If you’re heading to Bornholm this summer, forget your bucket and spade – these days you’re better off packing a knife and fork. The Baltic island now boasts an enviable food scene that’s drawing a younger, trendier crowd, and helping to eclipse its reputation as an old-fashioned holiday destination.
The tide began to turn in 2007, when Kadeau opened on Bornholm’s southern shore. A frontrunner in the New Nordic movement, the restaurant specialises in elegant dishes made with seasonal, foraged ingredients. It won a Michelin star this year.
First-rate restaurants are now abound across Bornholm, from Christianshøjkroen, in the island’s forested heartland, to Molen in the eastern town of Nexø. And, for three months this summer, the northwestern village of Ållinge will host Kadeau’s baby brother Sommer Pony – a casual and cut-price option.
But it’s not all fine dining on Bornholm. Indeed, no holiday is complete without a visit to one of the island’s famous smokehouses or ice-cream parlours – nor, these days, to its increasing number of biodynamic wine bars and breweries.
Helping to give visitors a leg up on all things gastronomic is Gaarden (below), a social enterprise founded last year to promote Bornholm’s madkultur, or food culture. Based outside Gudhjem, the island’s prettiest village, Gaarden was launched after a food-related event at the Melstedgård living museum proved especially popular, bucking the trend of declining visitor numbers.
With local government support, a new building was constructed alongside Melstedgård’s nineteenth-century farmhouse. It operates as a cultural centre and culinary school, offering a range of courses from bread baking to fermentation. Although the school is open only on the weekends in low season, it’ll be in full swing during the summer and autumn, when some 600,000 visitors flock to Bornholm.
According to Thomas Guldbæk of Bornholm Museum, which co-founded Gaarden, the goal is to get back to the island’s roots – in some cases, literally. “What worked best last year was the foraging course,” he says. That course saw participants head into a nearby forest to look for edible plants and herbs, returning with their bounty to the school’s Masterchef-style kitchen.
Another class teaches participants to make ice cream using ingredients picked from the garden or foraged from further afield. Christian Skovdal Andersen opened the Penyllan brewery in Tejn last year, and he’ll return in the autumn to run his popular beer-brewing course.
“We’re very inspired by River Cottage,” Guldbæk says, referring to the residential culinary school set up by British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Along with plenty of courses and activities for families, Gaarden will also cater to groups seeking a different kind of team-building experience.
Arguably, though, Gaarden’s most significant role is as an ambassador for the island’s growing number of food producers. Some are native Bornholmers who, inspired by the burgeoning scene, set up shop on their own. Others moved to the island, like Mads and Camilla Meisner who left Copenhagen in 2009 to launch Denmark’s only sea-buckthorn plantation.
Guldbæk says Gaarden aims to be a one-stop shop and support group for this new crop of food producers. Instead of knocking on numerous doors to figure out regulatory issues or to find answers to marketing or branding questions, they now have a single point of entry. The group already has 60 members, including chef Rie Uldahl, who won the official Danish snaps-making championship last month and hopes to take her product to market.
Above all, however, Gaarden hopes to celebrate the island’s gastronomy. “We’re a nerdy group trying to showcase the taste of Bornholm,” says Guldbæk. “We have different traditions, different food, more extreme flavours. Eighty percent of Danish herbs grow near the coastline – but the water around Bornholm isn’t as salty as elsewhere in Denmark, so our herbs taste different. Our terroir is definitely different.” M