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.