It may not be in quite the same category as Noma, four times voted World’s Best Restaurant, but Kodbyens Fiskebar proves visitors can find original food in a happening Copenhagen restaurant which doesn’t, like many of those opened by Noma alumnae, cost an arm and a leg.
Fiskebaren, as locals call it, does have its own Michelin-starred credentials – British head chef Jamie Lee hails from the Gordon Ramsay stable, while his Australian sous-chef worked with arguably Denmark’s best chef, Paul Cunningham, at his former Copenhagen one-star, The Paul. And Fiskebaren has bagged a Bib Gourmand, Michelin’s badge of honour for “simple yet skilful cooking”, if perhaps a little too rough and ready to qualify for a star.
Yet it is this rustic quality which makes this fish restaurant so appealing, echoing the style of its neighbours in the city’s old meat-packing district, a happening dining area close to Copenhagen’s central station where listed buildings cannot be tarted up at will. So while the meat-hooks where customers now hang their coats could probably have been dispensed with, the old tiles, weathered concrete floor and peeling ceilings must stay, adding considerably to the restaurant’s charm. A circular aquarium surrounded by the smaller of two dining bars is the sole decorative feature, unless you count appealing jars of infusions over the dessert station which separates the restaurant from the kitchen.
You could come here just for the fish and chips – some of the best ever tasted, thanks to batter with a crunch unknown in Britain. It is used to coat cod lightly smoked for 15 minutes and served with triple-cooked chips and remoulade sauce. Buckets of mussels cooked in cider and herbs are also available, but it would be a shame not to explore the raw bar which shows what the Fiskebaren chefs can really do. Starters not to be missed include clam-like native Limfjord oysters, chopped razor clams mixed with salsify, celery and almonds, reassembled into edible filo shells, and hand-dived scallops with hazelnut emulsion.
After feasting on raw goodies and sampling if not the fish and chips, more refined mains(the delicious poached sea trout served with cabbage tops are a spring special, to be followed by other limited-edition seasonal treats) it can be hard to find room for dessert. However, we could not resist a buttermilk curd custard – the Danish equivalent of a creme caramel – topped with a delicate mixture of lemon verbena, sugar and crushed ice, sitting on a lightly-flavoured liquorice base. Thanks to Noma, food in Denmark now tastes in any restaurant worth its salt like cooking you could only find in Scandinavia.
Food image (c) Ulf Svane.