Friday, 11 September 2015

Copenhagen Weekender: Dining Destination

Twiglets anyone?

Part of Copenhagen's appeal was to try some of the new Nordic cuisine that has gained such a reputation over the last few years. The bank holiday gave us the opportunity to visit four such restaurants, yet despite their innovations, it became clear that a new status quo had started to emerge in Copenhagen's dining scene. 

If I had a pound for every time burnt hay, onion ash, garlic flowers, sorrel and oyster foam appeared on each menu I'd have earnt nearly enough to pay for a starter. More bemusing (and unpleasant) were the dessert trends which fell into one of two camps - exceedingly sharp berry deserts with textureless mousse or creamy concoctions, usually topped with ground, freeze-dried raspberries or sea buckthorn, or sweet, caramel and birchbark creams with, wait for it, grated truffle (not the chocolate kind) and micro-herbs.

Whilst I found some of these trends futile and unappetising, one of the restaurants - Kadeau - took me on a journey where everything (other than the desserts) seemed to make sense. Inspired by the island of Bornholm where the original, sibling restaurant was founded, the concept fully subscribes to the foraged, sustainable and seasonal philosophy of many of these Nordic restaurants. Almost every ingredient has been discovered or cultivated on the Island itself so the menu is very vegetable-focused. While it was undoubtedly expensive, I didn't begrudge the price because of the sheer amount of craftsmanship and thought that had evidently gone into every detail. 

The meal was preceded by a selection of 'surprises', the second of which can only be described as a very literal interpretation of homemade Twiglets. Hidden among real twigs were two appetisers made from rye bread coated with powdered lichen, among other things.

Next was plaice and horseradish rolled in cucumber, followed by smoked herring and celeriac topped with burnt hay, and dried salsify rolled in powdered buttermilk, cheese, yeast and pollen (perhaps the strangest-tasting one of all)...

...and then roasted corn and corn emulsion, gravard duck and mushroom, and my favourite - duck heart with sharp green strawberries, dried flowers and cress

I <3 heart

At this point, our actual meal - the one we knew about - began. First up was a beautiful dish of peas, green and yellow beans, and chanterelles with a cockle sauce. 

Next up were a couple of dishes that I found less appealing - a plate of sorrel, lovage and potatoes with mussel foam, and different textures of cabbage served with an oyster emulsion.

The oyster emulsion on its own was divine

The beetroot that followed was truly memorable. Cooked in beef dripping and then grilled, served with berries and dried lamb's heart, it was deep, rich and meaty with a sweet, slightly floral after taste

After a very vegetal few courses, a succulent Mackerel filled appeared, dressed with foraged herbs, fermented ceps and caramelised leeks. 

And then some melt-in-your-mouth Pork, topped with prettily arranged pumpkin, and a shallot puree. Another top dish!

After such fantastic mains, puddings were something of a disappointment, both consisting on incredibly tart berries and frozen milky elements (as we had come to expect).  The tart in particular was unpleasant since the whole thing, including the pastry case was frozen, giving it the feel of uncooked dough whilst the filling had a rather crystallised texture

Having thought that everything had been brought to an anti-climactic close, two delicious snacks arrived with the bill. An apple skewer that you dip in a creamy sauce, and some sort of sweet, deep fried bread slices to dip in a jam.

All in all, the meal was breath-taking, and even the courses that I didn't like were interesting. There was also a touching earnestness about the menu and the way everything was delivered by the individual chefs responsible. If you are up for treating yourself then this is just the place to go.

If you are on more of a budget, the other great place we found was Fiskebaren in the meatpacking district.

Despite its unfussy, laid back vibe, Fiskebaran is seriously ambitious in the kitchen...Sometimes the chef offers to show customers around at which point you will see what a military operation it is.

As you should have guessed from the name, fish is the thing to order. They have mastered the crispy base, just-cooked centre that is so delicious and serve everything up with an intriguing array of foraged herbs, foams and purees. 

The scallops in particular had the perfect balance of caramelised crispiness and sweet, fresh meat. The puddings however were a bit odd at times, and one came with some disgusting truffle meringue mix - again mushroom, not chocolate.   

Beware of the soft truffle meringues!

All in all, Copenhagen has opened my culinary eyes and is fun to explore if you are feeling flush. The two restaurants above were by far the best that we tried in both Copenhagen and Stockholm, though I'm not quite sure what I will be able to bring back into my own kitchen.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Copenhagen Weekender: My favourite Nørrebro hood

Superkillen Park

Scandi weekenders are fast becoming a personal tradition. There is just something about the style, pastries, beards and food philosophy in that part of the world that keeps me coming back. This bank holiday weekend I discovered Copenhagen for the first time, and got to know the lovely little neighbourhood of Nørrebro

I spent most of the time gorging myself with the New Nordic Cuisine (I will post about this later) and the rest of the time locallyWhilst Nørrebro is a little rough around the edges, it centres around a charming parade of artisan bakeries, ceramics workshops, cafes, and boutiques. It has a lovely local feel that allows you to relax into the lifestyle. You can also get some very reasonable Airbnb's around this area because it is 'up and coming' so I would definitely recommend it. I have listed some of my favourite spots below which should give you a bit of a feel for it:

I kick-started every morning with a cappuccino from Coffee Collective (Jægersborgade 10) and a pastry from Meyers Bagieri (Jægersborgade 9), except for Monday when I had a proper sit down breakfast at Grød (Jægersborgade 50). Grød is one of those trendy porridge cafes and makes a delicious dulce de leche and apple version. It's also pretty great for people watching in the early morning when a lot of the locals come in. 

Lunch and Dinner 
Relae (Jægersborgade 41) is also just around the corner. Set up by ex-Noma chef Christian F. Puglisi. I was pretty frustrated not to be able to get a booking despite having been on the waiting list months before but have heard very good things. 

Mikkeller and Friends (Stefansgade 35) offers its own, Danish-brewed, beer alongside some other interesting brands. Look out for Milk Stout (dark and chocolatey but surprisingly light) and I Beat You (full bodied and hoppy). There is also an 18% beer aged in whiskey and tequila bottles that left me feeling pretty dizzy - you have been warned!

My favourite shop of the trip has to be Mette Juhl's (Jægersborgade 4). She sells her beautiful, architectural jewellery alongside that of two other artists.

If you are on the lookout for something for your home, Inge Vincent (Jægersborgade 27) makes incredibly delicate ceramic vases, cups and tea light holders. I particularly loved the Asian inspired folded banana leaf and dim sum steamer shapes.

If you walk up and down Jægersborgade and Stefansgade you will find plenty of other interesting boutiques, handmade confectionary makers, and art shops to explore. 

Henrik Vibsov

Outside Nørrebro there are many more fantastic shops selling Danish designs that are either hard to find or more expensive in London. I particularly loved Henrik Vibsov (Krystalgade 6) where I bought a rather special jumper and the Acne Archive Outlet (Elmegade 21), though the Stockholm one is better. However, if you are in a rush and want a well-edited selection of Danish brands, Illum Bolighus (Amagertorv 10) first floor and the surrounding area are great (look out for Munthe, Samsoe & Samsoe, Birger et Mickelson, Day Birger, Fillipa K, Ganni, Bruuns Bazaar, and Norse Projects)

There are a thousand things to see in Copenhagen but two more unusual destinations near Nørrebro are Superkilen Park and Grundstvig Church

Find a map of my hit list for Nørrebro and beyond here and a useful journey planner here