Journal posted on 21st May 2012 by Elizabeth

If you have seen my Twitter posts, you will probably know that I am into my food and like to eat. I blame Papa Lau completely! As a restauranteur, he has access to excellent produce and it wasn’t strange for him to come back home with whole boxes of lobsters from Billingsgate market or half a cow from Smithfields, which was then parcelled up and shared amongst the Lau clan. Being a typical Chinese dad, he showed his love through cooking and making us eat. Luckily for my brothers and I, he is a fantastic cook. Actually he still drops off all sorts of provisions at the studio impromptu.

So it will come as no surprise then that eating is a big part of my trips abroad. I think eating the local cuisine is one of the best ways to engage another culture/country than just visiting historical sites. I love breaking bread in places where the locals frequent…that way you get a real feel of local life. My 2 most memorable meals in Copenhagen were complete contrasts in terms of food and presentation yet both Danish at the core.

Schonnemann is a grand dame of Copenhagen. It hasn’t changed much since 1877 and still serves beer, aquavit (a traditional Scandinavian spirit) and their famous smorrebrod (Danish open sandwiches – a piece of rye or white bread topped with various meats, seafood or pates) to the locals and tourists. We chose Schonnemman as the place to be properly introduced to this great Danish culinary tradition and to try the traditional pickled herring. The restaurant is small and busy, packed with suits, ladies who lunch and trendy locals. The menu is extensive with many variations of toppings. In the end we tried a selection of their famous herring as well as a salmon and shrimp smorrebrod. It was delicious! Everything tasted so fresh and was presented beautifully. Booking is essential here. We were running late and would have lost our table if the staff had not kindly held it. Thank you Schonnemann for doing that. Otherwise we would have missed out on some wonderful food.

Relae is in the Norrebro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. Norrebro is traditionally a working class neighbourhood and is Copenhagen’s most multicultural area. Recently it has also become known as a creative quarter with many creatives setting up shop there. We knew Relae was voted best new restaurant in 2011 and was awarded 1 Michelin star in 2012 so we were really excited to sample their cooking.

We had a bar table overlooking the open kitchen and could see the young bright chefs in action. With only 2 set menus on offer (vegetarian and non vegetarian), the cooking is based on seasonal produce and the emphasis purely on gastronomy – discovering new tastes and experiencing the whole sensory aspect of eating. The menu just lists the key ingredients and has no description of how it is cooked or put together. Instead, when each course is ready, the dish is brought to the table by the chef who prepared it and they would explain in detail the ingredients and how it is cooked. This interaction made the whole dining experience so much more enjoyable and special. We found the atmosphere in Relae relaxed and unpretentious and the focus is on the food and the diner.

My refreshing vegetarian chilled cucumber dumplings starter…

Steamed potato noodles with seaweed and a light pecorino sauce…

Dessert was equally fascinating. Articoke flavoured ice cream on a bed of malted bread and finished off with deep fried artichoke chips…

A brew of fragrant herb tea accompanied by parsnip toffee…

Take a look at this video taken from the Relae website…