Tuesday 16 April 2013

The Copenhagen Model

Over the last decade or so, Copenhagen has become one of the must-visit foodie destinations. With all due respect to the Danish capital, this would have been scarcely believable a generation ago. After all, Danish food isn't traditionally thought of as being one of the world's major cuisines, and nor is Copenhagen - unlike London - a metropolis that draws big name chefs from all four corners of the world. So just what is it that makes the restaurant scene in Copenhagen so exciting?

If I was being facetious I would say that it's as simple as giving my restaurant a trendy one-word name like Noma, Radio or Geist; staffing it with bright young things in check shirts and aprons; getting some stylish interior designers in and using some weeds found growing by the side of the road as garnish. If only if it was simple as that. The thing is when it comes to style over substance, you'll get found out sooner or later. No, there has to be something more to it.

Raw salmon, horseradish crisp with macadamia nuts 
For me, it's the 'anything goes' mentality that brings different ingredients together in a fresh, imaginative and visually arresting manner that makes eating in Copenhagen so exciting. For example, dishes like poached egg topped with raw mushroom, mushroom confit and fried chicken skin at Manfreds & Vin or the raw salmon, horseradish crisp with macadamia nuts at Geist, which combine different flavours and textures in a single plate. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but who cares as long as they're having a crack.

As has become quite common, the food doesn't necessarily follow the traditional three-course structure. Instead, a mix and match of small, medium and large dishes to be shared (or not) as well as tasting menus where you leave it to the chef are all the rage. Oh, and another thing I like about eating in Copenhagen is that many restaurants offer you a glimpse of the action with a ringside seat peering into an open kitchen.

Wood pigeon sausages
I know these attributes don't necessarily make a restaurant 'Copenhagen-style', but the thing with a smaller city is that a 'scene' can develop in a way it can't in London or New York, where there are many different culinary voices wanting their song to be heard. That said, in parallel to developments in Denmark, restaurants with a similar ethos are popping up everywhere. For example, The Clove Club in London is wowing punters with its no-choice tasting menu (I want those wood pigeon sausages!). Although derided by bitter, cynical hacks as food-for-Instagram or cuisine du blogeur, I really hope this is one trend that is here to stay.

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