Geranium

GERANIUM

Per Henrik Lings Allé 4

2100 København

Denmark

www.geranium.dk

Overall rating: 7.5-8/10

Date of visit: July 2012

Before I say anything else: If you go to Geranium, choose the juice menu!

 Geranium is run by 2011 Bocuse D’or winner Rasmus Kofoed, who earlier had won both bronze and silver in the competition. The restaurant previously had a very small premise in Kongens Have (the King’s garden) next to Rosenborg in Copenhagen, but closed down when Kofoed and the new owner couldn’t agree on the visions of the restaurant. After a hiatus, the restaurant opened again in the unlikely settings of the national football stadium, although Kofoed did say that he hadn’t imagined he would want to run a restaurant in a place mostly associated with football, hot dogs and beer in plastic cups. Kofoed had previously been the chef in the restaurant of Denmark’s most prestigious hotel, D’angleterre, but was fired for refusing to cook among other things a dish that translates to “shooting star” (a piece of toast with mayonnaise, lettuce, a filet of fish, prawns and fish eggs).

Since winning Bocuse D’or, it has been very difficult to book a table at Kofoed’s restaurant for dinner, but my wife and I managed to get a table for lunch with relative ease. The restaurant itself is really beautiful and classy, and definitely one of the most beautiful restaurants I have been too. It suited the cooking very well. The entire kitchen was visible from the restaurant if you were sitting in the right place.

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The restaurant had two lunch options: A short and a long menu. We chose the long one for 998 kroner (€134). The menu actually didn’t show the courses but just listed some of the ingredients that was part of the menu. We also chose the juice menu at 498 kroner (€67) – and good thing that we did. More about that later. Water was free, and this was actually a first in a top restaurant in Copenhagen (I don’t remember if we just asked for tap water, and there therefore were no charge as opposed to bottled water).

First we had several small snacks: Puffed potato crisps with sea weed with just the right amount of sea weed and a sphere filled with sea buck thorn on the side. The sphere was one of my wife’s favourite things about the meal. Next we had cheese sticks with a bit of soft cheese with leaves on top for dipping. Then a spiral of crispy Jerusalem artichokes was served with a cream of walnut oil, which I found quite tasteless. On the side were razor clams that was cleverly made to look like they were still inside their shell, but the crispy shell was actually edible. I don’t like clams or mussels (including razor clams), but this was actually quite refreshing, although not spectacular in taste (although visually it was definitely spectacular). The star of the appetizers was a small soup of cep mushrooms with a few chopped ceps. Nothing short of astonishing, and one of the absolute highlights of the meal. On the side we had a really lovely pine lemonade, although that didn’t seem to be part of the juice menu.

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The first real course was a jellied ham and tomato “soup” (in separate layers) with small balls of radishes with thyme on top. A beautiful looking dish with pleasant flavours, but still on the mild side. Admittedly, I find radishes to be quite plain, and here they didn’t do anything for the dish at all. The ham and tomato combination seemed to be a wink to southern Europe, so melon instead of radishes could have been a better and more tasteful option (7/10).

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“The perfect scallop” served in a scallop shell was for me a disc containing grains due to a misunderstanding between me and the waiter (more on that later), whereas my wife had the scallop itself. I only had a small bite of hers, so I can’t really comment too much on that, but it did seem less cooked than I prefer. I found my grains to be quite plain, as there, if I’m not mistaken simply wasn’t added anything to the grains – no herbs or anything. I find it quite limiting how much flavour you can extract simply from whole grains. The sauce of celeriac, browned butter and elderberries was magnificent though, and might have been the best element in the entire meal. (9 or 10/10 for the sauce, but 5/10 for the grains)

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Hake was raw and slightly smoked and covered with a bit of skyr (a Scandinavian diary product). In the centre of the plate was a horseradish sauce as well as stems of seaweed. When hake is at its best, it can be magnificent, but I do prefer it pan-fried. The amount of smoke was perfect though. The sauce was nicely balanced with just the right amount of horseradish, but I didn’t care too much for the seaweed. By this time I had had enough of seaweed/algae flavours – especially since the accompanying juice was made of apples, cucumber and, once again, algae. That juice, however, was well-balanced. The skyr also seemed to vanish a bit when combined with the smoked fish. As such there was nothing wrong with this dish, but there wasn’t much excitement about it (6/10).

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Red onions came with water cress, crumbles of rye bread that was fried crisp and a sauce made from Danish hay cheese. The onions were good but nowhere close to the astonishing ones at Noma the next day. The real star of the show was, once again, the sauce. Perfectly balanced and just the right intensity in flavour. The rye bread was however in so small pieces that it had become hard rather than crisp (overall 7.5/10, but more for the sauce).

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Neither of us were particularly fond of the next dish which was oyster (which I had asked to be removed) with a salad with fish eggs on top. Again, the sauce that was poured on at the table was the best element. Granted, if you really like oysters, clams, fish eggs and everything else with those types of flavours this was probably a great dish, but as it simply was to neither our liking it’s difficult to score it higher. Technically, it did also seem to be less impressive than the rest. The leaves were soggy, and the combination of flavours was quite limited. (5/10)

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Next, however, was one of my favourites of the meal. Again, the misunderstanding with the waiter caused us to have two different dishes. I had a white asparagus, whereas my wife had a langoustine cooked with hay. They were brought in on a tray and then arranged on a rectangular plate at the table. The asparagus seemed woody and tasteless, but luckily we shared 50-50. My wife seemed to like the asparagus better than the langoustine, and I enjoyed the langoustine more. The langoustine was probably the least cooked langoustine I’ve ever had, so the texture was a bit soft and “slimy”. Nevertheless, the flavour was magnificent, the hay flavour being a great combination with the sweet langoustine. I believe the sauce was made with verbena (9/10 for the langoustine).

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The main course was slightly smoked deer covered with a sheet made from cherry vinegar served with beetroot in various forms and a berry sauce. The deer itself was spectacular, but I simply missed variety in the other elements, as everything except for the sauce and the sheet was beetroot. One beetroot looked like a vanilla pod. I’m not sure how they made it, but it was a strange sensation – dry and a bit “dark” in flavour. Although there were some acidic sorrel leaves on there, I could have used something light and refreshing in this dish, for instance peas (overall 8/10, but more for the deer itself).

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A pre-dessert was a very fluffy elderberry foam with crunchy elderberries at the bottom. Especially the texture was worth mentioning, as the airy lightness worked really well with the refreshing flavour (7.5-8/10).

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We both agreed that the first dessert might have been the best dish overall in the entire meal. A thin layer of white chocolate panacotta was covered by another layer of green sorrel panacotta. On top was fresh sorrel leaves that hid granulated frozen white chocolate. At the table, the waitress poured on similar granulated frozen sorrel. The only tiny complaint about this was that it was just a tiny bit too acidic, but nevertheless it was a marvellously refreshing dessert, and the combination of white chocolate and sorrel worked astonishingly well. (9/10). The accompanying glass of juice was, maybe a bit too obviously, sorrel juice. Had they added something more to the juice it would have improved the combination between juice and food a bit.

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The last dessert was a beautiful looking rhubarb compote with edible flowers, with cream being poured on at the table. As opposed to at Noma the rhubarb, was sweet and clearly the best element in this dish for me. Although I liked the flowers, I find edible flowers to be a bit too perfumed, and here there were too many to my liking. The cream was just cream, and the flavour vanished a bit with this combination. They could have added something to the cream – vanilla, lemon zest, anything. Or maybe a foamy buttermilk instead would have worked well. My wife did like this dish a lot more than me (7/10).

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After this we had a few petit fours. It was served while I was in the toilet, so I didn’t know what it was. One was a leaf, and I simply couldn’t place the flavour. So, although it looked nice, the taste obviously didn’t hit the mark. It was carrot. The other was a chocolate egg with a ginger filling if I’m not mistaken. That was definitely much better.

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Then there’s the juice menu. Like I said in my review of Noma, some people couldn’t dream of going to a restaurant like this and not have wine with the food. What I can say is that a good sommelier will be able to find a wine that suits each course well, but he’ll never be able to find something that suits it as well as a drink that the restaurant has made especially for that dish. We both agreed that the juice menu here made the meal even better, and both here and at Noma the juices matched the food extremely well. When I go to high end restaurants I usually have 2-3 glasses of wine with the food, but I have never before had a meal where the food and the beverages were such a great match as it was at Geranium and Noma. We had these juices:

* Algae, cucumber & apple

* Holsteiner cox apple juice

* Ingrid marie apple juice & tarragon

* Bodil Neergaard apple juice

* Grape & juniper berries

* Woodsorrel juice

* Rhubarb juice.

Although the apple juices were all great, and they really showcased the spectacular quality that Danish apples truly have, I was nevertheless a bit disappointed that there were no fewer than three apples juices in a row (four if you count the first juice as well). The rhubarb was a bit overpowered by the content of rose water (which was still light), and it simply was a bit too sour and lacked the sweet flavour of rhubarb (which they had brought out quite well in the dessert that accompanied the juice). That is really my only criticism of the juices. Especially the apple juice with tarragon was a delight.

The service was mostly capable and certainly better than what I for instance had at Mortens Kro in Aalborg, but I felt there was a somewhat chilly detachment from the staff. We were served by a male waiter and a female waitress, and initially I felt they had a bit of an icy distance, but it got better over time, and the male waiter did loosen up and became more talkative. It seemed he had also helped make some of the dishes, so he could answer all our questions about the food.

I overheard our waitress tell the table next to us that she was an intern. We all have to start somewhere, so I can of course forgive her for mixing things up and not being able to answer all our questions. I for instance asked: “Does this juice contain lemon balm?”, and she responded “I really have no idea”.

The waitress started to take a glass of my wife’s juice away (she wasn’t going to finish it), and when I said “I can finish that” the waitress looked devastated. The same thing happened at Quique Dacosta in Spain, but before I even got the chance to say I would like to finish it, the waitress asked me.

Maybe the waitress at Geranium saw us as difficult customers. Fair enough – I don’t hold a grudge against her for that. We went to Noma the next day, and after just half an hour there we already felt happier and more welcome. Herman in Copenhagen is also very “posh”, but the service there was more relaxed and down to earth. At heart, the waitress at Geranium did seem sweet, but I think she might just have felt a bit lost and unprepared.

All the guests at Geranium, or at least most of them, were asked if they wanted to see the kitchen. We weren’t asked. We did see the kitchen though, as my wife asked for it. We did also get to meet the chef, and take a picture with him, as he arrived shortly before we left.

The pace of the meal was perfect. No waiting and no rushing. They managed this with only three (or was it four?) waiters.

I told the male waiter that I didn’t like oysters and clams/mussels. We were then served a scallop, but I had grains instead. I then told him that I do like scallops. His response was: “Oh? It’s just, you said you didn’t like oysters and clams”. Okay, apparently I hadn’t been very clear on this, but instead of clearing the issue up, he just walked away. So, when we were served a langoustine, which I also like, I was served a white asparagus instead. But okay, this did mean we had the chance to try more different things.

For the salad, they had just removed the oysters from my dish, but the waitress had swapped our dishes, so I, and not my wife, had the one with oysters.

Lastly, we asked for one juice menu to share, and the waitress came back to clear up if we just wanted one menu in one glass. I said “yes, just one, so we just pay 498 kroner. If you want to serve it in two glasses that’s fine too, but just one menu to share”. When we asked to share a juice menu next day at Noma it was no problem at all. At Geranium they served it in two glasses, and when we had the bill it said two juice menus. I asked the male waiter about this and said that if we had drunk two juice menus we would of course pay for two (apparently we did get two full juice menus). He, however, insisted he would make a new bill with just one juice menu if that was what we had asked for, so the service did end on a very positive note, and better than I would have expected of many restaurants.

After the meal, I asked if I could have the recipe for the cep soup, and the cook who had it said he would e-mail it. A month and a half later I still hadn’t received it, so I wrote the restaurant an e-mail about it. They never responded.

So, to conclude, there were some definite highlights, but when we left the restaurant I nevertheless felt there had been something missing. Coincidentally, I spoke to a cook from Kødbyens Fiskebar the next day, and a friend of his had also been to both Geranium and Noma and had said the exact same thing: “Somewhat similar food, but you simply forgot more quickly what you have eaten at Geranium”.

It’s of course not fair to judge Geranium by comparison to Noma rather than in its own right. We agreed that it was a nice meal, but not one of the most memorable one’s we’ve had. All I can say is that Geranium simply wasn’t as memorable as Noma was, and Geranium wasn’t as memorable as for instance Quique Dacosta, Sant Pau, Sangonereta and Gordon Ramsay (in Chelsea, London) were either.

All dishes at Geranium looked great, and all exuded elegance, visions (most of the time), and high quality ingredients. Especially the amount of smoke was extremely well-balanced. Many people (especially the ones who smoke salmon or mackerel) could learn something here.

Technically, I couldn’t fault anything except for the soggy leaves in the salad dish, the asparagus, and the hard rye bread. Clearly, the staff in the kitchen is very talented. It’s of course a matter of taste if you prefer elegance to intensity. I say “live fast and die young” so to speak. I simply prefer food where you really remember the depth of flavour. Nevertheless, Sant Pau in Spain serve elegant food as well, and that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

It seems that Geranium wants to do light and elegant food, and I often lacked some depth of flavour – so the memory of the meal quickly started to fade. I did also feel that for instance the hake was simply not used to its full potential, the amount of sea weed/algae and smoked ingredients were maybe just a tad too much, and at times there was simply a slight lack of complexity, flavour or imagination in some of the ingredients (the walnut cream from the appetizers, the grains, the entire salad dish, the asparagus, the beetroots, the cream for the rhubarb dessert, the carrot petit four).

Another problem was that if you asked for something to be changed on the menu, the replacements frankly weren’t particularly interesting (the grains and the asparagus).

Nevertheless, the place and the food radiated luxury. If you prefer elegant and mild food, then Geranium is definitely one of the best places in Copenhagen.

It is worth noting the quantity of food you get for the price. 998 kroner/€134 is not cheap in any way, but if you know the price levels in Copenhagen, and Denmark in general, it doesn’t seem expensive at all. It’s around 100 kroner per actual dish (not counting snacks). Cofoco, which is also very good, but not really at this level, charges 85 kroner per dish. In Copenhagen it’s very difficult to find a good quality three course meal for less than 300 kroner (€40). A sirloin steak with béarnaise sauce at the dreadful chain Jensens Bøfhus is 200 kroner (€26) – and that’s just one course.

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