Two weeks ago, my mom was visiting us again. She tries to come every two months or so, and then stays for about three days, often also during the week. Fortunately, the weather turned beautiful and warm right as she arrived. Unfortunately, I had twisted my ankle (yet again) and sprained it pretty badly, so I couldn’t do a lot of walking. We had tea at Perch’s and barbecue at the “in-laws” one day, and the next day we took a canal tour and had dinner at Relæ.
Copenhagen is no stranger to the World’s 50 Best restaurants list – world-famous Noma has come out at the top four times (2010-2012, and again in 2014). This year, though, it’s been bumped down to a still very impressive third rank. As of the 2015 list, Copenhagen can boast four of the world’s 100 best restaurants:
- Noma at #3 (down from #1 in 2014)
- Relæ at #45 (new entry)
- Geranium at #51 (down from #42 in 2014)
- Amass at #66
Being the total food fanatic and enjoyer of restaurants and dining out that I am, I secretly made the plan to eat at all those top 4 restaurants before the end of the year. Well, maybe before the next list comes out in June 2016 is a more realistic goal.
As of my mom’s last visit, it’s one down, three to go, as we I managed to get a table at Relæ (which I booked the morning after the World’s 50 Best awards had been announced, after which the bookings must have picked up significantly!). Relæ is a new entry at #45 of the list and has one Michelin star. It also won the Sustainable Restaurant Award (given to the restaurant on the 50 Best list with the highest environmental and social responsibility rating).
Head chef Christian Puglisi has worked for both Noma and elBulli before, so has plenty of experience with world-class restaurants. At Relæ, the focus is on excellent food in a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. You have the choice of either a four or seven course menu, neither of which is revealed beforehand to keep the suspense. Wait staff will ask for any allergies or preferences before so if there’s anything you can’t or don’t want to eat, I suggest to have that list ready in your head. We decided on the four courses. The menus, cutlery, and napkins are hidden away in individual little drawers under the table, which is quite cute.
We started out with an apple cider to go with the snack, a “salad sandwich” of fermented salad and goat’s cheese stuffed between stacked leaves of fresh romaine lettuce. I love goat’s cheese, so this was right up my alley, even though I couldn’t really make out the specific taste of the fermented salad. Luckily, the boyfriend is very much not a cheese person, so more for me!
For the menu, you can select a vegetarian option or go with the “omnivore” version. My mom opted for the vegetarian version, so we got to try the whole variety. The starter for the veggie menu was a dish composed of green strawberries and last year’s preserved green strawberries with onions and chives, which reminded me a bit of a salsa. Very tasty and a very interesting way to serve strawberries – without the rich sweetness, but still with a distinct strawberry taste.
The starter for the omnivore menu was an absolutely amazing venison tartar with spring onions and fresh green pine needles. I love tartar, and this one was one of the best I’ve tasted.
During the entire dinner, we were provided with a never-ending supply of the most delicious sourdough bread, perfectly soft on the inside and with a crunchy crust, served with Sicilian olive oil. Our wine choice fell on a French 2011 rosé called “Summertime”, an unusually light colored, fresh wine with a lot of acidity. It was special – very tasty, but not a “crowd pleaser” that you love from the first sip.
Our second course was the same for both menus: Danish new potatoes in a stinging nettle puree, topped with heaps summer truffles. I loved the intense green color of the puree coating the tiny potatoes; and the distinct, wild plant taste of the stinging nettle went together beautifully with the mushroom-y flavor of the summer truffles. Probably one of my favorite dishes this summer!
Next up on our “omnivore” menu was lamb from the East coast of Denmark, served with beach herbs, green seaweed, and cabbage – no doubt a modern interpretation of a classic of traditional Danish cuisine. The lamb was cooked perfectly tender, and the distinct lamb flavor was very subtle and fine. I mean, there were even flowers on the plate!
My mom got a delicious dish made with softly cooked cauliflower, green almonds, pickled elderflower and an almond sauce. The cauliflower flavor was accentuated nicely, but for me, the elderflower wasn’t really discernible.
My mom and I decided to order the cheese course, which the boyfriend predictably opted out of. It was a Danish blue cheese that had been frozen and blitzed into crumbles, served on a bed of fresh herbs. I have to say that I’m usually not a fan of blue cheese. I don’t mind a little bit on a cracker with some jam, but I often find its taste way too overwhelming when it’s included in, say, a burger. But served this way, the fresh herbs and sourdough bread gave a nice balance.
Dessert was the same again for the three of us: an amazingly creamy sage ice cream – if I’ve ever been served ice cream with an absolutely perfect texture, this was it! – with a rhubarb twill and hot rhubarb compote, which was poured at the table to prevent the ice cream from melting. It was super tasty, and I could easily have eaten two or three more portions of it. But I haven’t quite decided yet if was slightly disappointed by how “down-to-earth” the dessert was, or if I appreciate that fact. I mean, I’ve made rhubarb compote at home, and I could probably also make sage ice cream, though admittedly I wouldn’t have had the idea to combine the two flavors.
All in all, a really nice evening and a great experience I would readily recommend to any self-proclaimed foodie living in or visiting Copenhagen. Prices are overall fair, the 4 course menu is DKK 450, with the wine pairing at DKK 395. Wines are DKK 400 and up per bottle.
Relæ – Jægersborggade 41, 2200 København – restaurant-relæ.dk