Mielcke & Hurtigkarl Restaurant.
I had made a three day trip to Copenhagen to check out some of the restaurants there and Mielcke & Hurtigkarl was my first port of call. The restaurant is located at Fredericksberg Rundell 1, a Royal Garden and home of the Danish Royal Horticultural Society. Our taxi dropped us off by the open air ice rink beside the park gates and flickering flambeau lit up the exterior of the restaurant a few minutes walk away. Snow sparkled and crunched underfoot when I ventured off the cleared path that led to the entrance, where we were welcomed by Thomas Korby, the restaurant manager. Stepping inside had that air of excitement, akin to going through the back of the wardrobe and out into Narnia. M&H in décor terms is “restrained theatrical” and, if you like your restaurants in six shades of cappuccino, then it’s not for you.
The restaurant, which has the air of an orangery, seats around thirty people and the large, round tables, draped in crisp, white, top cloths over floor length black cloths, are generously spaced apart. The décor is creative and playful, hundreds of crystals suspended from the ceiling and white walls dappled with modern, trompe l’oeil greenery. The place oozed style. There was something about it that reminded me of the last scene of Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey” and if Mozart had walked in and sat down at the adjacent table, he probably would have been quite at home.
There was absolutely nothing on our table except for two pebbles, until three bottles of Champagnes were presented; knowing the two Taittinger offerings including Comtes de Champagne, we opted for Legras Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs as our aperitifs. Legras , which seems now to be de rigeur in the top restaurants of Paris is a pretty small grower (I don’t mean his height) with pretty damn high standards. I think that most of the widely advertised big player Champagnes might just nudge ahead, in a blind tasting, from Barr’s Iron Bru but honestly, come on Champagne, you can do better than this! Thank heavens for the lesser known and far more exciting offerings from the likes of Dethune, Tarlant, Drappier, Delamotte and such like. The Legras was lovely, worth the price, though I didn’t have a clue what that was, because nothing had been mentioned. So, two glasses of Champagne, two shiny pebbles and a crisp, white table cloth; what next, I wondered…
Thomas explained what our choices were, which to my delight, were few. We’d come to eat, drink, talk and chill and I would rather spend time soaking up the ambience than reading a menu. I reserve my reading time for books.
“We have an experience menu and a full experience menu…” Thomas began.
We were offered a flight of paired wines but I asked to see the wine list; a creation of beauty encased in softest leather. I ordered a bottle of Freestone Chardonnay from Joseph Phelps, (775DKK here) for the meal. Thomas , however, rightly re-filled our Champagne glasses to accompany the first course of Nashi pear with bergamot: four slices, eaten without cutlery, a theme which was to re-occur and skilfully build upon our sensory experience. Some amuse bouche, canapés, pre-starters, call them what you will, have the appeal of mothballs. The scintillatingly bright duo of flavours of pear and bergamot however came together like the tempered edges of a samurai sword. The simplicity was the brilliance. And as Thomas knew, the Nashi pear and bergamot wouldn’t have been complimented by the oaky, Phelps chardonnay, whereas the Legras went perfectly.
Fourteen fabulous food creations came to our table in a smooth succession as the evening flowed past. To catalogue them all, even rifling a Roget’s Thesaurus for obscure adjectives and superlatives, is pretty pointless. I love restaurants that cook food that makes my taste-buds sigh with satisfaction. I love the taste of sexy, warm juices trickling down my throat. I admire chefs who build dishes, where things taste of what they are when they grew and where flavours work together like instruments in an orchestra.
Reindeer moss dusted with dried cep powder, shards of hazelnut and the roe of arctic char was eaten with fingers from a Raku bowl in one mouthful. Imagine what a great chef would make for crisp snacking for his own pleasure. “Umm, yes, a bowl of reindeer moss and a glass of Puligny Montrachet, whilst I knock up a simple home supper for two…” “Ready salted crisps or pork scratchings?” “No thanks, I’ll just have some reindeer moss; cep flavour please.”
There was lobster with lemon verbena, bergamot and rose hip and accompanied with three types of baby tomatoes. My partner loved this; I thought the flowery flavours over-powered the lobster a wee bit, but this is personal taste and not criticism. Squid teriyaki came next, chilled and amazing, with a smoky edge from sesame, it was made into a hot, juicy dumpling with nori seaweed and eaten again with fingers and accompanied by hot towels. The flavours burst in the mouth, the texture and warm juices made us grin with delight.
Brill with smoked beetroot, lemon thyme, turbot roe and spruce oil came next. Perfectly cooked and all flavours perfectly balanced. A refreshing sea-buckthorn leaf mini course followed, which pleasantly startled my taste buds, like gargling with Polmos vodka, poured straight from the freezer. Next up was pheasant. I suggested to Thomas that I needed some red wine to go with this and a moment later there was a glass of Barolo 2009 Ca Viola from Sottocastello di Novello. The pheasant was served with chanterelles, morels and blackcurrants along with fermented black garlic. The slithers of pheasant breast came in a stunning raku-like bowl of copper and green hues, the bowls are made in Sweden for the restaurant. The creamy sauce was sexy and seductive. The dinner concluded with a sabayon of honey (from the garden) with hot quinoa and arbequina olive oil and then finally rhubarb crumbs, pickled plums and woodruff.
The cooking here is highly accomplished, stylish without losing focus upon the job in hand: making a fusion of flavours and textures that delights the palate. The service here is silky smooth, the front of house staff are first rate, and the décor shows as much thought as the carefully crafted dishes which the kitchen create. Mielcke & Hurtigkarl is a truly first rate restaurant. I’ve eaten in over eight hundred restaurants and this one goes straight into the top handful.
The “den store opelvese” menu (full experience) menu is 950DKK; the “experience” menu is 800DKK.
My dinner at Mielcke & Hurtigkarl was the first of five investigative restaurant meals I took in Copenhagen. I went on to sample a classic and hugely enjoyable Danish lunch venue (Amalie); a restaurant (Amass) set up by the former sous chef of Noma; lunch at the modest but not be under-estimated Design Museum and a first rate and very enjoyable bistro dinner (Kjobenhavn Bistro) where the chef has come from a 2 star Michelin background.