls in with a drip bag hanging from a rack that contains “blood” of beetroot and chicken stock. The sauce is sprayed over a lamb’s heart filled with tartare and we are furnished with a leaflet containing information on organ donation. The symbolism is more light-hearted as the theme from Beverly Hills 90210 blares out from a pair of headphones and we let all seriousness subside and simply munch on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The ham is dried Joseli from about the same year (2006) that Rasmus Munk spent time in front of the TV in his teenage bedroom. Similarly humoristic are the satay skewers with “balls” – cock balls, that is – that we grill over charcoal, and wine gum earthworms that we dig up from edible soil. The food is kept on track by the excellent wine pairings and an exotic juice menu featuring such choices as avocado juice and piña colada. Generally speaking, the wines are better matched than the juices. Take the iced tea with yuzu, for example, which is far too sweet for the deconstructed sushi of Japanese cod with caviar and soy sauce in a cone of nori, whereas a deep, mineral aligoté from 2007 fits this lovely dish like a glove. Forty-five servings sounds like a lot, but time flies by from the moment you take your seat at one of the dining bar’s soft chairs and allow yourself to be treated and entertained. Alchemist is intense, often teetering on the edge, and it will expand the horizons of the vast majority of its guests. In return, it is never boring and offers a virtually unparalleled total experience that is equal parts delicious, thoughtful and thought provoking.
It’s quite a trek out to the furthest reaches of Copenhagen’s Refshaleøen, where the crew at Amass usher guests into the high-ceilinged, street-art-clad cement-encased room with one of the most beautiful views of the city’s skyline. Chef Matt Orlando is at the head of a unique team comprising chefs, waiters and his wife Julie, who from their open kitchen spend the evening serving diners in a friendly and personable style that never becomes overbearing. Everyone appears to feel extremely comfortable here and the clientele is a diverse group representing more than one corner of the globe. Orlando’s style is all about show-casing pure organic flavour in original compositions and he is bent on avoiding waste and utilising as much as possible from the restaurant’s own raised garden beds and newly-built recirculating greenhouse. Amass is a crown jewel in sustainability, so it comes as little surprise that the kitchen practices the craft of fermentation. Orlando learned many tricks of the trade while at Noma, but he avoids hyperbole and every culinary decision is bound by what makes sense for a given dish. A cured brill is served with residual yeast from a beer brewer, fermented plums from last year and freshly picked shoots of arugula from the greenhouse. It is an overwhelming explosion of sharp arugula balanced by the acidic lemon peel, heat from a little chilli, sweetness from the plums and umami from the yeast. In another attractive dish carrots are seasoned with apple cider vinegar, chamomile and Japanese tea, and come resting atop a “ricotta” made out of blended almonds with notes of marzipan; the pickled elderflowers prove imperative. The sweetness is balanced by a wonderful glass of Pouilly-Fumé from Alexander Bain; it shows how restaurant manager and sommelier Bo Bratlann has curated the wine list without an iota of compromise, while also daring to think outside the box. The kitchen seamlessly weaves new cultural tales into the meal, like when Orlando transforms the chuno technique (the Incan method of drying potatoes) in an enticing dish of mussels, ramsons, dried potatoes and burnt lemon. Vegetables are at the hub of the sustainable philosophy, with meat served sparingly but all the more admirably. The lamb neck comes from animals that graze on pastures of angelica on an island off Iceland – and that flavour comes through in the heavenly meat, whose richness is held tautly together by black pepper oil, celeriac and sour cream. The desserts cater to the sweet tooth without going the pastry path. Despite the brilliance of the caramelised croutons with grated browned butter and frozen yoghurt, the top scorer is the vegan hazelnut ice cream with coffee grounds, marzipan, slightly burnt flakes of Oiala chocolate and meaningful drops of porcini oil. It’s the most luxurious ice cream on a stick ever, and just part of the accomplished execution that indicates that Amass is a restaurant at the pinnacle of its achievement.
This restaurant and its owners exude enthusiasm and dedication. In the middle of Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district, three talented restaurateurs who present themselves as Partick, Johann and Andreas have opened a wine bar with a five-course daily menu, from which diners can also order à la carte. The room resembles the rustic living room of a local designer. In the back is the treasured collection of wine constituting the establishment’s primary raison d’être. But make no mistake: the food is excellent and excellently priced. The cuisine here is inspired by the leading Nordic restaurants and a love of flavour. Take, for example, an invigorating and delightful cut of perfectly prepared cod on a fresh and creamy potato purée with miso cream and a forest of cress, topped with crisp rye flakes. The composition of this evening’s dishes is exquisite. Nordic cuisine is in full effect with pickled leek, burnt leek, chopped pickled parsley stems that taste like capers and small islands of ramson mayo. The wines are available by the glass or bottle – all of which cost less than DKK 500. In our glasses, we enjoy bubbles from Mas Candi, Tinc Set from Penedes, and a north Catalonian L’Esprit de l’Horizon, which despite its warm origin is cool like a burgundy and razor-sharp – and, of course, biodynamic. The service is remarkably attentive and professional. If you don’t happen to eat lamb, which is the main course today, the kitchen can instead whip up a serving of pork neck. In which case the wonderful Comté with browned butter is substituted with an inventive celeriac dish. With a lively glass of red Loire wine from Hervé Villemade, we arrive at the lemon soufflé at the end of an inviting meal that’s perfectly suited to a weekday evening out, as well as slightly more festive occasions.
The name AOC refers to restaurant manger, owner and sommelier (“Christian Aarø and co.”), but it is also a fitting wordplay on the term “appellation d'origine controlee” because of the originality and exquisite experience of dining under the historic vaulted ceilings of the basement at Moltke’s Palace in the heart of Copenhagen. Aarø, one of Denmark’s most knowledgeable wine experts, is joined by Chef Søren Selin, himself a leader in gastronomic perfectionism and creativity. Selin and Aarø’s competence and professionalism permeate the atmosphere and staff in way that makes everyone relax and enjoy this exceptional culinary journey. The appetisers start off with the Nordic notes of sea lettuce, fermented and subtle cucumber, fried cladonia lichen with chicken liver and, not least, a small fried potato crustade with leek cream that delivers the classic taste of sour cream and onion. The Nordic tartare taco is an impressive display of originality, made from choice minced beef from a biodynamic farm that slaughters one cow a month; it’s accompanied by acidic and bitter pickled gooseberries and distinctive cress. After that we transition to mild creaminess in the form of flounder with hollandaise and Havgus cheese. Only then does the actual ten-course menu begin – and what a beginning! Our fantastic young waiter is ebullient as he serves whole kohlrabi with the top still attached to each guest. Lifting the “lid” from the top of the root vegetable reveals a mild tarragon cream on top of a Limfjord oyster and small cubes of kohlrabi, apple, kale and sweet woodruff. All the taste sensations and multiple textures are at play in this rewarding and comforting explosion of flavour whose green theme is adroitly paired with a grüner veltliner from Weingut Pichler-Krutzler in Wachau. All of the dishes ultimately earn the status of “favourite”, including scallop in thin layers with the crispness of daikon and acidity of fermented asparagus, tied together by mussel cream and dill oil. The signature dish of Zittauer onion with caviar and elderflower is equally unforgettable. This mighty onion is baked to a core temperature of 90 degrees, then presented and carved at the table as part of the evening’s extensive table presentation, after which it is arranged with two types of caviar and then topped with a refreshing beurre blanc with elderflower and champagne. Paired with the riesling Mölsheim from Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier in Rheinhessen, this serving is pure elation. The menu continues with BBQ king crab, whose smoke notes and lemon thyme send mind-blowingly intense flavour careening in all directions through our tasting apparatus. Potatoes with morels, Danish lamb with ramsons, caramelised Jerusalem artichoke, and hazelnut and juniper berry ice cream with fermented gooseberries and blackcurrants all confirm that AOC is a place for a celestial meal that combines innovative Nordic purity with classic virtues.
We are sitting on discount café chairs and the table is far from spacious. There’s music in the background and the decor is neutral at best. Yet none of this matters because food and people are what it takes to create atmosphere and a great experience. Mads Hyllested’s cuisine is grotesque, in the positive sense: affordable yet innovative, humorous, and perfectly served in complex compositions. We choose a 2012 German biodynamic riesling from Clems Busch, but could just as well have chosen another from the many excellent options. The wine list is well composed and even the cellar wines are inexpensive. The service is youthful and relaxed, but highly knowledgeable and capable. Our starters include delicious and sticky teriyaki-marinated chicken drumsticks with a bold marrow cream full of ferrous notes. This dish is surpassed in its coddling of our instinctive pleasure receptors by a crushed potato confit in browned butter with rich sour cream swathed in lumpfish roe with a perfect balance of salt and acidity. A slice of grilled, oil-drenched bread with a discreet Høost cheese sauce and crisp, generously salted chicken skin on an artichoke cream is a true incarnation of Hyllested’s genius and economic acumen. It’s a simple yet rousing seasonal dish with a wise use of ingredients – but comfort food first and foremost. The baked cod with acidic and crisp marinated kohlrabi and a blanquette sauce with smoked butter is a bit dry, unfortunately. But we are spellbound by the magnificence of the roasted Brussels sprouts and Tuscan kale with parsley cream and shredded, dried lamb heart, which of course packs umami and a powerful depth that would bring a smile to the lips of even the greatest of cabbage sceptics. A little twist of lemon here adds to the brilliance and testifies to
Hyllested’s gastronomic deftness. Applaus is a venue for small dishes that showcase popular flavours, though often surprising in concept and composition.
The gang behind Babette has really become comfortable in their own skin as the little neighbourhood restaurant has become a popular watering hole for regulars, families with children and guests from far away. The feeling of entering someone’s private living room is accentuated by the cordial reception and broad smiles among the staff. Here there are no stiff pretensions, high-flown clichés, or lectures, but just good food, great wines, and an atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome. Frida Hansson, who most recently comes from Eriks Wine Bar, is the latest sommelier addition at Babette and she guides us with an experienced hand among the restaurant’s treats. The rustic wild duck terrine with pickled onions and a big slice of sourdough bread is washed down with a well-chosen glass of red and the combo is, as promised, very good. Even the fresh leafy green salad with a perfectly creamy egg, crunchy and salty pancetta, crispy beans and sour cream disappears in a flash down the hatch. One cannot come to Babette without trying one of the venue’s famous pizzas. The legacy of the former pizzeria (yes, that was what was in the room before) has been refined and developed and today they serve some of the city’s most delicious pizzas. Smoked beef, soft-baked figs, Parmesan and spicy tomato sauce sounds as good as it is.
It takes something special to maintain a leading gastronomic establishment far from the big city and without the option of overnight accommodations. Yet that is exactly what Chef Vivi Schou has accomplished with Restaurant Babette, which she runs with her husband, Henrik Pedersen. The duo has been accompanied throughout the years by the indelible talent of restaurant manager Brian Jensen, and additions like Partrick Godborg and Jesper Dams Hansen have invigorated the kitchen. Babette’s menu now combines an innovative touch with an unwavering respect for classic gastronomy, as reflected in the chef’s choice to offer guinea fowl this evening. The hospitality is exceptional and you feel almost honoured by the opportunity to taste the treasures of Pedersen’s cellar, from old burgundies to ingenious new purchases from worlds new and old. The decor is dominated by golden woods, copious white tulips and large green plants. Pedersen’s past as a florist shines through. The menu is predominantly green, fresh and from the sea, but you can count on it touching on a full range of flavours. The kitchen brilliantly seasons, properly salts and insightfully uses acidity and richness, all while retaining the delicate and pure flavours of their unique ingredients. The result is exquisite. After a procession of diverse and inventive snacks comes the highlight of the evening: a baked halibut, white and firm, under a canopy of dried oysters with chamomile tea and oyster emulsion, vacuum-prepared daikon sticks and leftover stalks of watercress. Waste is avoided with great ingenuity, and the resulting meal is a testament to the enlightenment and enjoyment a dining experience can deliver. The creaminess of the dish is held in check by the frail, bitter chamomile, while the stalks and daikon add texture and bite. The pumpkin ravioli is a surprising bull’s-eye. There’s cream cheese and rosehips in the filling, but it’s not overly perfumed, and the pasta is topped with a frothy sauce and a generous dose of vadouvan. It’s piquant, acidic, rich, and trailed by a bitter, creamy edge. It becomes all the more spectacular paired with an older vintage of gewürztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht, the first of several extraordinary wine pairings. Next is Pouilly-Fumé paired with clear beef consommé with foie gras and pickled mushrooms, and then a 2004 Chambolle-Musigny, which escorts the moist guinea fowl through three variations on onion and ramson. We particularly enjoy the fresh parsnip dessert with a broken gel of lemon and wheat berries, resting on a base of perfect vanilla ice cream. Babette is well worth a trip for its brilliantly executed delectable cuisine and untethered indulgence.
Natural wines paired with a fusion of New Nordic and Italian cuisines may not sound like a bulletproof recipe for success. But as these elements unfold while dining at Brace, the result is marvelous. After a year at Era Ora, Chef Nicola Fanetti has taken the helm at Brace to pursue his passion for Italian simplicity, where ingredients combine on the plate in a visually tight and artistic presentation. Take, for example, the grilled flank steak with slightly bitter kale and sharp horseradish bordered by black lines of fermented garlic and golden drops of orange reduction – a presentation reminiscent of a work by Miró. The ambitious Fanetti showcases an array of techniques that add surprise and edge. Although the ingredients are primarily Nordic and Italian, the flavour palette touches every corner of the world during the 12-course menu. This diversity is manifest in an unconventional but delicious dish, sous-vide Danish octopus with crunchy puffed quinoa breading, arranged over a purée of pumpkin with ginger, mint and wood sorrel. The octopus is perfectly paired with a glass of white Rhône wine, La Coudée d'Or from Philippe Viret, which combines the right amount of acidity and frutiness to balance the minty refinement of the dish. Our incredibly skilled sommelier, Felix Chamorro, has composed the wine pairings with impressive flair and cadence. In the middle of the menu a bold tannic red wine from the volcanic terroir of Etna matches a blast of warm lamb carpaccio with pasta, fried oyster mushrooms, lamb reduction foam, nasturtium flowers and sour raspberry powder, arranged to replicate the Italian flag. This is followed by a refreshing chardonnay from Fanny Sabre in Burgundy to accompany a surprising and innovative dish of salsify covered with slices of beet, celeriac and a piquant kick of garlic purée. The dish is a peppy zinger in the midst of our meat fervour, while the refreshing white wine provides a boost in the tailwinds of the relatively heavy red. It is a rare feat indeed to see such elegant compositions of food and wine intertwined so seamlessly. With bold originality and flawless presentation, Copenhagen’s New Nordic Italian is definitively top-class.
BROR is an intimate two-storey restaurant that has become known for its emphasis on using all parts of the various animals that come through the cramped little kitchen in the narrow streets of central Copenhagen. The restaurant interior consists of upcycled tables and chairs – even the plates are upcycled and come in all colours and sizes. You don't come here for the decór. Instead you pay a very reasonable price for top-quality produce, good service and very well-matched natural wines. This becomes evident from the start with the unique snacks, which include juicy cod cheeks on rye with dill oil, lightly smoked trout served in its own crisp skin, and a small bag of crisps made from fried pieces of bull’s penis that you dip in a heavy sour cream dusted with ramson powder. It’s tongue-in-cheek and inventive without compromising on flavour. The service here is warm, attentive and to the point, and knowledgeable about the mainly natural wines which accompany the menu. Nothing is wasted here and the omnivorous approach becomes evident in the juicy roast chicken hearts, served almost rare, along with sweet and bitter burnt broccoli, broccoli purée, slices of the stem and a fresh chlorophyllic watercress and whey sauce. A very crisp natural chardonnay from Saint-Veran cuts right through. The desserts include a marrow crème brûlée served in a marrowbone, and it tastes exactly like what you’d expect. The rich, bordering on intensely meaty crème is held in place by a zingy quince and elderflower sorbet, and the creaminess and the burnt sugar notes are precisely matched with an aged sweet Loire chenin blanc. BROR is a top choice for a tastefully provocative meal anchored in quality produce and skill.
The table is elegantly clad in a white tablecloth, with blue fluted Royal Copenhagen porcelain atop underplates of silver. Works from the Golden Age of Danish painting adorn the walls. There is an authentic atmosphere of a bygone era, as the impressive historic surroundings seem to make time stand still, evoking a unique sense of tranquillity. This atmosphere is further enhanced by the waiters, who provide service of the highest calibre. Guests are of course addressed with the proper formality, yet with a friendly undertone and room for brief anecdotes on the history of the place. This discerning elegance fits like a glove with the French cuisine of Michel Michaud. The first course on the inspiration menu is an attractive tartare of salmon and Perle Blanche oyster with a lid of caviar that appears to hover over a clear tomato gelée in the bottom of the dish. Fresh and slightly acidic, the tomato provides a good base for the pure taste of fish and shellfish. From there the dishes become even more classic; so much so that at times we find ourselves longing for another nuanced twist like the tomato gelée. There are more than enough reduced broths, velvety smooth purées, classic sauces and expertly precise preparations, but this is exactly where Michaud’s kitchen team is at home. Cauliflower purée, fried wolffish and grenobloise sauce with browned butter, capers and toasted hazelnuts are the few but well-chosen components of the excellent in-between course. Simple and rather straightforward, the spectrum of flavour is completed by a glass of Meursault with buttery notes, a nutty aroma and a nice acidity. The wine list is extensive, and one can confidently leave the choice of a bottle or wine pairings to the waiters, who will undoubtedly find an exquisite match for the classic French cuisine and historic surroundings.
Our evening at Bühlmann begins with snacks in the historic manor’s distinctive wine cellar surrounded by quality bottles and homemade charcuterie hanging to dry. The first bite elegantly contrasts a crisp pickled shell of kohlrabi with a filling of slightly sweet and creamy lobster tartare. The flavours are also well composed in the crispy brioche with sweet onion marmalade, Havgus cheese and a slice of the lardo that has been drying in the cellar. The restaurant itself, situated in one of the old rooms of Hotel Scheelsminde, is pompously decorated with dark wood and heavy tablecloths, but it fits like a glove with the site and its French-inspired cuisine. The first dish on the menu is a cured scallop with a mild taste of the sea and wonderful texture, accompanied by the fresh acidity of green strawberries and a sauce of gooseberries and dill. Once again the flavours are precisely balanced, and a young chardonnay from South Tyrol harmonises nicely with the aromatic complexity and acidity of the dish. The wine pairings reflect careful consideration and are finely presented, while the service staff exhibit great mastery and professionalism with an eye for small details. In the in-between course featuring onion, the strong onion bouillon is adjusted nicely with pickled onions while a poached egg yolk provides the required fat to hold it all together. However, these delicately nuanced combinations are slightly disrupted by the sharp taste of bitter, undercooked raw onion. But such small glitches are easily correctable. With its keen focus on local ingredients, classic taste and good service, Bühlmann has positioned itself among the best restaurants in Aalborg.
Meat ages on hooks in a glass cabinet while a facility above the restaurant produces cheese made from the organic milk of the restaurant’s own cows. Chef Christian Puglisi and his crew are staunchly at the controls of Bæst. Despite its loose atmosphere, nothing is left to chance when it comes to the ingredients and their organic origin. We watch as the chefs pull pizzas out of the wood-fired oven in the ultra-open kitchen. The noise level is moderate on this Monday evening, but the restaurant is full of people. Perhaps that is why the service is so slow. We wait more than a half hour for the first round of charcuterie. Fortunately, the food – like the glass of skin-fermented Garganega from Veneto – is well worth the wait. Ham, fennel sausage, lardo, coppa, wonderous ‘nduja sausage with paprika, dried duck with an insistent aged taste, pork rillettes with the pleasant crunch of crisped rinds and a tiny bowl of pickled root vegetables: let the meat orgy begin! With a little difficulty, we manage to order more wine from the enthralling selection of natural wines, followed by the highlight of our evening – homemade mozzarella. Taking a bite of mozzarella so fresh that thick pearls of milk dribble out between the layers of cheese is – and will always be – a delightful experience. The creamy stracciatella cheese with paper-thin slices of Cinta Senese ham and freshly grated mushrooms is also worth noting for its wonderful air of paysan luxury. Bæst is known for its seasonal pizzas, and this time of year (winter) obviously calls for cabbage, which adds a somewhat funky taste to the otherwise phenomenal soft pizza crust with its perfect acidity and slightly burnt notes. We have enjoyed much better service on previous visits, and the menu would have benefitted from a little more veg. But these things take nothing away from the fact that you can count on carefully considered and excellent flavour for your money at Bæst.
Castenskiold is the Aarhus food scene’s version of the so-called supper clubs of 1930s America: popular all-night destinations for patrons seeking entertainment in the form of food, music and alcohol. This establishment by the city centre waterway remains a hip venue for the creative class to sip on passion fruit caipiroskas or champagne from the excellent wine list on the weekends. But they should also take an interest in the restaurant’s modern bistro cuisine, which is among the city’s best. We are seated right behind the command centre, a large bar lined with concrete pillars, sanguine velvet drapes, designer furniture and understated lighting. Our waiter is equal parts professionally competent and extremely pleasant. He serves us a small glass of cremant to get us started. We choose a variety of dishes from the extensive menu. Our waiter unleashes a sharp, mineral Tokaj in our glasses that waltzes beautifully with a carpaccio of langoustine from the very first bite. The shellfish has an extremely fresh, creamy and intense taste of the sea, adeptly countered by crisp kohlrabi, warm sour cream and grated horseradish. Only the sharp acidity of the pickled green tomatoes misbehaves, but the harmony remains intact, not least thanks to the wine. Even better is the subsequent North Sea cod with Jerusalem artichoke purée. Delectably moist and perfectly fried with an attractive golden colour, the cod is served with a remarkable sauce of mussels and smoked butter. The dish is a bull’s-eye with its nutty and smoked notes. Unfortunately, a Tuscan vermentino proves weak in aroma and acidity, making it overly round and heavy for this pairing. The precise and sharp performance from the chef continues in the form of free-range chicken from Rokkedahl with celeriac purée and kale. Rarely have we tasted such delicious and moist breast meat. The intense poultry flavour is complemented by a nice bitterness from the kale while the brilliant brown butter sauce with hazelnuts is so perfectly salty, acidic and delicious that we manhandle the sauce cup in the hunt for every last drop. Supper club or not, Castenskiold’s bistro cuisine is excellent from end to end.
We are welcomed by the sight of a wavering swallow-tailed flag on a background of clear blue skies as we arrive at the old yellow inn in the woods. The setting is beautiful, both inside the inn and at the outdoor tables; a peaceful, old-fashioned mood is palpable throughout the establishment. The style of the cuisine is in no way archaic, however. The chefs understand how to spice up the good local fare, abiding by the virtue of always using the freshest available ingredients – which also explains why the menu varies from day to day. We choose “the whole shebang”, taking us through all of the lunch menu’s eight dishes. A couple of delicious herring servings are followed by an exceptional cut of well-smoked Baltic Sea salmon with grated Havgus cheese, cauliflower and lemon, topped with a creamy clam sauce: a refreshingly simple and well-composed dish where acidity, smoke and the sauce’s richness work impeccably together. The unusually succulent and flavourful corn-fed cockerel with onion and ramson in several variations is an absolute pleasure and, in fact, even better than the otherwise excellent lamb that follows. Our waiter is at first discreet and low-key, but opens up as the meal progresses and we come to greatly appreciate his warm and enthusiastic style. The dessert is a little masterpiece: rhubarb compote with small pieces of baked chocolate, oat crumble and a thick yet airy sauce anglaise topped with wood sorrel. The drops of mint oil on the plate perfect the balance of the dish. The dessert wine from Rhône, Pipi d’Ange (angel pee!), a blend sauvignon blanc, muscat and viognier is an excellent match. A meal in the woods at Christianshøjkroen is always a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Jonathan Berntsen has a style all his own in the upper echelons of gastronomy, manifest in everything from the bird-studded wallpaper to alternative interpretations of classic dishes that buck the modern trend and pursue sweetness and richness over acidity and umami. Thanks to Berntsen’s ingenious craftsmanship and uncompromising professionalism, our meal is a memorable and refreshing contrast to the prevailing Nordic winds. The service adheres to all of the classic virtues. An army of tuxedoed waiters and chefs appears with every dish, providing thorough explanations of the wine pairings and their insightful balancing of flavours. However, the alcohol content of the evening’s wines seems somewhat extreme given the refined menu. Sherry, limoncello and Pineau des Charentes in the same menu is a bit over the top, especially when we are also treated to an excellent 2002 Wintzenheim gewurztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, whose age and golden colour practically require a knife and fork. The cuisine, on the other hand, combines assertive sweetness and playfulness, weaving tales of the culinary traditions of Denmark’s historic bourgeoisie, such as the clever reinterpretation of the Danish classic, foreloren skildpadde (“mock-turtle soup”), traditionally a pork and fish ragout served with boiled eggs. This dish features four precise small elements in a veal broth with “turtle flavour”: corned veal tongue with foie gras, a fried fish ball, a marbled quail egg and a crisp and hearty croquette with lamb’s brain. Berntsen cannot resist playing with form and he loves technical challenges, like when he serves razor clams with a good spoonful of Oscietra caviar under a net of crispy thin stripes of pressed, dried and sweetened caviar. Despite the almost malty taste of the caviar net, the dish is fresh and invigorating. The kitchen’s experiments include combinations of veal tail and smoked lardo as the filling in a squid dressed in olives, with a side of black bean cassoulet, the tentacles of the squid and a crisp wheat chip blackened with squid ink. Your attention is required in order to understand and interpret the dishes, but the reward is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll not soon forget. The desserts further underpin the chef’s approach, with a white and airy intro of lime, banana and yoghurt, followed by a powerful finale of re-interpreted Crêpe Suzette, which could have been fresher and more acidic. But Berntsen has his characteristic style and he upholds it with an elegance that proves how, despite differences in taste, genius is something we can all agree on.
Now that the entrepreneurial academy and its notoriously zany students in this courtyard on Mejlgade have relocated, things here are not quite as unconventional, but they remain highly creative. Restaurant Domestic provides the entertainment with ambitious cuisine focused on local ingredients, fermentation and pickling, combined with attentive yet discreet service. With an aesthetic sense of the beautiful rustic surroundings, the interior is well appointed as a cosy and distinctive restaurant. However, the overall mood is somewhat unsettled by the boom box in a corner of the restaurant blasting out anachronistic 80s music. We begin with eight different snacks, alternating tactfully between the very fresh, salty and intensely umami-rich. Standing out as small masterpieces are a croustade with potato cream and salted cod roe, and a crisp slice of Jerusalem artichoke with pickled gherkin, while the dried lamb proves overly insistent and strong in flavour. The waiter excuses the next dish in advance as one that some people love and others hate. And, indeed, the attempt to deliver a rethought fried egg with rutabaga, egg yolk, lardo and miso sauce feels like an idea that’s still in the works. The dish is undersalted, the poached egg yolk seems sluggish and dry, and the ingredients just don’t blend well together. On the other hand, however, the sherry pairing is an ingenious and daring choice. The ensuing dish is, however, fully complete in conception and execution: roasted beef rump with shank confit, pickled beetroot, elderflower capers, dried rosehip and rhubarb slices. It’s aesthetically composed, well prepared and the flavours are full throttle. In our glasses, Z rouge 2014 is a brilliant partner with its body and succulent bite. The meal ends like a dream with a kombucha-poached pear, thyme caramel sauce, ice cream and a ton of small meringues, rounding off a delightful evening in the good company of the people behind Domestic.
Past and present meet most deliciously at Dragholm Slot, the over 800-year-old castle which for the past nine years has housed Claus Henriksen’s experimental kitchen. Henriksen traverses the surrounding forests, fields, meadows and beaches in search of ingredients, collecting herbs, roots and berries for the restaurant’s hyper-local, seasonal and personal cuisine. Humble ingredients are often allowed to play a starring role here. Take, for example, the assortment of snacks, which includes a piece of dried “parsnip bark” with the deep and sweet taste of a cigar box, joined by small dots of fresh goat’s cheese; or the folded pancake of nutty celeriac covered with an equally nutty layer of Havgus cheese and a drizzling of pine oil; or the decidedly intense cup of mushroom bullion, slurped through a spoon of smoked whipped cream. In the castle cellar we enjoy a peaceful fire around an open hearth, sitting in the comfort of stylish Wegner chairs. The lime-plastered castle walls absorb every sound, so that even when this restaurant is at full capacity, you can still take part in pleasant conversation. The menu starts with cabbage confit in perfectly straight, layered rows with Norwegian scallops, topped with the salty sea flavour of clam juice. Pickled elderflower buds hold the sweetness and richness in check, paired beautifully with a glass of local white wine from Odsherred made with solaris grapes, whose bold aroma of elder bolsters the exquisite acidity of the dish. A thin layer of sliced, baked “egg yolk” potatoes (a Danish variety of small, round and very yellow potatoes) are topped at the table with a smoked butter sauce and caviar; the smoke and potato flavours compliment one another exquisitely. Claus Henriksen makes vegetables shine in a way that makes you forget all about meat-based proteins. We are blown away by the main course, composed of nothing but onions prepared in myriad ways. A layer of “onion leather” made of browned onions covers approximately 100 tiny pearl onions in a bold glaze, which of course is garnished by the season’s first ramsons: it’s a harmony of sweetness and acidity and incredibly delicious. The pure fruit and fresh notes of an unoaked frappato from Sicily cut nicely through the dish. There is also room for some meat, and it’s naturally a cut that is often overlooked and bereft of praise. Braised veal tongue is rolled in a herby veal mince to form sausages and served with croutons fried to a crisp in tallow. The intense flavours are brought together by chicken liver with cognac and a thick, reduced veal jus. The dishes are accompanied by natural wines, matched skilfully by sommelier Peter Fagerland throughout the evening. A more pleasant countenance than Fagerland would be hard to imagine; his calm and comfortable manner enhances the overall experience. In short, Dragsholm Slot rises up as one of the nation’s brightest beacons of gastronomy.
Owner, sommelier and chef Damiano Alberti hails from Piedmont and makes simple Northern Italian food at Enomania, which since our last visit has doubled in size to also include a wine shop. The menu changes on a daily basis and you can order the full menu or à la carte in large or small portions. This is a flexible establishment with a keen understanding of guests’ individual needs. We start with grissini and luscious focaccia served with a grassy olive oil and assorted Italian charcuterie. Our friendly waiter pours hay-yellow greco di tufo from Campania to accompany the risotto with white asparagus and a cut of steamed cod. The risotto is simply perfect in its creaminess - neither too thick nor too thin. The grains of rice are al dente and there’s a ton of asparagus flavour – it doesn’t seem heavy in the slightest. In fact, this light starter only piques our appetite for more. We practically lick our plates clean. Homemade filled pasta – cappelletti – with cockerel mince and purée and crisps of Jerusalem artichoke is a pleasure to eat. The pasta has a good bite and the light mince benefits from the staunch smoked umami of the Jerusalem artichokes and the dark chicken broth in the bottom of the bowl. New peas add a fresh touch and we drink a sublime 2012 Barolo from Burlotto Cannubi. Tonight's wine pairings are well composed and a good value, but you can also choose to run amok in Enomania’s renowned wine cellar, which sports superb wines – especially from the Piedmont, Tuscany and Burgundy – featuring top winemakers such as Méo-Camuzet, Armand Rousseau and Gaja, in addition to other well-chosen and more affordable wines. If life on Earth were coming to an end, we would spend our last days in Enomania’s wine cellar.
“Good evening, signori,” says our waiter, and thus begins our evening. Era Ora is the consummate fine Italian restaurant and the service is sublime: attentive, discreet and confident. Since the turn of the millennium, Chef Antonio di Criscio has carried the torch for Denmark’s most iconic Italian food. Being an Italian gourmet chef is an often thankless task, as the simple fare is difficult to improve upon. Accordingly, a number of dishes on the menu tend towards innovations that work better in theory than in practice. Why, for example, should we eat faux olives when their
Texturas-produced skins turn to crunchy sand in our mouths? The experience is equally off-putting when sturgeon fillet is served on such a hot stone that the fish becomes overcooked before the waiter finishes explaining the dish. However, when the kitchen embraces the characteristically Italian fanatic devotion to high quality ingredients, the results are outstanding. Raw Sicilian shrimp melt like butter on the palate, evoking a sweet nuttiness that perfectly accompanies the flavours of artichoke and mandarin, and droplets of shrimp bisque and parsley-coriander oil. The firm and creamy tartare of Fassone veal and hazelnuts – both from Piedmont – and a tart serving of dried tomato and pickled daikon further exemplify how the kitchen brings ingredients to the forefront with good balance and a delicate, clean taste. Era Ora won last year’s White Guide award for Wine Experience of the Year, and the wine here is still exceptional. This is largely due to the unconventional cellar and the serving method where all glasses are primed with wine to get rid of any off aromas before they are used. Our sommelier has a flair for pairing food and wine in combinations that accentuate both elements. The wine menu is largely composed of glasses from small producers outside of the usual appellations, making a visit to Era Ora an education in Italian wines. For example, the tartare is served with a 2010 Balconi Rossi from the small producer, Le Vigne di San Pietro. The wine has a refreshing acidity, delicate tannins and a cherry fruitiness, dispelling any notion that the only thing to come out of Veneto is pompous amarone. And, of course, the wine goes perfectly with the elegant dish. The service, wine handling and decor at Era Ora are top-class. The food largely keeps pace, but a little too often we find ourselves longing for greater focus on the ingredients and less show.
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.
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.
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.