Concluding our short series in the Danish capital, Nathalie Bonney dons her hood, grabs her basket and skips out of town to find a cottage in the woods, a cottage with a difference…
It’s a chill 8 degrees celsius, a sharp wind whips up the shore’s bleached sand, simultaneously ricocheting off the North Sea’s glassy surface. Klampenborg beach is just 15 minutes on the train from central Copenhagen but in early Spring, it seems a lot further away. The bookshop opposite the station is the kind of store you could find a corner to take a nap in but the friendly white-haired owner points us in the right direction to the beach.
In summer Klambenborg is full of beachgoers, dining on fresh seafood at informal eateries, swimming and sunbathing. But apart from a handful of dog walkers and a couple of hardy shisha pipe smokers, the beach is quiet on our visit. However, Klampenborg is still worth going to out of season thanks to two fantastic restaurants the Michelin starred Den Rode Cottage (Red Cottage) and its smaller, less formal offshoot Den Gule Cottage (Yellow Cottage).
We are eating at Den Rode. The 1940s-built stone red building and former beach house, then forestry office is hidden in the woodlands. It makes for a magical, if slightly tricksy find in late afternoon as the sun is going down and an eerie walk back to the station by the end of our epic tasting menu. By this time the inky sky, studded with a glittering of stars, cannot detract from how dark it gets in the woods, by the sea, out of town (bring a torch).
The Red Cottage experience is a tasting menu. And an 8-course tasting menu at that. From the few spoons of hearty ham hock bouillon appetiser, garnished with the pretty yellow-petalled flowers that grow in the woods, through to the liquorice caramel infusion tea at the end of our meal, Den Rode Cottage makes the most of local ingredients and seasonal produce. The menu changes every four weeks and all the herbs come from the restaurant’s own garden, mushrooms are picked from the forest . ‘Every day at 4 o clock we go for a walk around,’ says owner Anita Klemensen.
The countryside’s influence – and provision – is manifest by the decor too: black and white photo prints of the woods and deer, twisted black chair backs that look like a bare tree’s twisted branches and appetisers served on pieces of bark.
But for all the Fairytale-feel whimsy, this is still a Michelin-starred restaurant and thanks to Klemensen’s formal chef training the dishes go beyond rustic countryside cuisine. Along with partner Lars Thomsen, Klemensen serves up dishes layered with flavour upon flavour, interesting textures and beautifully plated up. With spells working in the capital city, she is no stranger to Copenhagen’s gastronomic cooking scene and it’s telling that her own favourite restaurant, Pluto, is a popular establishment for tasty sharing plates. ‘Everytime I come into Copenhagen I think I should go somewhere else but even when I go for dinner I will still find myself sitting at one of the bar stools late evening and ordering one of the new dishes and maybe a cocktail.’
Like Pluto, Den Rode Cottage serves up dishes that combine bold and delicate flavours.
Pan fried crispy sweet bread is served up with celery and pickled green tomato, sliced so thin they are transparent. Mussel foam tops fried cod, alongside smoked almonds, while Anita’s personal favourite dish combines a quail egg, the vivid yellow yolk oozing out, with leek and cream of asparagus.
Given Anita has previously worked as a dessert chef, it’s no surprise that the puddings don’t disappoint. A dish of pickled slices of apple and Jerusalem artichoke with Skyr (Icelandic) ice cream and a sprinkling of bitter liquorice is the perfect palate cleanse before the final sweet-tooth primed dish of the evening pear, hazelnut and Azelia chocolate with sugared hazelnuts.
With only enough space for 26 diners, it’s worth booking in advance and thankfully unlike current ‘best restaurant in the world’ Noma you won’t need to book your dinner before you book your flights.
Den Rode Cottage offers the 8-course tasting menu for 800Kr. Lighter versions of three, five and seven courses are available (500, 650, 750 Kr respectively). Wine pairings are extra. For more information, visit www.denroedecottage.dk.