Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Almanak at The Standard: next level smørrebrød in Copenhagen

The Standard
I just love Copenhagen even though it’s one of those cities that you may leave harbouring a slight inferiority complex. Oh you know, the impossibly good looking locals and their chiselled cheek bones will make you wish your parents swam in a different gene pool while the elegant simplicity of the interior design aesthetic will suggest that you throw out everything you own and start fresh with bare wood and muted natural colours. Actually, if you put those two elements together (the cheek bones and the design that is), you come close to the experience you might have at Almanak, a recently opened eatery right on the harbour’s edge around the corner from the tourist magnet that is Nyhavn. Sensational seasonal Danish food served in a comfortable room by the best of the locals is something to be savoured, whatever the psychiatrist bill.

Before you read on, there is a longer post with recommendations of my favourite places to eat in Copenhagen. You can find it here.



Almanak is actually part of The Standard, a new complex established in October 2013 by Claus Meyer, the man behind the man at the stoves of Noma. It's an ambitious project spanning a gastronomic venue (Studio), the all day Danish dining of Almanak and a modern Indian eatery, Verandah, where the menu is via the London-based Michelin star winning chef at Trishna (and now Gymkhana). The venue is crowned by a jazz club and wrapped up in the prettiest art deco building in Copenhagen. I went for a late lunch when smørrebrød is the focus of the menu, but ratcheted up more than just a notch from the traditional places in Copenhagen like Ida Davidsen.
The stylish interior of almanak
The space inside almanak is all clean lines, beautiful natural lighting and comfortable seating as you’d expect from the Danes. I loved the different shades of blue and grey offset by white and deep browns, while the small but well-formed open kitchen and views onto the water provide enough distraction for any lulls in conversation.
Open kitchen at almanak
I wanted to move in, not just because of the design but because of the food too. The three items from the lunch menu we shared were stunning seasonal examples of a simple local speciality.
Warm liver pate with pickled chanterelles, lingonberries and Clara Friis pear
I started with the warm liver pate with pickled chanterelles, lingonberries and Clara Friis pears. The pate was baked in a terracotta dish giving it a slightly crisp top while maintaining a wobbly, spreadable consistency. The berries added a great acidic counterpoint to the rich liver. I scooped out warm mouthfuls of pate onto the dense bread, and topped it with slivers of crisp, sweet and crunchy pear. What a perfect bite!
A scoop of warm liver pate
Mr B's buttered rye was topped by a just-set soft boiled egg, "Roemoe" shrimps (from the Wadden Sea near the border with Germany), chicken skin (broken off an enormous dried sheet!) and chickweed. There were some terrific textural elements here with the soft egg and crunchy chicken skin plus the freshness of the chickweed.
Soft boiled egg with Roemoe shrimp, chicken skin and chickweed
We shared the deer tartare (sorry Bambi) which our waitress said was the dish that is getting a lot of buzz and I can see why. The dense chewy rye was topped with coarsely minced deer, pickled chanterelles, jet-black dried trompettes, red oxalis (or wood sorrel) and a shake of malt. There were a few more mushrooms in the light mayo that held the layers together. The richness of the deer was tempered by the pickled mushrooms and malt while the dried trompettes kept the textures interesting. I thought this was a terrifically constructed dish and I'm still thinking about it.
Deer tartare with pickled chanterelles, red berries and red oxalis
Prices are decent by Copenhagen standards, with the first two smørrebrød coming in at DKK85 each (about £10) while the deer tartare was DKK115 (£13). With warm and friendly service, which seems to be the norm in Copenhagen, I can't think of many other places that I'd be happy to spend a few hours. Although I only had time for the lunch menu, dinner sounds appealing too with the chef promising dishes based around what his grandmother would prepare, but with modern techniques. That's more than enough to tempt me back to Copenhagen for smørrebrød and much more. I may just need to hire a psychologist to deal with that complex though.


5 comments:

  1. Lovely post. I'm heading to CPH this weekend and will place this on the short list of restaurants to try. Thanks! xx Terren (bejabeja.blogspot.com)

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    1. Thanks Terren. I wrote a longer post on a variety of my favourite places to eat in Copenhagen which might be useful for you too. You can find it on the blog. Have a great trip!

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  2. Perfect! Truth be told, I am heading to CPH because I finally landed a reservation at NOMA (almost cried when I saw a green box on the calendar). As a result, I've neglected my food research more than usual. I just tried making a reservation at Schonnemann and the person on the other end practically laughed when I tried to reserve something for this Saturday. Sigh. I'm also looking at Aamanns, Amass, Conditori La Glace, Fiskebaren, Geist, DOP, Kadeau, Relae, etc. Basically, many of the recs in your Copenhagen post. After NOMA, I think I'll be happy if I leave Copenhagen with a really good meal in each the following categories: smorrebrod, seafood, and classic Danish. Oh and of course some good pastries! :)

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  3. Thanks for the recommendation. We spent our honeymoon in Copenhagen and Norway in August 1974, so are returning this summer for our 40th Anniversary. Couldn't get into NOMA or Geranium, so booked a table at Almanak. Looks lovely and will be a fun place to celebrate!

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    1. Congratulations Sue! I hope you enjoy it - I want to head back for dinner there sometime. Geist is a fun venue too and I love the food there. Safe travels!

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