Epicurean expedition

We’re standing under Copenhagen’s Black Diamond - Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen’s striking black granite waterside extension to the Royal Library.   Looking out over the dark choppy water as the wind whips round the building, it’s impossible not to feel exhilarated. It’s like another world, yet it is only a few hours since we landed in Denmark.   My husband and I have already wandered across the city, and lingered in the pretty medieval courtyard of The Royal Café to eat smørrebrød (open rye sandwiches) before finding ourselves marvelling at this extraordinary building.

 

We’re staying at Nimb, a small luxury hotel in the centre of the city with a Michelin-starred restaurant, a Moorish-style façade dating from 1909, and a terrace that opens on to the Tivoli Gardens. Each of Nimb’s 13 rooms combines antiques and open fires with beautiful, pared-back, modern Danish design.

 

The next morning as we munch pastries, we plan our second day and discuss the Danish attitude towards life - a refreshing mixture of directness and practicality.   We’ve come to Copenhagen to eat Rene Redzepi’s innovative yet dreamy, modern-Nordic food at his restaurant, Noma.   It is unlike anything you may have eaten, with exquisite combinations of raw and cooked, wild and regional ingredients.   Each dish captures a sense of the Scandinavian landscape, from the tartar of musk ox with wood sorrel, to turbot with pickled elderberries and birch-syrup sorbet with ash meringue and honey sauce.   Hardly surprising, then, that aside from its two Michelin stars, Noma has been voted third-best restaurant in the world in the S. Pellegrino ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list, with only England’s The Fat Duck and Spain’s El Bulli ahead.  

 

Our confab results in our walking to the nearby Danish Design Centre and National Museum, before heading to Noma in Christianshavn. The former is a must for anybody interested in current design, while the latter has a superb exhibition of early Danish history, with beautiful early Bronze Age exhibits. Somehow, exploring fibre-optic lights, flint daggers and bronze lurs (Bronze Age horns) contextualises and deepens our enjoyment of our sensational meal at Noma.

 

The following day we set off for Dragsholm Slot, our rural gastronomic destination.   This thirteenth-century castle lies in the rolling glacial landscape of Odsherred at the edge of Lammefjorden in northeast Zealand.   It’s only 90 minutes drive from Copenhagen, but we can’t resist stopping halfway at Roskilde to visit the Viking ship museum.  

 

As soon as you arrive at Dragsholm, you know you’re going to love every moment. Guests are free to wander around the castle, along winding corridors and up creaking staircases. You can curl up with a novel on an Edwardian sofa, or wander out into the grounds, through woods and fields and down to the beach. Wild flowers and bird song abound, while the huge sky could be taken straight from a Constable painting. The rooms are more country house than hotel.   And then there is the food, which is sublime.  

 

Claus Henriksen is a former Noma sous chef, though his cooking is slightly softer, and more traditional than Rene Redzepi’s: raw-pea soup with a crab claw wrapped in smoky bacon, for example, or a scrumptious morsel of crispy succulent pork - actually roasted pig tail - with a pork-and-roasted-shallot sauce scattered with raw blackcurrants. Like Noma, superb wines match the food, and we’re thankful that all we have to do is clamber up to our bed.

 

Ways & Means

Sybil Kapoor travelled as a guest of Scandinavian Airlines (020 8990 7159; www.flysas.com), Nimb (00-45-88 70 0000; www.nimb.dk);   Noma (00-45 3296 3297); www.noma.dk and Dragsholm Slot (00-45 5965 3300; www.dragsholm-slot.dk ).

This article first appeared in House & Garden, December 2009.

 

 

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