Like a television network in desperate need of a hit, Copenhagen restaurants just can’t stop launching spin-offs.
The guff is always the same – ‘this is our edgy baby brother, our sassy little sister’ – but the subtext is clear. “Can’t afford the borage we’ve foraged or the sorrel we’ve sourced? Then this place is for you. We’ve turned up the music, let down our hair, slashed the prices – and the seats to boot.”
Leading restaurant AOC has No. 2, Formel B’s got the slightly–more-imaginatively-titled Uformel, and Kadeau claims two offshoots: Pony and Eldorado – the latter sounding more like an Istedgade strip joint than a restaurant in Christianshavn.
Hardly underexposed, Noma now has a spin-off of its own. While head chef René Redzepi and his team spend the year in Australia, they’ve handed the keys to the kitchen over to Kristian Baumann, who spent three years as Christian Puglisi’s sous chef at Relæ.
The name of his pop-up restaurant is 108, and is situated on Noma’s premises until mid-April, before moving around the corner to 108 Strandgade. (Noma, of course, will be reopening on the fringes of Christiania, where its much-hyped urban farm should help offset the carbon emissions belched out by hedge-funders jetting into town for the latest in weeds.)
On a recent Friday night, four friends sunk into sheepskin-smothered benches around a trestle table laid for six. The other spots were later taken by Pippa Middleton – sister to British princess Kate Middleton – and a brooding companion.
The uncomfortable seating – this isn’t a place to take your in-laws – is typical of 108’s aggressively casual mien. As ‘Born to Run’ bled into ‘Burning Down the House’, a lurching waiter misplaced orders, spilt wine and grappled with the menu (“I guess you could call it carpaccio”, he conceded about a dish described as “sheets of raw lamb”, as if penned by Hannibal Lecter).
A selection of a dozen, primarily French, wines accompanies the menu – a dry red from Languedoc, bursting with blackberries, won plaudits. A longer list is available for those with deep pockets and plenty of imagination.
The menu eschews division, and dishes are listed en masse. The starters include cured squid in bacon broth with mirabelle plums – a watery grave of a dish – and lumpfish roe with green strawberries, too saline and insufficiently tart to be truly satisfying. Better was a chunk of salt-baked celeriac, pleasingly vegetal, with a meaty bite.
But a linseed pie was a flat-out failure. Warning bells sounded with its appearance: a dense layer of crumbled cauliflower caked the pie like day-old foundation. Beneath it lurked a sludge of braised sunflower seeds, grey and slimy like debris caught in a drain. It’s a strange concoction, the sort of dish a nursing home would be ashamed to send out – and its 185 kroner price tag was impossible to justify.
Puddings were variable, too. Drowned in egg cream and yuzu granita, sweet potatoes were neither “caramelized” nor “crisp”, but as soggy as day-old chips. The standout dish was an ice cream made with rausu kombu, a seaweed usually used to make dashi, the Japanese broth. Toasted barley cream and blackcurrant wood oil gave it a lingering smokiness.
108 may be Noma’s baby brother, but that only means it’s got some growing up to do. M