Friday February 12th, 2017 – Alberto K, Radisson Blu Royal, Copenhagen
Although not normally a big fan of hotel restaurants (they can swing wildly in my experience between averagely bland to downright horrible, and are usually overpriced, the Radisson Blu Royal’s sister-hotel in Copenhagen, the Scandinavia, being a case in point) this didn’t stop me from booking a table at the Alberto K, confident in the fact that it features in both the White Guide and Michelin, and to add to the lure the restaurant is on one of the upper floors of the Arne Jacobsen-designed style icon in mid-Copenhagen, apparently offering superb views over the city.
We arrived slightly early and stopped off in the hotel bar to admire the lobby, the Jacobsen-styled furniture and drink a cocktail each.
After a very fine apple martini, we presented ourselves to the concierge, who whisked us into the lift and sent us to the 20th floor, where we were greeted by the maitre d’ (who looked far too young to be doing the job). She ushered us to a table by the window overlooking Tivoli and the town hall, everything beautifully lit up even though Tivoli is currently closed until spring arrives.
You might expect the Alberto K to be Italian in its leanings, but it’s nothing of the sort. It is in fact another exponent of the New Nordic cuisine, and it does it with some style. The cooking may be new, but the service is deeply old-fashioned and none the worse for that, with white gloved waiting staff ready to meet the diners needs quietly, unobtrusively and almost before they know what they want themselves.
We opted for the 7-course menu only to very quickly find it was somewhat more than 7 once you factored in the “snacks” served in advance. We started with a serving of incredibly slim and very cheesy cheese straws, with a chicory leaf wrapped in cured ham each, and some light and fluffy cream cheese to dip them in. This was looking like a very good start indeed. The delicate straws tended to snap off if you dipped them in the cheese, but that wasn’t about to stop us!
Expecting we’d start the menu there, we were slightly surprised to next receive some tiny balls of cucumber and caviare, to be eaten in one bite. We did as we were told and enjoyed the resulting flavour explosion, wondering to each other just how good this was going to turn out to be.
It was pure theatre for the next item, an oyster each sitting in a bowl of swirling fog.
A tiny chunk of apple and some soured cream worked very well with the smoothest, softest, least-chewy oyster I have ever eaten. I don’t normally like oysters. I liked this one very much! And we still weren’t done with the “snacks”. Next in line was a dish that majored on pickled items and fish roe, particularly some tiny onion layers, delicately lovely and refreshing.
Another snack came next, a tiny bowl of richly flavoured broth.
The only snag was attempting to extract it from the bowl with the Jacobsen spoons, which look very stylish but are a bugger to use!
After that was cleared, one of the waiters brought a tiny, beautiful bread roll and some butter and we were finally at the start of the menu, which was probably just as well unless they were planning to fill us up with appetisers.
There was of course also some excellent butter, and some whipped butter.
And then it arrived, the first course, described as raw beef, Osietra caviar, pickled asparagus and potato.
In effect this was a carpaccio, with caviar on top, and served alongside the most wonderful potato salad I’ve ever eaten. It somehow managed to be the essence of what a great potato salad should be, with finely chopped ingredients decorated with tiny viola flowers. I could have eaten any amount of it. It was accompanied by a 2015 Riesling Trocken, Weingut Wittmann, from the Rheinhessen region.
From the extremes of beef and caviare we moved to a more traditional combination, though with a seriously Nordic twist to it. Scallop, Spinach, crisp bread and champagne sauce.
The crispbread provided a lovely light crunch alongside the spinach, the scallops were tiny but perfect, and the Champagne sauce was superb! Again the wine choice was superb, this time a 2014 Bourgogne Blanc “Les Millerands”, Domaine Dublère which complemented but didn’t overwhelm the scallops. Things were going very well indeed from what seems to be a very calm, quiet kitchen.
Next we were staying with fish, with a piece of fillted monkfish, served with parsley root, browned butter and cordifole. The monkfish was again cooked to perfection, and went well with the butter, as it did with the parsley root, not something I’ve eaten before. It reminded me of salsify but with a milder flavour and far less woody than the latter can sometimes be. The cordifole (and I can’t find an English translation) was reminiscent of nasturtium leaves, peppery and crisp.
For wine we stayed in Burgundy, this time with a big-flavoured 2010 Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine “Clos du Four”, Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon.
There was now a shift away from the sea and towards the forests, with a dish of winter truffle, salsify, almond and creamy Havgus cheese. The waitress shaved the truffle onto the dish at the table, wearing white gloves again, in a nice piece of theatre. The creamy, woods at dusk in autumn flavours were a knock out, helped along by another of those Jura wines the Danes seem so fond of (and that I’ve liked since I used to go skiing close by), a 2011 Savagnin “Côtes du Jura”, Domaine Berthet-Bondet.
From here we moved into the offal and meat realms, with a brilliant piece of seared duck liver, served with beetroot, cured duck breast and what they translated as long pepper.
It was a thing of beauty even before the sauce was poured over it, with the prettiest, thinnest slices of duck, rolled into tiny cylinders and surrounding the duck liver. The 2013 Gevrey-Chambertin “Vieilles Vignes”, Domaine Marc Roy was just perfect, although we were starting to wonder what it was going to take to pry the sommelier loose from their grip on Burgundy by now…
Turned out what it took was lamb, with celeriac, fermented garlic and trumpet mushrooms (trompettes), another stunner of a dish, with depths to it that meant you wanted it to go on forever – even if you knew you’d never manage to eat the rest of the meal if it did. The olives gave it a slight hint of the Mediterranean but everything else was Nordic through and through, even the garlic.
And the wine came from the new world this time, in the shape of a beefy 2014 Alexander Valley “Geyserville”, Ridge Vineyards, all the way from California and trailing sunshine in its wake.
We were winding down now, with just (!) a dessert to go. The massive white plate that it arrived on, plus the almost entirely white ingredients, echoed the oyster that had been served at the start, and all I can say is that of the yogurt, white chocolate, vanilla and yuzu it’s hard to pick a stand out part.
We rounded meal off perfectly with this delicate series of morsels, and the accompanying 2014 Riesling “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr” Auslese, from good old Weingut Fritz Haag and the Moselle, a vineyard we actually know (and intend to reacquaint ourselves with this summer). It was a glorious meal, in an historic setting and our latest gastronomic weekend was off to what can only be described as a very auspicious start!