The next day we head further west, to Lammefjord in northwest Zealand.
Dragsholm Slot for the day, a castle from the fifteenth century since turned into a hotel, with small exhibits preserving the castle’s history and a restaurant in the old kitchen. Ulla and Rachele came here earlier in the summer to interview the chef, Claus Henriksen, on his use of wild edible plants for their research at the lab.
We arrive in time for a late lunch on the terrace overlooking the herb garden. The castle is bright white, and the terrace hums with light.
Lunch is a breezy affair. A cakey bread and asparagus oil.
Two dishes each. We share.
Smoked new potatoes, radishes, thyme, cress, and buttermilk.
Scallops, clam sauce, apple purée, cauliflower, cress + nasturtium.
An out-of-this-world smørrebrød with marinated herring, herb mayo, capers, radish, cress, nasturtium, and malt. This is some seriously good fish – soft yet structured, luxurious on the tongue and lingering retronasal aromatics. The impulse to eat with the hands.
Grilled pork, lavender rub, herb purée, grilled leeks, beetroot, dill. The meat is actually juicy. I could have done with a tad more lavender flavour but overall supremely satisfying. Chloe definitely knows how to order.
We finish with a carrot cake to share, which takes forever to arrive but for some reason I need to finish this meal with a sweet.
with fresh cheese icing, sea buckthorn and malted earth. Quite uniform and a good density/sponginess balance. Nordic flavours familiar almost to the point of childhood memory. I don’t care what anyone says, havtorn and malt are delicious even if overused.
The afternoon is still young, and there are grounds to explore.
We wander the herb garden, and then down through the sheep field along the road to the sea.
Pretty sure this is paradise.
We clamber through the beach grasses down to the sand. The shoals go out far. Islands in the distance. Chloe isn’t so convinced of strandhoppers for a snack.
The wind starts to come up. It is a summer day with a slow sense of duration.
We wander back across the grounds, across the moat, up to the rhododendron garden and through the woods. A field full of beetroot.
Chloe’s allergies settle in with a vengeance so we make our way back inside to rest.
Caroline, the exceptional concierge, lets us into the upper floors to explore.
Each room is decorated completely differently than the last. The passages go on in a series of shifting colours and forms.
We find ourselves threading higher and higher, into narrower corridors.
Soon it is time to return and prepare for dinner.
We are the first to be seated, at 6:15. The old castle kitchen has vaulted cellar ceilings and winds back around the southwest corner.
In the last room of the cellar is a table at a small window, overlooking the lawn. Quite a special table.
The servers and captain are calm, amiable. And yes champagne would be the perfect way to begin the evening thank you for asking.
Brioche baked on wild cherry branch with rosehip purée. The branch infuses the roll with the aromas of blossoms, ripe fruit, green wood and resins as it bakes. The purée is the most delicate pink in the sun that comes exactly through our small window
It is not possible to overestimate the evocative power of this simple piece of dried flesh. Sliced thinly, the tissue becomes translucent; on the tongue the fat melts more quickly than the muscle, yielding a gradient in texture over time, and thus dramatic shifts in aroma as it falls into the palate.
Salted yoghurt, rocket jelly, pickled vegetables, cress. Clean, light, yet also deeply savoury from the lactic acidity of dairy, brassica, and allium. Deceptively simple, well thought out.
Also, just yummy. Savoury yoghurt. People need to do this more. Why is it so often the sole domain of sweet in ‘the west’?
Not too much time to consider that one further because then come the bread and butter.
Or rather, the bread and butters. Beautiful dark rolls, and a rochet of jerusalem artichoke butter, a whorl of leek butter, and a scallop mould of sea water butter. And herb salt. This could be a meal in itself and I would be happy. The bread immediately wins our hearts: a crisp top, sprinkled with oats, and a soft, pliant crumb, like small muffins with more coherence. As for the butters, there is excellent variation of textures; it shows how diverse butter can be which is exciting. The leek is nice but quite strong, I can only have so much; the sea water is a fantastic idea but I really want that briny flavour and don’t find it, and the texture, though good for variety, is not as luxurious (read: spreadable) as the others. Perhaps more interesting than immediately ‘delicious’. But the jerusalem artichoke, now that one’s a winner – present, neither timid nor overbearing, and easy to spread and eat.
Lettuces, oyster cream, cucumbers, flowers, and dill oil.
The thing that immediately sets this salad apart is the intact heads of lettuce, halved along the stalk to expose the tender hearts, the larger leaves fanning out to catch the dill oil and conceal that ingenious oyster cream. The flavours are clean yet rounded with surprises – the concentrated sweetness of baby cucumbers, the sappy bittersweetness of young lettuce stalk, the flower petals that – thank you chef – actually have flavour (perfume, sulphur, spice). There is no reason a salad ever needs to be boring; nor is there ever a reason to not serve a salad for fear it automatically bore.
Marinated elderflowers and carrots with squid and sour cream.
First of all, just a beautiful dish. Like some sort of ritual mound over which one has shaken petals, or arranged shavings of wood. And of course it is a pleasure to see my friend beach mustard again.
Underneath this covering lie the slenderest of carrots, roasted and glazed, and squid sliced to a similar width and heft. The best part of this one is after it is three-quarters eaten, when the cooked carrots and cream have mixed; the cream turns a pale orange, flecked with drops of oil, and the shavings of raw root are coated, absorbing and softening slightly, their crisp structure tamed and made to yield to the tongue and the inner cheek.
Salted sommer [sic (Danish)] cabbage with clam juice, parsley and vendance [lumpfish, maybe] roe.
Here is a memory made. Kales that are blanched perfectly (I throw this word around a lot but seriously, this time, it’s for real); a sauce of clams that is at once ethereal, like some sort of gnostic drink, and primal, like the taste had by that first human, about whom I think often, who took that first daring move and slurped the innards of a hard, slick thing lifted from the roiling sea.
And lumpfish roe. I think I like this stuff even more than caviar. A comparable texture but a gorgeous jewel-toned yellow and a mildness that can go either robust or light. Sturgeon, I love you, but of you the same can’t quite be said.
A new wine as well: a 2009 Aligoté, Bertrand Marchard de Gramont, Nuits St. Georges, Bourgogne. It starts smooth and round, with broth and pine, and gradually gains hints of floral sweetness and heft. I like Burgundy.
Roasted breast of pork with pickled ramson and sauce with smoked oil.
Bur first, we need a moment to appreciate the beauty of this knife.
I want one.
And while we’re on the subject of utensils, this small spoon needs a mention.
It may be small but it scoops that herb salt like nobody’s business. Wow. What a satisfying little shovel.
Ok. Back to the pork.
Bam. That’s a dish.
The smoked oil sauce is spooned tableside, though we can smell it before our server arrives. It is fragrant but far from acrid; tempered, peppery, and sweet. Something reminiscent of gogyo, but definitely, deliciously Danish.
I don’t think there is anything more to say about this one. You can sink your knife into it and it warms you and sends you far away until the end.
Now the menu begins to move sweet.
Glazed beet root with unripe apples and Spanish chervil.
Vibrant, but not the most impressive. A little to sweet all at once, I think was the issue, especially after such a deeply savoury course. There is a nice raw/roasted parallel with the carrot course, but where there was seafood and flower to counteract the sweetness there, here there is only more fruit, with blackcurrant, apple that should be more tart. It’s not that it is not delicious, so much as that it’s larger role, and therefore its character, is not exactly clear – at least, not as much as I think it could be.
It does come with an exceptional wine, however. A 2007 Spätburgunder Trocken, Weingut Krone, Assmannshausen, Rheingau. A beautiful red with the structure of pinot but with lighter tones of elder and stone.
The real sign of the transition to dessert now is the removal of the bread and butter.
Thyme and mint with fresh goat cheese and soft meringues.
The functional mark of the transition, too, is the difficulty, increasing with the falling light, of taking a good photograph.
This one is fun. Fresh, not too sweet, the best part is the cacophony of textures – granité, goat’s cheese, meringue both uncooked, and baked and cracked over the whole mess. Like a good children’s book, anyone could read this dish and find something to like and pursue.
Before the last course, we take a break outside for some air and a walk.
When we return, the light has left the cellar, draining through in indigo ropes.
One final wine – a 2011 Brachetto, Birbèt, Cascina Riveri, Roero, Piemonte. A bit of moss, some peach and gooseberry.
Baked blue potatoes with sorrel, tapioca, and strawberry sorbet.
A texture somewhere in between cake and mousse. Chloe remarks, happily, that it tastes like a churro but better. Frankly, anyone who can get a potato to taste like a churro is a wizard in my books. The best part of this though might be the green strawberry sorbet. And some sort of coumarin note in the green sauce (maybe some woodruff in there). All mixed in with the potato as the flavours mellow and the cake sponges itself away.
Tea on the terrace, where we began the day. Now, we are the only ones. The sunset is late and right on time.