When it comes to culinary institutions in Copenhagen, one cannot get round Kong Hans Kælder. It was one of the first restaurants in Denmark to introduce high quality produce and French haute cuisine to the Danes back in 1976 when the Grønlykke family opened the restaurant in an old royal basement in the center of the city. Since 1976, the restaurant has only had four different head chefs, which says a lot about the stability at this historical place.
Kong Hans Kælder was the first restaurant on Denmark to receive a Michelin star. It happened in 1983, two years after the arrival of the French head chef Daniel Letz. After Letz, Thomas Rode Andersen took over, and he maintained the star until he decided to move on to new projects in 2014. When that happened, Michelin took away the star and the new head chef, Mark Lundgaard, got the chance to start all over again.
He decided to take Kong Hans Kælder back to the very roots of French cooking and in 2016, it was acknowledged by the French “red bible”, which awarded the restaurant a star once again.
While many chefs are capable of decorating mediocre food with bunches of herbs and flowers, very few have the skills to reduce and simplify their dishes to the point where they almost look naked. Mark Lundgaard is one of these chefs. He is not afraid of serving dishes consisting of only three components. It could be the whole roasted pigeon with a spoonful of celeriac puree and cherries. It doesn’t look like much but what you don’t see in all the Instagram pictures is all the work made before the dish enters the table. Lundgaard uses only the finest ingredients and he cooks them to perfection with love and care. This is easy to tell when you taste the dishes. The pigeon breast, juicy and flavorful thanks to the cooking on the bone, had the intense notes of wild bird and combined with the cherries it tasted like the purest forest floor.
It is not cheap to eat at Kong Hans Kælder but when you look at the value you get, there is nothing to complain about. Kong Hans Kælder is build around luxurious produce like caviar, foie gras and truffles and they all come in remarkable amounts. While you sip your Champagne and decide what to eat, a great selection of appetizers are placed on the table. I adored the vol-au-vent with pork and truffle, a lovely tartlet with foie gras au torchon, truffle and raisin gel and the waffle with creme fraiche, tartar and caviar.
The amuse served in an egg shaped bowl filled with Comté foam, brown butter and truffle with a true milk far party taking place in my mouth – so good!
The menu took off with a perfectly cooked piece of lemon sole served with young leeks, mushroom puree, caviar and a creamy sauce based on fish stock. Again, nothing fancy about the presentation but the flavours were amazing and completely balanced.
Other breathtaking dish was the scallop en croute. I scallop was opened, cut into slices and returned to its shell with slices of truffle in-between. The shell was closed with puff pastry in order for the scallop to keep all its juices inside. Table side, the shell was opened releasing all the beautiful aromas of scallop and truffle. A bit of black pepper and an intense truffle sauce et voila!
The tourte, a dome of puff pastry filled with minced veal and foie gras and served with a curry-infused sauce salmis, was another masterpiece with its juicy inner, pungent sauce and buttery and flaky exterior of pastry. It was served with a 1997 Clos du Marquis som St. Julien in Bordeaux, one of the most beautiful Bordeauxs I’ve had for a while showing all the complexity and velvety tannins that these wines have become famous for.
Restaurant Manager Peter Pepke is in charge of the restaurant as well as the wine cellar and he is managing both very convincingly. The 1997 Clos du Marquis was a part of the wine pairing and compared to the average wine pairing, I really appreciate that Pepke is doing a great effort to find wines with age.
A final of sweet dreams
Do not skip the desserts at Kong Hans. They are handled with as much care as the savory dishes, once again being true to the classic French traditions. Baba au rhum, a yeast cake soaked in rum, can be a hard dessert to handle because the alcohol quickly tends to overwhelm the other flavors. The version at Kong Hans was just right, and the buttery cake with sweet notes of rum worked perfectly with the fluffy, vanilla rich creme chantilly.
We finished off with a huge chocolate soufflé with a refreshing exotic sorbet with passion fruit and mango followed by coffee and petits fours. Kong Hans makes sure to make you full – both physically and sensorially.