Out of the very long list of things I like and admire about Noma, the one thing which really impresses me is how Renè Redzepi not only nurtures and harnesses the very obvious talent from his brigade, but that kinship follows the staff even after they leave Noma. I love seeing just how supportive René is of Noma alumni in whatever pursuits they may find themselves in after wearing the chocolate-brown aprons of Noma. There’s even an alumni section on the Noma website like a proud Father showing off what his children are up to now. This is in complete contrast to any kitchens I’ve ever worked in where any mention of leaving is met with the kind of contempt as if you’ve stabbed your Head Chef and/or manager in the back and effectively vomited over them or something. To see such support from a boss to his former employees is both heartwarming and encouraging. I first met Sam after he was chosen to show us around Noma after our meal there last September (where we felt terrible that we were keeping him from his staff meal because some members of our party were chatting to Renè for so long!). So when I heard that he and Victor, another sous chef at Noma, had left to set up their own place, we simply had to go. What’s more, it’s one of the few places which are open on Sundays in Copenhagen and not only did that give us a perfect reason to stay an extra night in Copenhagen, we couldn’t think of anywhere better to spend our last night in Copenhagen, so YKL and I were really excited as we walked down the street towards the restaurant.
Bror (I’m reliably told) means Brother in Danish. Perhaps it’s because Sam and Victor are like Brothers and have set up this joint venture, perhaps it’s to show what camaraderie there is not only from the kitchen brigade, but also with front of house staff too. But I like to think it’s to show the love like that of a family everyone has not only from working there, but from the love they put into their food and in sharing that love with you when you eat there. As we stopped outside briefly so that I could take a picture of the exterior and sign, Sam and Victor come tearing out of the restaurant and run up to YKL for a massive group hug. Now I can’t guarantee that you will get the same kind of response should you go to Bror, but it was plain to see that they were obviously really excited and happy that YKL was there and it was really good to see such enthusiasm (and love). It was a lovely (if unexpected) beginning to our visit;
Looking at the menu beforehand, YKL and I thought that we’d go for a few snacks (as they’re called on the menu) and then 2 larger dishes so that we get to try a bit of everything and get a general sense of what the food there was like. But as we sat down at our designated table, I noticed there wasn’t a menu for us – When every other table in the room had a menu. Checking with the waitress, her words were “Sam just told me to charge you xx for the meal” and that “there’s a lot of food coming your way tonight”. It was the second night in succession I’d heard that phrase from the Chef Patron of the restaurant I was in, and if it was going to be anything like the previous night’s meal at Noma, I knew we were in for a treat. Besides, not knowing what we were going to get kind of added to the excitement of the whole occasion. Little did we know that in a couple of hour’s time, we would be begging for mercy at the notion of more food heading our way…
So to start, we were given Deep Fried Bull’s Balls. Yes, Rocky Mountain Oysters.. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too fussed about whether we ordered them or not, but Sam came out later to tell us that he had deliberately saved these last 2 especially for us. Whilst I can’t (and don’t) proclaim myself to be an expert in any way shape or form in how different animal testicles taste, I can honestly say that these particular ones had a lovely and crunchy coating and were good fodder for the tangy tartare sauce which accompanied them. I daresay that a few of those would go really well with an ice-cold beer on a hot day.
Next up were raw oysters, frozen kohlrabi where 2 oysters with the top shell loosened were presented in a tub to us. Lifting the loose shell revealed the raw oyster inside, wrapped in a thin sheath of kohlrabi and some other frozen bits (think there was apple?) The contrast of the ozone-flavour of the raw oyster and the ice-cold frozen kohlrabi was sensational. I was already really enjoying this meal..
Victor then came to our table with Onion glazed garfish with tomato ice; where small chunks of garfish were speared onto the open mouth of a garfish head upon a bed of frozen tomato juice, but the head was placed in a way to make it seem like it was joined to the fish tail handle for the bowl – As if it was a whole fish. I liked the playfulness of the food here and how they weren’t afraid to be so playful. As for the dish itself, the fish was cooked perfectly and the contrast to the tomato ice was fantastic. It was probably the first time I’d eaten tomatoes all weekend but because it was the juice which was frozen without any of the flesh or skin, the lack of red of the tomato ice somehow didn’t make me think it was going to be so tomato-ey.
What followed were Steamed chicken wings, roasted seaweed which were incredibly hot and if I’m to be completely honest, I was expecting something with a bit more of a punch. The chicken wings were incredibly juicy and moist, but I was expecting a big seaweed hit but it never really transpired. Shame really as this dish certainly had the potential to be awesome.
Next up was pork shoulder rillettes, pickled apple which was served with some of the crispest and flavoursome Melba toast I’d eaten in a long time and some pickled baby caper berries. THIS. DISH. WAS. SENSATIONAL. As YKL sunk the knife to the bottom and lifted up to reveal the meaty goodness under the layer of lard, the smell was both meaty and enticing. Smothered on the delicious Melba toast and topped with a bit of the pickled apple sauce which lifted the whole thing with its contrasting sourness. I could have polished the whole thing off by myself and it was by far one of my favourite things I’d eaten that night.
Our final snack was peas, verbena, frozen nasturtium which was a lovely dish highlighting the contrast of sweet peas, to the sour verbena and nasturtium – which was also really cold. I very green (coloured) dish but with really clean flavours and the frozen nasturtium almost acting like a palette cleanser given we were about to start the larger plates..
Liking the snacks which had been served to us, the arrival of bread and butter signalled the beginning of the meal for real. The bread – As was the case in all the restaurants we ate at in Copenhagen that weekend – was utterly delicious and well, my jaw dropped when they told me that the butter was whipped with some marrowbone. Oh dear God, why must they torture us so?! That said, I knew that my downfall has been eating too much bread (think Relæ), so whilst I could have polished off the whole small loaf by myself with that divine whipped butter with bone marrow (just saying it makes me smile.. Along with clogging up my arteries a bit more), I had to severely restrict myself because I had no idea how many starters would be heading my way;
Kicking the starters off was Mullet in pine vinegar, cucumber and grilled juice, slithers of mullet with peeled cucumber and some herbs with the freshest pine vinegar and juice which added a real piquancy to the dish and lifted all the ingredients. Bold, fresh and very tasty.
It was obviously Asparagus season in Copenhagen when we visited as we’d eaten a pretty stellar asparagus dish the previous night in Noma and were now presented with Cooked and raw asparagus, crème fraîche, unripe strawberries where a grilled (!) spear of white asparagus was topped with the thinnest slithers of raw asparagus and green strawberries, served with a dollop of crème fraîche and the subtle grating of some cheese. I mentioned that we’d eaten asparagus at Noma the night before, but for YKL, this dish here at Bror was better than Noma’s version – The cooked element of the dish was cooked perfectly and the balance of flavours with the subtle char on the cooked asparagus with the tart green strawberries, the textural crunch of the raw asparagus brought together with the creamy crème fraîche and slight tang of the cheese.. It was one of those dishes which was an absolute delight to eat – And we could have eaten several portions of that alone all night and be perfectly content in doing so.
How do you follow such an amazing dish? Well at Bror, the next 2 dishes were related (although we didn’t realise it at the time). Firstly, we were served Wolf fish, beach plants, butter which was as the title suggests, cooked wolf fish with some beach plants (and peas) not only cooked in, but with some melted butter drizzled over. It was one of them deceptively simple, yet incredibly flavoursome and tasty dishes which you only realise afterwards when you think about it time and time again, just *how* great it was.
But what followed was nothing short of spectacular; If Sam and Victor were looking to impress YKL and myself, they already had with the food we’d eaten, but the next dish of Stuffed Cheek was the dish which not only sealed the deal on whether our meal at Bror was spectacular or not, but actually elevated it to possibly one of the best meals we’d eaten on the whole trip (which is no small feat considering where we’d eaten). Both YKL and I honestly felt as if we had truly saved the best meal for last with this dish. A whole wolf fish head (roasted?) was presented to us with the cheek carved out and stuffed with smaller morsels of fish (think it was the cheek cut up with some other bits of fish) and some bread in a rich, buttery sauce. It could be from our upbringing in that neither YKL and I worry when a fish head is presented to us because our parents taught us how to strip the meat from a fish head so we eagerly tucked in and extracted all the flesh we could, whilst happily turned feral in sucking the bones. I understand that some of you may be turned off at that last sentence, but truly, we couldn’t have been happier. Seriously, you need to eat this dish at Bror (not so) secretly, I hope they never remove this dish from the menu because it’s truly a fantastic dish. Clever, tasty, flavoursome and a chance for punters to turn feral – What’s not to like?
By now, YKL and I were actually really stuffed – We were actually full around the asparagus dish but we noticed that the portion sizes had gotten bigger and bigger, so we were thinking that was our mains for the night was the stuffed cheeks (and *how* spectacular it was!). But when we asked, well pleaded, that there wasn’t another dish to come and that we were going to be served desserts now, yes? She kind of paused apologetically and said “Well, you DO have your mains to come..” Mains?! You mean to tell me that the stuffed cheeks WASN’T our main?! I’ve already mentioned how we noticed that the portion sizes were getting larger and larger, so given the size of the stuffed cheek – HOW big was our actual main going to be?! We had to ask for a break just so we got a chance to digest the food we’d already eaten and give ourselves a fighting chance in what was about to be served to us. Of course, we had *no* idea what was to be served to us and it was with genuine terror that we looked towards the direction of the kitchen to see what was about to be served, terrified that it would be for us. At one point, we saw a whole roast chicken ready to be served with a load of veg and genuinely, YKL and I were terrified that it was for us.. We’ve never breathed such a huge sigh of relief when we saw the waiter carrying the chicken walk past our table..
What actually followed was a light dish of Whipped lambs brain, seed flatbread, apple and mustard seed chutney. I’ve eaten lambs brain previously in a curry, but here it was served almost list a pâté and with the seed flatbread with the tart apple and mustard seed chutney lifting the whole dish. YKL and I may have been stuffed to the gills, but this dish was too good to not eat and we ended polishing the whole lot off, then immediately began to worry about as we were both too full to really eat a main course..
So then, this was it. We were about to eat our main – Would it be a roast chicken (or 2?), whatever it was going to be, it was going to be pretty epic and no doubt, the portion size would be rather substantial – which was a problem given both YKL and I were really quite full by now (though we had eaten some pretty stellar food). With trepidation, we both looked in the kitchen’s direction to see what was coming out. Then we saw Sam look over with a rather large pot headed our way. Without a word, (although I swear there was a semi-evil smirk), he placed the pot on our table and walked away..
.. YKL lifted the lid to reveal:
Lamb’s head, steamed spring greens, ramson sauce. Now, I know that this is another dish which may send people running away in the opposite direction, but in a weird way, YKL and I were slightly relieved that it was a relatively light dish. We divvied up the meat and with the steamed greens and ransom sauce, it was utterly delicious. I think I would have cried if we were given a whole roast chicken because we were so full, but with the steamed greens, I could just about manage this dish. As with all the dishes we’d eaten that night at Bror, even something like lamb’s head which isn’t something you’d see on many restaurant menus, all the ingredients were cooked perfectly and treated with the utmost respect and transformed into something special.
By now, YKL and I were practically bursting and asked if we could skip dessert – Only to see the dessert chef go to a table next to us to remonstrate with them after they too, asked if they could skip dessert.. Amongst all this, Sam kept coming out to chat with us and pretty much insisted that we join them at “Harry’s Bar” which is basically one of the few late night karaoke bars in CPH which all of the staff there frequent. I’m sure that my younger self would have loved that idea, but the thought of flying out the following day with a monster hangover wasn’t really appealing. Besides, we still had dessert to eat;
First up was rhubarb, pine and moss which was tart and tasty. It featured the famed reindeer moss which Noma serve in very tasty form so it was going to be hard for Bror to top that. However, the second dessert of strawberries and elderflower was utterly delicious – How could you go wrong with 2 of my favourite ingredients? It pretty much killed us, but we ate it all..
So that was our completely brilliant meal at Bror. I know that we had a bit of a special menu constructed for us by Sam and Victor, designed I suspect to not only highlight their best dishes (along with their philosophy behind the restaurant and highlighting their very obvious skill, passion and technique), but also to impress YKL and myself. And my, how they did just that! What we ate that night covered the whole spectrum of dishes available at Bror and it make me very envious that we don’t have anything like Bror in the UK, especially when I think about just *how* great some of the dishes we ate that night were. I’ve mentioned it already, but we really couldn’t have picked a better restaurant to spend our last night in Copenhagen – Not only for the food, but the friendly laid-back atmosphere. We loved it so much that at the asparagus dish, we had decided that we would *have* to come back in October. Sam and Victor may have tried to kill YKL and myself with food that night, but I can think of fewer places where there is such (Brotherly) love – From the group hug at the beginning of the night to trying to get us to stay out late and go to a karaoke bar with them after service. And to top it all off, brilliant food, drink and service. I felt the love at Bror that night and if you ever go to Copenhagen, you should head there to experience it for yourself.
The full set of photos can be viewed on my Flickr page.