Archives for category: Restaurants

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I was advised to go to Henne by Mrs K who knows a thing or two about these things and she couldn’t have given me a better recommendation for my 50th birthday celebrations. I so wanted it to be as good as I had hoped and it was that and so much more.

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We drove west of Copenhagen over bridges, through fields and across waters and finally when there was almost nowhere else to go as we had crossed the Jutland and arrived at Henne Kirkeby Kro.

 

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From the moment we arrived there was a warm feeling of being somewhere very special. Even the weather cheered up for our arrival. This 200 year old former coaching inn now boasts a Michelin starred restaurant, newly designed hotel rooms but much much more than this is the team who work there who, for one moment in time, bring you into the bosom of their family. The resultant experience is one that is hard to articulate and very hard to forget.

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Chef Paul Cunningham may have been on holiday that week but his presence and inspiration is ever present. He left his Copenhagen restaurant to come here and you can understand why. The grounds boast the biggest kitchen garden in the country and they really do live the field to fork ethos here – not because this is a concept or a marketing tool but rather that it is the only right way to approach food. The fish comes out of the sea which is minutes away and so it is fresher, sweeter, tastier than any fish you will ever try. The meat comes from uber local farms. We shared lunch with the lady who makes all their sausages and then there is the bacon…. words really can’t describe this treat.

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On arrival we took the opportunity to discover the gardens ourselves. Every nook and cranny had something to discover and whilst it wasn’t an abundant time of year, there was so much to see. Someone had a sense of humour and style with so many little touches. We were given tea, cake, a nose into the various rooms that make up the dining room and an introduction to the evening, chatting to Staffordshire born chef Paul P and the most fabulous and wonderful restaurant manager, Jann Olesen.

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After a brief trip to the beach front sunset and a shower to beat all showers, we were ready to be ushered to our room for dinner. We were seated at the table adjacent to the kitchen and welcomed with the noise of REM coming from the kitchen and a lovely natural bowl of flowers and fruits from the estate. We knew we were in for something memorable.

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Bread and Butter the Henne way

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How to describe the food? Well this was cooking at its classical best with superb ingredients and wonderful wines. From the first appetisers and the presentation of the bread and butter, made from a sourdough called Helena named after Helena Christiansen, we knew we were in the hands of a team who were doing things differently. Each course came with care out of a joyous kitchen and if you can genuinely taste the emotion that goes into a dish, then this was love.

Jann made the evening so very special

Jann made the evening so very special

But what made this so much more than all the best meals you have had is the service that came with it. Jann is the best. He finds just the right balance of familiarity, information, fun and professionalism. He is interested and interesting. A huge asset to this team and to the restaurant world. Two or three stars must be imminent.

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A peak into the kitchen workings

At the end of the service we saw the Head Chef hugging his team and thanking them for their hard work. This was leadership in a different way to most kitchens and one he says brings the best out of everyone. Most stay on the estate itself and through this you have a camaraderie that pervades everything. The young teams of the future grow up here and will undoubtedly go on to fabulous things.

Cup of tea anyone?

Cup of tea anyone?

Our wonderful final waiter even went out into the freezing garden at well gone midnight to bring us mint and lemon verbena for a final digestif. We needed it!

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And just hours later, still fuller than full from dinner, we faced breakfast. What a feast. Again the table was set with all things natural from the garden and the usual understated Danish set up that we had come to recognise. Food was simple but fab. That bacon, those sausages, home made yogurt, fruit, breads, eggs done every single way you could imagine, honey from the hives we saw yesterday, jam from the fruits of the trees. Everything was treated with a light touch and a proud heart. How could we refuse.

Fish n Chip Friday!

Fish n Chip Friday!

Rolling out of our rooms and getting ready to leave, we were sat in the lounge when we were presented with gifts. Jars of jam, honey, vac pack loaves of bread from last night. And just when we thought we were ready to go we were once again ushered into our dining room by Jann because, we were told, it was Fish n Chip Friday!! Aarghh. How could we squeeze in a wafer thin mint least of all fish and chips. Dreading the thought that we would have to be rude and refuse this, we waited and chatted to chef who was there doing his orders and switching from his black country British twang to fluent Danish. He told us that through being part of the Henne family he had become a better version of himself and what more can one say than that?

Fish and chips, by the way, were so good that we scoffed the lot.

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Some of the many books available right not on the Hygge concept

Some of the many books available right not on the Hygge concept

The Danes have a word for it. Hygge. Pronounced Hoo-gah. And there are many books lately trying to define it and tell us how to embrace it. Whether it is comfort or mindfulness, embracing the moment or enjoying life’s simple pleasures, it is certainly one of the reasons that my birthday trip to Denmark was so special and so difficult to express in words. They simply can’t translate what happens in your soul when you go out there.

Denmark is said to be the happiest place in the world. In its time it has also been a leading light in history, in the world of design, architecture and more recently in the world of food. The Danes shun hierarchy or fakery, they don’t have high rise buildings that encourage another just a little bit higher, they don’t reward oneupmanship and they don’t really do the classes. The most common form of transport is a clapped out old bike. No need for flashy cars here. It’s all understated elegance.

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I realised going around Copenhagen that I grew up with mid century Danish design at home. The simplicity and clean lines are something that stood the test of time. Arne Jacobsen chairs, Pole Henningsen lights, Georg Jensen silverware. On a recent trip, the designs were all very apparent in so many places. Illums Bolighus is a fantastic department store showcasing Danish designers across their four fabulous floors and is a must go place to shop. Just opposite lies Hay – a lesson in retail homewares and display that everyone should learn from. Totally unique and inspiring.

And then of course there is the food.

The Danish food scene has long been on the list of those interested in food, encouraged by the Noma craze that has gripped Copenhagen since they beat El Bulli to the number one spot in Restaurant Magazines world’s best restaurant list in 2010. It defined this “new Nordic” cuisine and was instrumental in challenging chefs from across the country and indeed the world into going back to the roots, literally, of ingredients and food.

Whilst fascinating and surely a wonderful place to go, it didn’t appeal to me and as this was a big birthday celebration, I opted for anything but Noma itself. Many of the places recommended to me were headed up by chefs who came through the house of Noma but spread their wings further. We ate so well whilst we were there and only once had a disappointing meal, which was ironically the most upmarket place we went to. Even there, the roast celeriac with chestnut beurre noisette was awesome, but the rest – well let’s just leave it there.

So where should you go for food? Here are a few places we tried and there are just many many more we didn’t:

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Grod porridge for breakfast with Coffee Collective coffee and time to explore the whole market area of Torvehallerne

Atelier September: cute boiled egg and rye toast breakfast and probably just as fab for lunch

Palaegarde for a good example of local homely cuisine but just a step above the tourist traps

Radio for sheer elegance of cookery and as near to new Nordic as I wanted to get

The famous Manfred's steak tartar

The famous Manfred’s steak tartar

Beetroot and Goat's Cheese done the Manfreds way

Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese done the Manfreds way

Baest, Manfreds and Relae: Any of these for fab food. Manfreds was my personal favourite and if you like steak tartar it is their favourite but also their wines were incredible. And the area it is in has a lovely feel to it so stroll on from there after a long lunch. Relae is more for dinner and Baest a casual pizza offering

Explore Paper Island and all its food stands.

Queue up for hot chocolate at La Place but don’t be tempted to anything other than share one of their overpriced and somewhat disappointing traditional cakes. Too rich for us.

Eat the liquorice caramels or blond chocolate at Summerbird chocolate shop

Breakfast at Pastis and stroll along the street there even if just to take a picture of the one bed/one cafe Hotel Central

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Danish pastries and great coffee in 108 which is about as near as we got to Noma. Who ever heard of a sweet or a sour or an umami pastry? The restaurant is surely fabulous too and in the adjacent building to Noma

Chill over a beer at the old meatpacking district of Kodbyens. Many recommend Kodbyens Fiskebar although it wasn’t one of my favourites. I preferred our meal at Kul.

Visit:

Tivoli Gardens, whilst letting go of your cynicism for an inner city fairground and taking a couple of rides and a appreciating the history of this place. Go at sunset to appreciate the lighting and romance of it all

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which is well worth the train journey out of town. Make sure you buy your ticket at the central station so that you get a combination of return train and entrance fee all in one.

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Captain your own ride on Go boat for a different angle and fun view of the city

Go and explore the art and statues at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and just take in the atmosphere in the cafe with its cute gift shop just adjacent

Just walk or bike the city and discover all the incredible buildings and places on the way. From Torvehallerne to Nyhavn it is only a 10 minute stroll so take it all in.

Stunning gardens in the cemeteries

Stunning gardens in the cemeteries

Walk through the amazing cemeteries. You can see where Hans Christian Andersen is buried in Assistens or walk through Solbjerg before getting up close and personal with the elephants in the Copenhagen zoo! just by strolling through the adjacent park.

There is so much we didn’t get round to seeing and that’s great because there is a good reason to go back. And then we left to go west – the best reason to go and one for another story another time.

 

It’s been a disappointing few weeks food wise.

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It started with a trip to the much talked about Padella. Anyone and everyone has been talking about it since the duo behind Trullo opened in their Borough Market location. I really enjoyed my Trullo experience so was quite excited by this talk. What’s not to like? Hand made pasta, simple menus, singular concept. The branding and design are lovely – simple. We went on a quiet Sunday and despite the talk of huge queues walked straight to a table. In fact, it was pretty empty which probably didn’t help the experience but it’s all about the pasta, isn’t it?

So the first thing to say is that the Pici cacao e pepe is one of the best dishes you will taste this year. I say taste, because the plate is pretty small and as we were sharing everything it really was a mouthful only of loveliness. The hand crafted, chunky pici is a pasta shape I don’t know and that cheesy, pepper sauce is thick and glossy and salty and yummy. Enough said.

The disappointment was everything else. Burrata that isn’t a patch on my friend M’s creation. Other somewhat average pastas and added to that, a waiter who really was pretty pushy, with no sense of a relaxed Sunday lunch. Thinking back, he probably set the whole tone.

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Fast forward a week and I once again joined the Jones clan for a meal trip to one of our favourites. Pitt Cue Co. has been a tried and tested meal ever since it operated all those years ago from a food truck under the Hungerford Bridge at the Southbank. When it moved to its tiny dungeon location in Soho it had charm and style which is probably why it was packed. The tables were cosy, the sauces in bottles flung on the tables, the cocktails were dirty and the food was lipsmackingly tasty….eaten with your hands and the odd dribble.

This year it clearly had some investment and they unveiled their new snazzy site which has moved to the city. That alone should have set our alarm bells going. It was clearly going to be a different experience. The restaurant itself is a lesson in industrial chic. The bar area talks about home brewed tipples and has high bar seating for walk ins. The open kitchen boasts a huge American-made bespoke grill and their blackboard menu showcases a chalk drawing of their signature mangalitsa pig. But the team have been very open about shunning all the old favourites upon which their reputation was built. Gone is the pulled pork, the pickle back, the enamelware crockery, the BBQ sauces on the table. They see this as a more grown up offering which steps away from the US BBQ theme that they started from and which has been much copied over the years. Why?

In leaving their roots, they have become much like many other places with no real lead. What a shame. It feels like they have gone from leaders to followers. In one article, co-founder Jamie Berger talked about the limited space in Soho which meant limited storage and the issues of running out of things. The irony of all this is that when we got there the restaurant had run out of all the pork on the mains menu. On a bleak Monday evening all they could offer us was the feather blade, the lamb special and the full fish selection. No ribs (a destination dish if ever there was one) , no pulled pork (obviously) and absolutely no cuts of the signature beast unless you count the cold fatty ham. For those who never knew what they were missing, I am sure they will leave satisfied. For the rest …. you will have to reminisce and pray there is the odd rib left for when you get there.

And much like the Padella experience, the disappointment was made so much worse by an aggressive Aussie waitress who obviously had no time for our reminiscing and no respect for the Jones’ commitment to this brand for all those years. Her speed and dismissive service just made me nervous.

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And so to last night. I had the dubious task of recommending a place to meet my New York foodie friends who were over for a couple of days only. I have previously written of their incredible wedding last year which showcased their favourite foods and culminated in a dessert spread from the fab Dominique Ansel. So the pressure was on. I decided to plump for a tried and tested chef…. Nuno Mendes. Taberna do Mercado harks back to his Portuguese roots and once again has been well written up by the many bloggers and writers whose job it is to critique these places.

Maybe it was the fact it was a bank holiday and so very quiet (how come they could only squeeze us in for an 8.45 booking when the place was three quarters empty?) or perhaps once again the annoying waitress whose only criteria for recommending things was the price tag. But once again the food underwhelmed. Surely authentic food that draws from homely childhood cooking would be hot, tasty, embracing. Sadly it was too much style over substance. Some dishes were nice: the mussels, the pork sandwich, the clever olive oil sponge cake. But I wanted so much more than nice. Hey ho.

This morning, I was in my own kitchen. I chopped up some sweet juicy Isle of Wight seasonal tomatoes, drizzled with good olive oil, a dribble of sherry vinegar, and added a good pinch of salt. Then I mixed in a bit of shallot, feta and basil chiffonade. Set atop a toasted piece of sourdough toast it captured the fresh, vibrant flavours that only perfect, matching ingredients can and has set me up for the day. Forget these fancy restaurants. I am staying put for a while.

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Many years ago when I was working at M&S in Lewisham, I would also relief manage the shop in Brixton. It was at the time of the riots and as someone who dipped in and out there, a lesson in dealing with shoplifters and community issues.

Rolling forward some twenty five or so years later I went back to meet friends and discover the burgeoning food scene in this neck of the woods. As I came out of the tube, M&S was opposite me with a new fascia but the same foundations underneath the railway arch. And the same can be said for Brixton itself which has now become gentrified to within an inch of its former life.

Brixton Village has long been a place of great food. Home of the first Franco Manca, the first Chicken Liquor and the first Honest Burger. It has a huge variety of cuisines reflecting the cultural diversity of this city of London. Brixton has long been part of the history of our great city from way back when and the markets here were central to that story. In 2009 the local traders and residents fought hard to stop the development plans that would have destroyed those markets and they were awarded with Grade II status that have protected them and supported them into becoming what they are today.

Mostly it is a story of the inherent community pulling together to protect their independence and build a Microtown that rewards not only themselves, but also everyone in London.

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We started our Sunday tour with gin & tonics in Brixton Village made by a Spaniard who was doing much the same as we had in San Sebastian at the Gintoneria. We progressed from their to Pop Brixton which sits behind the Village as the newest addition to the area having opened in May 2015.

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This community space houses Asian, Ghanian, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and much more set in a relaxed conglomerate of shipping containers cleverly decorated and arranged to create a fun space to enjoy. There are raised beds of herbs and plants, music stages, craft beers and many artistic stands that come together with a space on top to chill out.

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After that we went back through the original market admiring the local produce and amazing fish stalls who would put stands at Barcelona’s La Boqueria to shame. Then one final spin around the enclosed units that house such diversity of food: cheeses, meats, BBQ, Champagne, cakes, crepes, seafood and much more, before grabbing a final gelato back in the Village itself.

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All in all this is a great place to go, to chill and to admire what can be done with the support of all the wonderful young, passionate, driven people that want to do it. Go. Support. Enjoy.