We’ve only got a small sample size to go on – just a few days in the city, and those switching fast and thoroughly between clear brightness and sudden snowstorms. But a night at BROR feels intensely Copenhagen, a capsule of all the things that the UK’s spent 2016 obsessed with labelling as hygge.
If you’ve got this far into 2016 without hearing the hyggelig hype, it’s been cropping up in the British fashion, food, design and lifestyle press as the Danish concept of soul-warmth. Simple over ornate. Warmth over luxury. Happiness over high-design.
Sounds a lot to the naked ear like, ‘why do things which are uncomfortable and you don’t like?’, and, ‘instead, have you thought about doing things which are pleasing and you like doing…’ And at BROR’s quiet spot in the Latin Quarter they’re nailing it, from the welcome – relaxed and cheerful – to the glimpses you get of the chefs at work over the kitchen counter, making it look high-focus and low-effort at the same time.
On the inside BROR’s light, wooden, and resting in that distinctively-Scandi sweet spot between cosy and stripped-back. For all the unassuming simplicity there’s a hefty reputation, gathering weight over the three years it’s been open in the form of Michelin Bib Gourmands three years running from 2014, and a lot of word of mouth. No enormous surprise, as co-owners Sam Nutter and Victor Wagman are both ex-Noma – the Copenhagen restaurant from René Redzepi, where the 20-course menus and modern Nordic cooking regularly earn a place in the top 5 of the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants. For a lot of people the attraction of BROR’s going to be the possibility of Noma-level food-craft coming with a lower price and a higher chance of booking a table without a month’s advance preparation.
Wild food, foraged ingredients and nose to tail dining are a fundamental part of their ethos. On their Instagram feed that manifests as regular close-ups of frilled, delicate-looking alien things – could just as easily be the inside of a cow’s lung as the silky underside of wild mushrooms – and bowls of forlorn pale flesh with captions like #dicksindemand. And in person on the night we visit that manifests as starting snacks of bulls’ balls with tartare sauce, followed by bull penis – a small packet of deep-fried, spiderweb-light strands labelled ‘Crispy Dicks’.
It’d be extremely anti-hyggelig to make you eat something horrendous for the sake of theatre, or for the sake of those nose to tail principles. I doubt anything that isn’t carefully judged, aimed at being memorably good to eat as well as virtuous to eat, makes it onto the menu at BROR. Both snacks are simple and great – the bulls’ balls with the edge over the Crispy Dicks, which are good in the way that tiny fragments of almost anything, fried till crunchy, might be.
Not all of it’s as phallic as the start. Like the rest of the menu, the snacks change regularly. But when we’re there the bulls’ balls are followed by cod cheek with horseradish, squid with a slick of gooseberry and parsley, and monkfish liver with potato pancake and shallots. For a place offering a five-course set menu – or the four-course LilleBROR menu for those with fewer hours or Krone to spend at the restaurant – this is starting to look suspiciously like we’ve reached five courses with the snacks alone.
The course that comprehensively blows both our minds is one of the desserts – the first of two in this theoretically five-course dinner, now looking more like fifteen. It’s a small bone marrow crème brûlée, served in the hollow of an upright bone. Like the other canapés, courses and palate cleansers that came ahead of this one, it’s a balance of striking and functional, the clunk of your spoon against the bone reminding you what you’re eating at every scoop, the richness of the bone marrow lacing through the cream.
Not everywhere could pull off this amount of offal, and make it a – fairly enormous – pleasure rather than a novelty or a dutiful nod to principled, low-waste cooking.
But Wagman and his team have it down to an art. You’ll have a ball at BROR. You’ll probably have several.
The BROR menu is a series of canapés followed by five courses, for 595 DKK, with a menu of matching wines available. The LilleBROR menu is four courses for 395 DKK, with the option to include snacks or matching wines available.
Restaurant BROR, Sankt Peders Stræde, 24A, 1453 Copenhagen, Denmark. 0045 32175999. Website.