The energy of the Copenhagen dining scene never fails me. Good memories from the past bring me back, again and again. This time the journey took me to a 3 year young restaurant, Relae on Jægersborggade, a street in the northern edge of the city centre. The first time I discovered this misplaced street full of small independent shops was when I was looking for ceramics by Inge Vincents. The only thing edible I sampled from this street back then was a cinnamon bun (with chocolate) from Meyers Bageri, which by the way is one of the better ones I’ve had.
There is not many hints of a Michelin starred restaurant on the street. I found Relae through a recommendation from Trine’s Very Good Food blog. There is also an article featuring the restaurant in the 4th issue of Swedish Fool Magazine.
The man behind Relae is Christian Puglisi, a half-Norwegian and half-Italian with experience from former world number one restaurants El Bulli and Noma. As opposed to these two restaurants Relae takes a simpler approach to food, without taking away the magic of transforming ingredients into inspiring dishes. It is also almost fully organic in its use of ingredients and wines but it doesn’t follow the mantra of foraging locally that the new Nordic movement preaches.
We came here for lunch when two set menu options: meat or vegetarian. Both menus each have 4 dishes. For dinner there is one more option of having the 7 course menu. On the wine side the wine pairings for the tasting menu were all French. Looking at the wine list with about 22 of 24 pages filled with French bottles I suspect that the head sommelier must either be a Francophile or there are more options for organic wines in France.
The restaurant started off with almost nothing other than chefs with great ideas but with time the fruit of success has allowed gradual improvements. Tables have been revamped and now contain a neat drawer for each seat with all dining ware you will need for the meal.
We ordered a starter before starting the tasting menu. The batter was light and jerusalem artichoke very soft. It was interesting but a bit oily.
Warm bread served with a citrusy olive oil from Sicily.
“Natural” wine is all in vogue at the moment wherever you are. It was no surprise that it would be part of the wine package at Relae. Pétillant Naturel is a method of producing sparkling wine. Unlike traditional Champagne method there is no addition of sugar for secondary fermentation. Bubbles are less intensive and most important of all, each bottle could be a surprise.
This one from Langedoc had a nice savouriness to it and a bit of acidity which went well with the squid.
What looks like flat rice noodles was in fact the best squid I’ve had in my life. Creating thin slices works wonder for something with chewy texture like squid and gives a lighter feeling to the dish as well. The flavours of brown butter and squid was subtle harmony. Great dish portraying squid from a different angle!
The second wine I had was another white from Loire. Esquiss is made of the less heard of grape Menu Pineau (Arbois). It’s a wine full of character starting with a very strong nose. There is an oxidative quality to the wine paired with some oak.
The porridge of grains and mushroom has been pressure cooked which makes all textures gravitate towards softness. There are no big flavours on the plate but rather an interplay between the light textures found in the bowl. I think the dish lacked some dimension. It was helped by the characterful wine instead.
The third wine is a red from a biodynamic winemaker in Beaujoulais.
This dish was my second favourite after the squid starter. The duck was cooked perfectly. The skin was crispy. Textures from the greens on the plate, cabbage, kale and brussel sprout made the dish more lively. Why Gothenburg for the duck, I don’t know…
At first sight it seems like one of those desserts made of one ingredient in different shapes and textures but flavour-wise quite dull. Different textures would be true and flavour-wise it was a journey from smokiness in the crispy flakes to a pure apple flavour in the ice cold shavings. Light and refreshing end of the meal.
I think it’s difficult to find better value for food at this caliber in Copenhagen. Relae delivers what I consider to be refreshing food without any fuss. Dishes are kept simple with focus on a few ingredients only. The service was easy and relaxed. Here you can come for 1 Michelin star food without the 1 Michelin star pretentiousness.
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For more photos from Relae, please visit my Flickr set.
2200 København N
Tel. +45 3696 6609