Reviewing this restaurant has long been on my to-do list, and I initially planned on naming this post “A Hidden Gem in Copenhagen.” Well, after Kadeau received its first Michelin star last week, let me tell you, this gem is no longer so hidden.
When E and I visited Copenhagen last spring, we rented an apartment in Frederiksberg, a beautiful off-the-tourist-map neighborhood—yet right by the city center—with noble-looking buildings and commercial streets lined with small designer boutiques, cool coffee shops, amazing bakeries, and creative restaurants. When we met Josephine, the drop-dead gorgeous Danish owner, we discussed dining plans, and she told us, “Whatever you do, don’t leave Copenhagen without going to Kadeau.” She left us a handy list of recommendations for restaurants and gourmet shops in the neighborhood and throughout the city. The only booking we had was a lunch at Geranium, and browsing through her list, Kadeau sounded exactly like the perfect, off-the-grid place to experience the infamous “New Nordic Cuisine.” Because we only needed another excuse to celebrate our tenth anniversary together, we decided to book Kadeau for our last night in Copenhagen.
At the time, the restaurant was still in its original location in Vesterbro, a 10-minute walk from our apartment. We almost missed the narrow storefront, its matte black painted window frames and door disappearing into a lively street lined with interesting shops. The restaurant was tiny: a mini open kitchen, installed in what probably was once a bar area, occupied the front of the restaurant, and in the back, there were fewer than 20 tables set very close to one another. One of the walls was covered with framed pictures and art inspired by Bornholm, a small island in the Baltic Sea from where the owners came. The island, located closer to Sweden than it is to Denmark, is in fact the very inspiration for the restaurant’s food.
Picture by Namy Nosratifard
Picture by Namy Nosratifard
The tight kitchen quarters.
The menu featured a map of Bornholm, and the arrows indicate where the restaurant sources its ingredients around the island. The red dot indicates the location of Kadeau Bornholm, the owners’ first restaurant.
Cool typography work. Beautiful design always earns bonus points in my book.
The very short menu featured seven courses, from starters to dessert, and there was a choice among three dining options: three courses, five courses, or the six-course tasting menu. Examining the dishes more closely (and because we were celebrating, remember), we couldn’t resist the tasting menu in which each course was paired with a different wine. The restaurant has a penchant for French wines and offered some striking natural wine options that paired wonderfully with the nature-driven menu.
The first course set the bar extremely high. A striking assembly of small bites landed on the table shortly after we told our friendly server (who was, I learned later, one of the owners) that we were in for the tasting menu. From our table, I could see the chef assembling these plates and the numerous prep containers lined up in front of her. I noticed she was working with great care and meticulousness, but nothing could prepare me for such beauty. It felt like a crash course in Nordic cuisine! The plate featured:
- Roasted and pickled herring
- Smoked salmon
- Celeriac baked in butter and salt
- Malt croutons
- Veal tartare
- Marinated beef with seabuckthorn and rose hips
Because of the restaurant’s laid-back vibe (no starched white tablecloths in there), and because we knew next to nothing about its cuisine before visiting, tasting such refined bites, each a wonder in flavors and textures, was truly a wonderful surprise.
Next came the bread, which in Copenhagen is a course in its own right (a trend that’s quickly spreading around the world): big chunks of beer bread were served on a wooden plank, with whipped butter sitting on a rock beside it. Bread was fantastic in Copenhagen, but this one was off the charts. I usually try to control the quantity of bread I eat alongside a tasting menu to keep room for the main dishes, but Kadeau’s was just so good that I had to eat every last crumb of it.
The first official course was very delicate and fresh: thin slices of salted mackerel were sitting on fresh rhubarb and miniature radishes, and the sculptural dish was topped with lovage leaves and ground seeds.
Then came a porridge of rye, topped with paper-thin slices of apple, lumpfish roe, walnuts and malt grains. The colorful dish looked great against the large charcoal gray ceramic dish it was served in.
The third course was my favorite: slightly crispy and creamy sweetbreads were served with green asparagus, crisp baby lettuce leaves, ramson (wild garlic) and brown butter.
For the main course (yes, those five previous courses were starters), we each chose a different dish. I loved mine because of its delicate feminine plating, soft pastel tones, and harmonious flavors: Bornholm cockerel (a type of poultry) was served with white asparagus and red endive leaves over fresh peas and mint.
E’s dish looked rather sculptural: a perfectly seared fillet of turbot was set over a bed of sautéed cabbage and topped with a crispy cabbage leaf, which held chopped clams and oysters and a little green salad.
For dessert, there was a choice between a sweet option or a Danish cheese board. Being the cheese lover I am, I couldn’t resist it. Four types of cheeses, composing a crescendo of textures and tastes, were served with crisp rye bread.
By the end of the meal, we were wowed by this completely unexpected gastronomic experience, and we felt like we’d been let in on one of the city’s best kept secrets.
The restaurant moved to a bigger location shortly after we were there. It is now over in Christianshavn, close to where Noma is located. The new location looks stunning, minimalist but warm, a design combination at which the Danes excel. This new décor is just icing on the cake, as the food was already so great. Kadeau was one of my favorite restaurant discoveries of 2012, and I’m already counting the days until I have the chance to return.
Picture by Marie Louise Munkegaard
Picture by Marie Louise Munkegaard
To note: The owners of Kadeau kept the Vesterbro restaurant and renamed it Pony. The concept is slightly different, offering a simpler, more relaxed, less-expensive but still top-quality cuisine. If you don’t feel up for an elaborate meal, this is surely an excellent option, and I’m sure it’ll soon be much written about.
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