It’s the milkshake which clinches it.
I’m eating dessert at the finale of a three-course Copenhagen dinner. Or, rather, I’m drinking dessert, for it’s a malty strawberry shake. It’s more akin to being in McDonalds or Ed’s Diner than a top-notch restaurant—and that’s precisely the point.
But let’s rewind, to the place where this trend for easy-going eating was borne. A second venue from the team behind Michelin-starred Relæ, which sits opposite on affluent Jaegersborggade, Manfred & Vins is primarily a wine bar—hence the tiers of bottle-lined shelves—but just as famed for its food. As with the strictly-natural plonk, dishes here are deliberately uncomplicated: all that’s fussed over are the high-quality ingredients.
The headline-grabber is the Chef’s Selection, which I unhesitatingly order: seven small plates and three glasses of wine for a mere £25. It’s consistently fantastic, especially the charred onions with elderflower and cheese. I could conceivably be in Relæ, and yet I’m certainly not: while Relæ is laid-back, Manfred & Vins takes the whole informal thing far further via its salvage-furniture vibe and carelessly-photocopied menus. I wish I’d worn my Converse.
Relæ’s team launched Manfred & Vins in 2012, the first top-end Copenhagen restaurant to open a lower-cost, lower-key sister establishment. A later disciple was No.2, which showed up last year—courtesy of Michelin-starred parent venue AOC—on a Christianshavn quay. This is a revamped, glassy part of Copenhagen, more corporate than tourist in character.
The sparse interiors, echo-inducing wooden flooring, orderly rows of tables, conservatory-type windows… it’s sleek and sharp, but not fun
And perhaps that’s the problem. See, the restaurant is great: “New Nordic” minus the insect stuff, again with specialist suppliers and again a sage sommelier. All of my tapas-size eats are delicious, right up to the concluding strawberries with liquorice. And, at £44 for six servings, the value’s once more gasp-inducing; AOC charges thrice as much.
But No.2 just feels a bit soulless. The sparse interiors, echo-inducing wooden flooring, orderly rows of tables, conservatory-type windows… it’s sleek and sharp, but not fun.
Especially not when subsequently compared to Hija de Sanchez, a brightly-daubed stand that just arrived in Torvehallerne food market. And one with a celebrity cook: Rosio Sanchez, formerly the pastry chef at Noma. For this, Copenhagen’s first-ever taco stand, she’s been blessed with tips from Rene Redzepi himself.
“It must be very different to working in Noma,” reflects my friend Marie-Louise, as we dine on benches just yards from Rosio’s new outdoor home, shooing away emboldened crows. Too right. It’s also very different to visiting Noma principally in that you can visit. While the waiting list there can nudge six months—and that when the restaurant’s actually in town; Redzepi is temporarily relocating it to Australia in 2016—we queued for approximately six seconds.
Two tacos cost £7.50: Marie-Louise has opted for crispy cod skin, and I’ve chosen a messy roasted-pork-and-pineapple number. Hers is the better, but both rival anything I’ve had in London.
More ex-Noma chefs await in Uformel, a “younger brother” to another Michelin star-winner, Formel B, since last summer. Located in the central København V neighbourhood, “Uformel” translates as “informal”, but take that with a pinch of salt: its exposed-brick and gold-plated feel wholly upmarket. Also better with some salt is their beef tartar with croûtons and tomatoes, the star of a fancy four-course menu for £74—including a glass of wine per plate.
I yearn to be over there, sipping al-fresco Mikkellers and making silly shapes
The nosh here is more international than No.2, yet the overall experience feels equally staid. Across the road is a pop-up garden with food trucks, beer, bands and backgammon games; by comparison, murky Uformel seems a bit dull, and I yearn to be over there, sipping al-fresco Mikkellers and making silly shapes.
I’m much happier inside Cafe lillebror, a few fast-gentrifying blocks south. A younger sibling to the Bib Gourmand-winning Bror, this busy corner joint serves slow-filtered coffees and bacon sandwiches at breakfast, then classic smørrebrød through the afternoon. After 5.30, it’s dinner time; with space for only 30, you’re best reserving. The décor is simple and warm: wooden tables, window seats, slate floors and two vintage chandeliers.
And, costing £35, the three-course dinner is the most satisfying of my trip: a smouldering smoked cod, enlivened by creamy horseradish, lamb rump with rich potato purée and cherries, and finally that milkshake. The first two plates would, once again, fit in seamlessly at the parent restaurant.
But the shake sure wouldn’t, I think, noisily slurping away. More’s the pity. C
Picture (top): Manfreds & Vin