Brace! Brace!


David J. Constable heads to Copenhagen for Chef Nicola Fanetti’s Brace Experience, which blends Lombardy heritage with Nordic flair

Brace! Brace!

With each visit to Copenhagen, I am reminded of what a great eating city it is. The metropolitan offering across cuisines and price points appears to increase so that on this city sojourn, I ate steaming hot dumplings, slurped clean the blue-shell remnants of canal mussels and stumbled on more kebabs than in the Fatih district of Istanbul. I guzzled bowls of pig-innard batchoy, snacked on toasted chaats at Scandinavia’s first Indian restaurant and at the year-round Torvehallerne Market, gorged on countless smørrebrød, returning with avidity for the traditional red sausage hot dog. And the bakeries! At Hart Bagheri, I ate a black sesame cookie that was among the most incredible things I’ve ever eaten, anywhere.

The Green Star means, well, I don’t actually know. Who does? The whole eco-green thing is a mainstream perversion right now

Last year, a friend opened Holy Krapow in Vesterbro to rave reviews, smashing out bowls of red and green chilli shredded pork to some of the most discerning palates in the Nordics. And it was with Sofie from Holy Krapow whom I visited Brace with, the newly anointed Michelin Green Star restaurant in Copenhagen’s Teglgårdstræde neighbourhood. The Green Star means, well, I don’t actually know. Who does? The whole eco-green thing is a mainstream perversion right now, so it makes sense that The Big Red Book has decided to reward restaurants with a solid sustainable practice and those dialled into their ethical and environmental standards.

Chef Nicola Fanetti is driven by one thing and led by another. Relocating from Italy to Copenhagen in 2011, his Italian influence remains strong, unable to shake the imprint of his Lombardy home, while dishes are dictated by cycles in the Danish seasons. This displaced Italian is enthused by his heritage while simultaneously inspired by the Nordic larder around him, working directly with growers, farmers and fishermen, pilfering the hedgerows and woodlands nearby and embracing the whole doorstep food movement thing.

Risotto at Brace

Beginning the “Brace Experience” (which comes in at 995 Danish Krone – more than reasonable in a city like this), we’re hit with a flurry of single-bite morsels, like little bombs of spherified stracciatella balls on wooden spoons that fill my cheeks with bursts of dairy and splotches of Frantoio Muraglia olive oil, cut through by the salty crunch of Icelandic flakes on top. There’s a brilliant crispy Swedish waffle topped with a citrusy barley koji and dusted with dried chanterelles that add much-needed texture after the liquid cheese bomb. Orange pearls of Kalix löjrom roe crown two small deep-fried doughnuts that conceal crème fraiche and chopped chives, and dried tomato croustades are filled with rose petal emulsion and strands of cured Danish mackerel and are an assembly of craft and skill.

Things then take on a slower pace, with a beautifully executed plate in which vivid strands of peeled zucchini from Kiselgaarden, an organic vegetable farm in Central Jutland, are shaped into a “sweet crunch rose” that sits in a tomato and Danish cheese (35-week aged havgus) consommé after having been roasted, smoked then filtered. It’s a light vegetable plate and excruciatingly time-consuming to arrange, I suspect. Then a langoustine – always exciting to read on a menu – from Gilleleje in Sealand’s northernmost point that’s sadly hidden within a thin potato and goat’s cheese casing before being besmirched beneath a field of saffron sauce. Then the entire meal is unconventionally punctuated with the bread course and a 48-hour baked focaccia, brushed with sticky maple syrup and served with a whipped blackcurrant butter. It is a simple, austere, yet downright luxurious course as I rip away doughy sections and slap great swaths of berry butter across warm bread.

Potato at Brace

After bread, there’s a cooked Icelandic sea urchin with risotto, rose-hip and the grated acidic sting of sumac. It’s a southern Italian approach to the delicate globular urchin, which is often eaten raw. Here, Nicola follows the traditions of the Italian Mediterranean and recipes such as Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare in which the urchin is cooked in the pan with the pasta, standard in Puglia, Sicily and across the coastal regions. Then a Karl Johan mushroom, also known as a penny bun. It’s mushroom season, and this specific fungi, with an unusually long stem, has instead been parcelled within three pillowy pink tortellini, served with a brown butter and blackberry sauce, helping stand up against the nuttiness of the foraged shroom. There’s Danish hamachi, cloudberry and sesame, and just as I reach down to loosen my belt from the clutches of my grumbling guts, an entrecôte arrives – literally “between the ribs” from a dairy cow – topped with more foraged shrooms and finished in dark Korean shiso.

Bee Pollen at Brace

Coveted in southern Italy as a confectionary treat, pistachios here introduce the desserts and a parfait combined with the tanginess of gooseberries and crowned superbly with a spoonful of baerii, or Royal Siberian, caviar. It’s the highlight dish, crucial to the cooling of my palate after the shroom & beef course, and demonstrating superbly how the salty addition of caviar pairs with the sourness of gooseberry. A bee pollen cake, the pollen from Seerupgaard, a biodynamic farm south of the city, is served with foraged anise hyssop and bursts of sea buckthorn gel. It is another clever assembly, the pollen designed as a fragile honeycomb, crumbling into a fine powder on the touch.

Glugs of wine are generously interspersed throughout (an extra 795 Krone for seven glasses). All excellent, leaning heavily on the influence of home with tipples from Emilia Romagna, Sicily and the Marche region between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Furthering their no-waste approach, there is a juice pairing too (655 Krone for seven glasses), using homemade infusions and kombucha and the leftover parts of the herbs, fruits and vegetables that produce the baulk of the dining menu. I also discovered that uniforms are made from recycled tablecloths, and staff are given handbooks on sustainability, giving me a clearer insight into the workings of the green movement and how it penetrates and is promoted within the fine-dining community. The culinary offering really is rich in Copenhagen, and it turns out that people here care, too. C


Brace, Teglgårdstræde 8A, 1452 København, Denmark
+45 28 88 20 01;