Food 2017 – Kadeau, Copenhagen

Monday 13th February, 2017 – Kaedeau, Copenhagen, Denmark

I’m currently trapped in Copenhagen on a three-week training course, and because I work for a very civilised company, they offered to fly me home or fly Lynne out for the weekend. If I’d opted to go home, I’d have been arriving late on Friday and then having to turn round and go back again mid-afternoon Sunday, which didn’t seem to me like a good idea given the amount of intense learning I was also expected to do. Plus, Monday was Lynne’s birthday and the only way we could figure out to spend it together was if she took a couple of day’s off and joined me in Denmark.

Now anyone who’s been reading anything on here will know we’re somewhat food obsessed, and the capital of new Nordic cuisine was surely the place for us. Of course you can’t get a table at Noma without selling a kidney, and you probably wouldn’t be able to pay for it if you did get one without selling the other one. We cast around a little, checked the White Guide, and watched Rick Stein’s “Long Weekends” episode about Copenhagen and decided that Kadeau, which has a Michelin star and is close to the hotel, was the one to go for. It was surprisingly easy to get a table on a Monday night and so, after a gruelling day of accountancy, we rocked up slightly ahead of time. The venue itself is incredibly discreet, just a solid wooden door, painted blue, and a doorbell with the word Kadeau inscribed just beneath it.

We rang the bell and waited. The two charming young people who opened the door knew who we were, and took our coats, hanging them in the wardrobe in the wood panelled hallway, before leading us to what they called the living room, where we were ushered to a pair of chairs by the window, looking out onto the courtyard garden where candles burned in the recesses set between piles of firewood. There was a gentle waft of woodsmoke in the foyer too, from the fireplace in the kitchen. The entire brigade come out to greet diners when they arrive, which is an interesting touch, if slightly unnerving!

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The first thing that happened after that was the delivery, in a tiny bowl, of a lovely roasted beef and kombu broth, like a very sophisticated version of an oxo cube, the flavour deeply meaty and deeply gorgeous, and just the thing to warm you back up on a freezing cold Copenhagen night.

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From there we were moved to the main room, sitting again by the window where I would see both the garden and the kitchen in action. The chairs are comfortable, and covered in animal skins (presumably sheep) which make things feel very cosy, especially given how much space there is between the tables (they seat just 24 when full). This is not a restaurant where you will overhear your fellow diners, and it’s obvious that they work at full capacity to feed and give enormous pleasure to a very small number of diners.

After being presented with hot towels to clean our hands, there followed a brief discussion where we decided to opt for the full wine package, and thus we were presented with a glass each of non-vintage Vincent Charlot, le Fruit de ma Passion Champagne.

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With it came the next dish of the night, a fire-baked kohlrabi, which made me wonder what I’ve been doing with kohlrabi all this time to not know just how much intensity of flavour it can manage to have. It was served in an ice-dish, and was flavoured with black currant leaf and white currants, the fruit adding a depth of taste to what is usually a very bland, very humble vegetable. And oh so pretty!

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What came next was described as a snack, and was a biscuit-like confection that packed an unexpected whack of meatiness in the shape of lots of teeny tiny cockles, offset by crunchy cubes of apple, and some sea lettuce, the base made up of fermented wheat. I could have eaten any number of them!

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We changed wines just after it as we were now squarely in fish territory, and moved on to a lovely citrussy muscadet, a 2015 la Boheme from Marc Pesnot. All of Kadeau’s wines are what are known as natural or living wines, which can be problematic if not carefully chosen. These were clearly very carefully chosen, something that became ever more obvious as we worked our way through the evening.

Speaking of problematical, Lynne is no fan of cabbage, and neither of us like oysters (or at least we didn’t think we did) so the next plate was something of a challenge to us both. An oyster, poached, wrapped in a Savoy cabbage leaf, with sauerkraut and parsley sounded likely to be the thing we’d struggle with – even lightly coated with dried pea dust. As it turned out Lynne enjoyed it far more than she expected to and I found it delicious, the iron bite of the cabbage off-setting the oyster, while there was an unexpected sweetness to the sauerkraut that really brough everything together.

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Next was an intricate terrine of various coloured beetroot, a thing of minute, lapidary beauty, which was described as “preserved vegetables”, and which was simply wonderful, the beetroot taste shining through, surrounded by a sea trout dashi  and a hint of salted plum, the whole almost Japanese in its attention to detail and its umami hit from the dashi. Apparently every three days they spend hours crafting these terrines, and that attention to detail shows.

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A change of emphasis next, with a switch in wines to a 2014 Mosse Le Rochefer from Anjou, which had enough punch to cut through the fat in the next dish, what was again simply described as “roasted bread”. What we got was a disc of emmer bread, golden from the oven, still warm, soft and glorious, especially when we added to herb butter that came with it, the top speckled grey from cherry wood embers. I could have eaten far more of it than was supplied and was not surprised to be told that that is precisely why they serve it as a single course, to stop people filling up on bread and not being able to eat what else is in store each evening.

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A further round of hot towels appeared as we cleaned off the butter!

Another change of pace followed, with an utterly stunning piece of cold and hot smoked salmon, the fish served by one of the chefs simply spooning it from under the harder surface into a small bowl. Once in the bowl tomato water, from tomatoes picked and preserved in September, sloes and tiny pickled green figs, all from the island of Bornholm whence comes as much of the restaurant’s food as they can manage (pretty much all of it), were added to the bowl to provide an almost soup like texture. The fish shone through, its delicate pink flesh providing salt and softness combined to wonderful effect.

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And then, before we knew it, we were back on the “snacks” again, which seems to be a very Danish thing! First were delicate shavings of langoustine and walnuts, on red berries that were jam-like in consistency, and lavender. The whole was creamy when you bit into it, the flavours intensifying as you chewed it. It was spectacular, the fruit holding the whole together as a satisfyingly sticky experience.

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With these we found ourselves drinking a 2015 de Moor, le Vendangeur Masque, a delightful Chablis that went perfectly with the next dishes, things of lovely fishiness that I could have happily kept right on eating for the rest of the night.

A pair of mussels, in their shells, arrived on a bed of seaside pebbles and straw, the flesh of the bivalves offset by hemp, pine buds and a dash of cream. A small, intense mouthful of loveliness…

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And next a slightly surprising item, the skirt from a turbot, a part of the fish that often ends up being cast aside not eaten, had been glazed and was served with preserves from the kitchen. It was genius and next time we have turbot I will be making sure we eat the fringe pieces as well, rather than setting them aside for fish stock at a later date.

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A small vegetable tartlet (the “what’s in the garden right now” tartlet) was next up, a crumbly pleasure that tried to fall apart when you bit into it and that contained crab as well as kale, crunched to the sort of texture that you find in Chinese “seaweed”. It delivered on so many fronts, with the taste of the crab and the crispiness of the greenery.

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The last of the “snacks” was a piece of celeriac, roasted to a soft texture and served with a sauce of Havgus cheese, fermented white asparagus and woodruff that had a creamy bitterness that offset the celery-inflected vegetable and again made me think about how I will cook certain vegetables in future. By now we were on wine number 5, a 2014 Domaine de la Tournelle, Fleur de Savagnin from Jura. It turns out Jura wines are very on trend in Denmark, and this was not the first one we encountered over the weekend. It was probably the best one though.

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Up next was the first of two meat courses, a piece of pork that was almost bacon-like in its texture and taste, served with some Icelandic kelp, angelica and a small quantity of koji butter. It was rich, delicious and probably slightly bigger than we really needed at this stage of the evening. I managed to demolish it though. I rarely eat pork because it tends not to agree with my digestive system – so it has to be very good indeed before I’ll tackle it. This was well worth the risk! And it also went very well with the 2001 Domaine Saint Nicolas, La Grand Piece from the Loire that was served with it (oh, and it was sheer delight to see the beautifully clean, polished glassware that kept right on coming – I once worked in a .5-star hotel back in the day and I know how much work goes into that).

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We were winding down now, and with just three more plates to come, the next a rib of lamb cooked until it was peeling away from the bone. It came with some fermented pumpkin and some wild garlic (ramson) shoots, the garlicky, oniony notes of the greenery working brilliantly with the tender meat, and the pumpkin providing crunch and sourness to take the edge off the fattiness of the lamb. The only thing to do was pick up the bone and set about the meat with your teeth. This was not delicate, but it was immensely satisfying! We pitched in and for a few moments all you could hear were happy little noises!

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We were on the gentle run to the finish now, with a final change of wine, to a light (5%) 2015 Donati Camillo, Malvasia Dolce from Emilia-Romagna, a fizzing confection of sweetness to go with the two desserts we would now be presented with. The first dessert was vegetable-based, at least in part with ymer (a fermented milk product), buttermilk fudge, potato and sweet cicely, the latter two items formed into a spiky structure of delicate beauty. It was a lovely, delicately flavoured dish with a lot of textural contrasts.

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The final dish wasn’t so pretty but it packed a flavour punch, with fermented raspberries and white currants providing sour/sweetness and a walnut schnapps adding a kick to the last plate of the evening.

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We were stuffed, and had had a fabulous evening, with many of the chefs wishing Lynne a Happy Birthday as they served the various plates (a flag was put on our table to show there was a birthday!) and afterwards Rasmus Kofoed offered us a guided tour of the kitchen. We touched on several subjects including the fact that Kadeau doesn’t actually make money – for that they rely on the other restaurants that Nicolai Nørregaard owns in Copenhagen and Bornholm, particularly the space that was Kadeau before they moved next door. The trouble with Kadeau is that to produce food of this complexity, requires almost as many staff as diners, and to do more covers, they’d need to double the brigade… It’s almost a no-win situation and explains both the small number of covers and the high price of dinner.

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Save up! Rob a bank! Get to Kadeau by whatever means possible… We had the advantage of not having paid for hotels or flights so felt free to go a bit nuts (!) financially.

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