Month: October 2010

Reinwald’s – Copenhagen

Unfortunately one of the perils of travelling alone is the dreaded Saturday night dinner.  While I’m no stranger to independence, dinner time on date night is a little intimidating.  You have to find just the right place – not too busy, small table or bar seat out of the way, as to not attract too much attention.

After wandering around for about an hour, and being turned away from my first choice, Tight, I happened upon Reinwald’s. It was moderately busy, but not so much that I felt guilty for being a single party. There were plenty of two-tops and an interesting menu.  Interesting, because it was quite clear that Reinwald’s specialty was bear.  I’d never had bear before, so I figured ‘what the hell, I’m on holiday, let’s go for it’.

There was a bear tasting menu priced at 500 kroner, which was a bit out of my league for something I wasn’t sure I’d like. I decided to opt for the ‘small plates’, which were much more reasonably priced between 75 and 175 kr.

I started with the Potato Wontons with Bacon and Fresh Chive and Truffle Cream (95 kr):

What could only be described as the lovechild of gnocchi and ravioli, I liked this quite a bit.  Perhaps a bit heavy on the salt and sitting in a bit too much sauce, but it was good, and the cream made for exceptional dipping sauce for the bread basket.

For my main, I decided to do as the Romans do, and ordered the Minced Bear Boeuf with Blackberry Sauce and Onion Compote (175 kr).

Coming out looking like an overdone burger sitting in gravy, I realised within my first bite that I don’t like bear. Or, at least this bear.  It was dense. The onion compote lacked any oniony-ness and if there was any sweetness to the blackberry compote, I was not aware.  The bear burger itself had an aftertaste that took an hour and two glasses of red wine at my hotel to get of. Not a fan.

The bright side to the meal was the service. However, it really just seems be a Copenhagen thing, because I didn’t meet a single surly person during the entire trip. The people are just absolutely lovely.

With service, water and two glasses of wine, the bill came to 381 kr, about 44 undeserving  pounds. I understood very quickly how Copenhagen got the costly reputation it has.  Oh well, they can’t all be like Aamann’s.

Reinwald’s
Farvegade 15
1463 Kobenhavn
Tel: +45 33 91 82 80

Aamanns – Copenhagen

Travelling alone invigorates me. There’s something special about discovering a city street by street where you have no idea where you’re going or how to speak the language. It’d been a while – nearly as year since my somewhat-disastrous trip to Romania. I booked Copenhagen with higher hopes. Arriving around 5pm, I checked into my very small, very cheap room at Hotel Nebo, and set off in search of some dinner.

Before I left, I did the obligatory Twitter check to see if there was anywhere I needed to try. Within seconds I was recommended Aamanns for its smorgasbord and smørrebrød, a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich. What I didn’t know is that the traditional fare raved about is served at Aamanns takeaway next door to the brasserie, where I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time.

The brasserie at Aamanns is small – about 10 tables. As I walked in, I was greeted by a server who can only be described as a more attractive Danish Kenneth from 30 Rock and a server’s assistant who looked like a blond Zac Effron.

I love the decor, though. My favourite shade of green:

The menu at Aamann’s is only in Danish, which would normally be a problem if the staff didn’t speak English better than I do. I was taken through the tasting menu – 3 courses for 315 kroner, which is about £35.

I was presented with two types of bread – a seeded traditional rye bread and a spongy white bread – served with an herb butter infused with pork fat (yum!) and a light ‘regular’ butter with the faintest hints of horseradish and lime. Both were gorgeous.

Soon after, my starter of Fried Squid with Apple and Toasted Hazelnuts in a Sole Cream Sauce arrived.

This was a plate of a thousand amazing textures. Pieces of apple both fried and raw, soft hazelnuts, supple squid all sitting in a pool of the lightest cream-based sauce I’ve ever had. It was absolutely superb, and I didn’t want it to end.

My main, Braised Pork Neck, took on similar characteristics.

There were many different components, all with different textures – as if the chef had decided to include every step from smooth to crunchy, and assigned an ingredient to match. I wouldn’t say it was executed as perfectly as the starter, but it was certainly delicious. The presentation was simple: a layer of mashed potatoes served in a copper pot topped with endive, roasted peaches, braised pork, walnuts, watercress and fried hollowed-out potato skins.

And all plated up:

It was a healthy portion too. I loved the crisp potato skins against the tender pork. I was shocked that I had never seen potato skins prepared that way before. I hope it’s not the last.

Dessert was Poached Pears with Salted Caramel (my favourite) and Vanilla Ice Cream:

Presented in a sealed jar, the pear was cut into cubes and mixed with none other than a caramelised version of the spongy white bread I’d had at the beginning of the meal. Again, all about the texture, it was crunchy and soft at the same time. The salted caramel was a dream, and the vanilla ice cream was a perfect accompaniment to keep the dish from being too rich.

With a pot of tea, service and wine pairings for the first two courses, I spent 600 kr. If I had to do it over again, I’d stick with just one glass of wine- the pairings, lovely as they were, ran up the bill 205 kroner (about £25), but didn’t really add that much to the meal itself. Hindsight’s 20/20, though – and for the sake of overspending a few quid – I’m not complaining. This was a gorgeous meal, and Aamanns should be on anyone’s Copenhagen ‘must try’ list.

Mosob – Maida Vale/Westbourne Park

Mosob may just be my new favourite place ever. It has everything a restaurant should: good food, good service, community feel, warmth, convenience, value – everything.

I had heard of this restaurant through my friend Tim‘s review on Qype. Not being far from my house, I knew I had to try it.  Mosob specialises in Eritrean cuisine. The owner, whose name we learned was Benjamin (anglicised, of course) came over from Eritrea to Maida Vale 21 years ago. His mother set up Mosob, and it’s been the family business and community mainstay since.

Benjamin is immediately likeable. He casually asked if we’d had Eritrean food before, ready to give his spiel on how they don’t use cutlery – instead using Injera, a porous pancake-like bread to sop up the rich stews and sauces. I said that I’d had Ethiopian before, but understood it to be different. He explained the differences (though to me, it still sounded the same), and like clockwork produced a book on Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.

We ordered our starters and mains. In the meantime, we chatted with Benjamin about the neighbourhood and how things have changed over the years. Having been around for over two decades, he was an encyclopedia of knowledge. From the former crack-den across the street to the street-to-street differences in wealth, Benjamin knew all. It’s not every day you get a history lesson with your meal.

Our mains arrived before our starters. Ooops. It was the only snafu. The food was so good and filling that we really didn’t mind. Benjamin ordered starters anyway and wrapped them up for us to take home free of charge with massive apologies. That went a long way.

Served side by side and the surprisingly light Injera was the Quluwa – Cubes of beef sautéed with onions, green chillies and tomatoes; and the Awaze Quluwa – Cubes of lean lamb sautéed with onions, tomatoes and traditional pepper sauce.and a more mild beef dish with green peppers and onions

Both were tasty, but I preferred the rich spiciness of the lamb to the beef.

For starters, which we had promptly upon our return home, we had the Spinach Rolls – Spinach with traditional herbs rolled in injera and garnished with olive oil & chilli; and the Meat Sambosa – Pastry filled with mildly spiced lamb.

I was glad we were able to have these later. The Spinach Rolls in addition to all the Injera we had with the meal would have been too much bread. They were, however, delicious after our stomachs had settled a bit.  The sambosas were pretty much a samosa, but with heavier emphasis on cumin. Also lovely.

All in all (with our free starters), a glass of wine, beer and service, the bill was an incredibly reasonable £25.  At the end of the meal, Benjamin gave us cards with our names written out in Eritrean (a half phonetic language, we learned) and invited us to a community event he puts on every year.

The whole place made me feel all warm and fuzzy, so much so that I’ve told only about 20 people how good it is and how – even for people in East London – it’s worth the trip.

Now, who wants to go back with me?

Mosob on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Slow-cooked Welsh Lamb Tagine

I’ve always been a bit apprehensive of cooking red meat.  I like it a certain way, and because it can be rather expensive, I’d rather not give myself the chance to mess it up. Steaks, lamb and duck have been off-limits in my kitchen – until yesterday.

I was given the opportunity by the people at EatWelshLamb to try my hand at preparing a dish of my choice. While they encouraged me to be creative using a whole load of ingredients they sent me, I preferred to keep it simple by trying one of the many many recipes on the East Welsh Lamb website.

This easy recipe for a Moroccan-style tagine takes about an hour and a half to cook, with a good 20 minutes of prep time.  I took a couple liberties with it by adding tomatoes and dried apricots to the mix, but you certainly don’t have to.

The result was an absolutely gorgeous dish of very tender and rich slow-cooked lamb with savoury spices, a hint of sweetness and enough spice to tantalise your taste buds. I served mine over couscous.

The Welsh lamb was delicious, obviously high quality, and something I would cook again. It’s definitely helped me not be so scared of cooking red meat. Now if someone would just teach me how to do a decent pork belly…

Ingredients:

  • 450g (1lb) lean Welsh lamb cubes
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 15ml (1tbsp) ground cumin
  • 2.5ml (½tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 2.5ml (½tsp) ground ginger
  • 400g (approx) can chickpeas, drained
  • 300ml (½pt) lamb stock
  • 150ml (¼pt) orange and mango juice
  • 1 tin peeled tomatoes
  • Chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tsp harissa paste (or more if you like a kick)
  • 1 lemon, zest removed
  • Seasoning
  • 30ml (2tbsp) fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 225g (8oz) couscous
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 30ml (2tbsp) fresh mint, roughly chopped

Temperature: Gas Mark 3, 170°C, 325°F

Place lean lamb cubes, onion, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, chick peas, stock, juice, tomatoes, apricots and zest into a large casserole dish. Cover and cook for 1-1½ hours until the meat is tender.

Remove lid and sprinkle on the couscous, lemon and seasoning.

Replace lid and return to oven for about 20 minutes until liquid has absorbed (add a little more stock if a little too dry).

Serve the tagine sprinkled with mint.