Wylde World: Mielcke and Hurtigkarl, Copenhagen
Report by Sarah Brown
Photography by Yamine Daaboul
Nestled in the beautiful Royal Danish Horticultural Society Garden – Copenhagen’s very own Garden of Eden – lies a listed Nineteenth Century building, and inside, the gourmet restaurant Mielcke and Hurtigkarl. It opened in 2008, with chefs Jakob Mielcke Hansen and Jan Hurtigkarl aiming to create dishes that merge cuisines from all over the world, whilst retaining that quintessentially sleek Danish aesthetic.
The gardens themselves, located in the chic enclave of Frederiksberg, are stunning. Comprising a series of listed buildings and gardens designed by noted architects, they are perfect for exploring before one settles down for dinner; turning the whole experience into something quite magical. The restaurant building is akin to a country home, albeit in a striking orange shade. Inside, grand ceilings are embellished with chandeliers which manage to both contrast and complement the murals of foliage on the surrounding walls. This décor introduces the theme of nature, which is a thread that runs throughout our meal.
Mielcke and Hurtigkarl offer a selection of surprise menus. The ‘menu’ on the website is a blank page with glimpses of dishes shown behind, which only adds to the intrigue. We were presented with a fifteen course menu and a seven course drinks menu, specifically chosen to accompany their relevant dishes. An incredible amount of thought has gone into the curation of the menu and each plate is just enough, leaving you excited for the next one. The order of dishes flow beautifully, one into the next, never jarring to the course that came before it. A dish early in the menu was a boiled oyster underneath a bed of frozen watercress and peas. Some people may shudder at the thought of a boiled oyster but it was cooked so delicately; the flavours were rich and multi-layered and genuinely tasted of the ocean – in the best way possible! One of my personal favourite courses was a fillet of lemon sole with kombu and a razor thin slice of chicken skin. Although I'm familiar with the concept of ‘surf and turf’, fish and chicken skin is not something that would automatically appeal – but it was exquisite. The craftsmanship shines out in the innovation of each course and in the brilliance of the execution. I hate to trot out the well worn phrase of ‘taste sensation’ in a restaurant review, but the amount of times my companion and I giddily exclaimed "it’s a taste sensation!" to each other is too many to count.
The presentation of each dish was gorgeous, taking inspiration from Japanese aesthetics; devoid of fussiness. An example of this was a pumpkin dish with smoked butter and black roe. There were different types of pumpkin, cooked in a multitude of ways, and arranged so it almost looked like rose petals. It was a joy to eat. The array of wines which accompanied the meal was one of my favourite parts of the experience. Expertly chosen by the manager Thomas, the vintages ranged from 1995 to 2016 and I was introduced to wines that I wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to sample. This is an exciting result of a visit to Mielcke and Hurtigkarl; they endeavour to offer their customers uncommon flavour combinations and introduce them to wines and other drinks which are a little bit out of the ordinary.
A primary focus of Mielcke and Hurtigkarl, is their love of nature and this manifests in the ingredients of the dishes and the presentation. The colours of the food are so bright yet organic and not artificial. They source ingredients from the world over to their own surrounding gardens. My friend does not drink alcohol and they curated a drinks menu especially for her which reflects how they prize the experience of each individual customer instead of catering to the masses. Thomas, the manager, invents the drinks himself and uses honey from their beehive in the garden. We were lucky enough to meet the chefs in the kitchen and they are constantly reinventing and evolving their menu. A real love of flavour is palpable at Mielcke and Hurtigkarl with the hard work that goes into their recipe development.
The service at the restaurant is faultless, the staff are so attentive without being overbearing. They are informative about the food and treat their customers with such consideration. The ambiance is quiet and serene but doesn’t feel pretentious, which is something that has stayed with me. At Mielcke and Hurtigkarl there is just a pure love of food, it is not snobby or pompous; the staff treat their customers with respect and don’t expect them to be experts in food knowledge. They gave us a personalised menu to take home which I thought was a beautiful touch. This is why I think it is such a great fine-dining experience as it can be for everyone. The restaurant is noted in the White Guide Nordic, but it is deserving of a Michelin star and I’m quite surprised it doesn’t have one, although I’m sure it is only a matter of time. Albeit the price point is high, I believe it is justifiable for the surprise menu and the standard of food. Mielcke and Hurtigkarl is perfect for a special occasion or a treat. It is not just a meal, it is an experience and quite simply it just feels very special. We can’t wait to go back.