108’s brilliance finally shines through

Noma's more affordable sidekick, 108 delivers an elegant and triumphant new Nordic menu

Travel guides like to claim that no Copenhagen experience is complete without dining at Noma. Perhaps they’re right – even if you suspect fewer people have succeeded in the quest than repeated the credo.

For many, though, eating at the world’s most famous restaurant is no more than a pipe dream. With similar restaurants in the city proving equally exclusive, it can be tricky to enjoy new Nordic nosh without breaking the bank.

But in the last few years a number of restaurants have cottoned on to the problem and opened relatively affordable versions of themselves.

Lazy hacks describe them as ‘value-for-money’ spots, which suggests that diners elsewhere don’t get that. The alternative is to label them as an extension of the family –’little sisters’ or ‘baby brothers’ – which implies they’re smaller, brattier and, unlike the firstborn, allowed to make more mistakes.

Raw lamb with last year's pickles. Photo: Hannah Grant

Raw lamb with last year’s pickles. Photo: Hannah Grant

That may have explained 108, which took over Noma’s kitchen for a few months at the start of the year when Rene Redzepi and his team headed to Australia.

As pop-ups go, 108 was something of a letdown. Despite flashes of brilliance, too many dishes misfired. Worse still, the ambience was misjudged, the service sloppy, and the seating uncomfortable.

What a delight, then, to discover that having moved into digs of its own a stone’s throw from the ‘kissing bridge’ on Strandgade, 108 is a triumph. Gone are the woes of winter – the service is exemplary, the ambience spot on, and the cooking much improved.

The menu nods confidently to new Nordic. Think: mackerel cured in celery vinegar with salted gooseberries and spruce oil; raw lamb with elderberry capers, nasturtium and rosehip; and braised oxtail seasoned with fresh pine.

Highlights include a trio of dishes designed to be shared: grilled seasonal greens, lamb shoulder with onions and blackcurrant leaves, and grilled monkfish with chamomile-cooked cabbage. Sharing dishes often implies stinginess, but not at 108. You get a hunting knife to carve the miso-lacquered lozenge of monkfish, such is its heft, and you won’t go home hungry.

Sourdough cone with toasted barley cream. Photo: Hannah Grant

Sourdough cone with toasted barley cream. Photo: Hannah Grant

The puddings are fun, too. A bowl of wild Swedish blueberries comes with birch syrup, cornflowers, and double cream whipped with ale. It looks elegant, and tastes like the tipsy end of a late summer’s day spent foraging in the forests of Skåne. Equally inventive is a cone made from leftover sourdough, filled with blackcurrants and toasted barley ice cream. It comes topped with chopped hazelnuts and propped in a bowl of barley. Instagram fame beckons.

Someone’s had a think about the prices, too, because they’re no longer in nosebleed territory. But if 108 still looks wallet-busting to you, here’s a tip: go to its cafe, The Corner, instead. Every morning they bake three kinds of pastry: rosehip, blueberry, and fermented beef. At 40 kroner, they’re not cheap, but the latter in particular is fast becoming a cult favourite – if you want to experience a bit of that Noma magic, it’s the best 40 kroner in town. The baristas may tell you to pair it with an espresso. Fine, but if you’re on a budget, take a filter coffee instead. It’s just as good, and the refills are free. And that truly is value for money. M

Strandgade 108, CPH


By James Clasper

Contributing editor. @jamesclasper

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