Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
One year of marriage…and I still have trouble remembering to refer to ‘my husband’ rather than ‘my boyfriend’. It’s been an exciting year, with most of it spent saving and planning for this remarkable adventure around Europe that we’re now on – our first adventure together as a married couple.
For the longest time, we’ve been talking about treating ourselves on our one-year anniversary by dining at the famous Noma in Copenhagen. We even structured our trip so that we could stay in Copenhagen for a week, to give ourselves more chance to get a reservation. Of course, all this hype naturally meant that we would end up being disappointed – when reservations for November were released online, I was on the website straight away…only to be shunted to a queue for two hours after which I was only offered the chance to add my name to a waiting list, rather than being guaranteed a reservation. It absolutely broke my heart.
It was back to the drawing board – what could we do in Copenhagen to celebrate our anniversary? Luckily, Copenhagen is probably the best place in the world for top quality Michelin-starred restaurants, with (I think) about 10 restaurants in the World’s Top 100. We looked into all of them, but finally settled on Amass as a restaurant that could offer something a little more unique, a little more Danish, a little more local.
Amass is located a little bit out of Copenhagen city centre. We took a ferry from the beautiful Nyhavn in the Copenhagen city centre across the harbour to Refshaleoen, where Amass is located – a lovely scenic trip (despite the gloomy weather!) sailing past the beautiful Opera House. The reason they’re based a bit further out is because Amass counts on producing a lot of their own produce, maintaining their own beehives, etc. As they’ve only been around for about two years, their garden is still definitely a work in progress, and was looking a little sad when we visited in winter.
As we stepped off the ferry, my nose caught a tinge of the most incredible smoky barbeque smell. Letting my nose guide me to the back of Amass, we met Milton Abel, the pastry chef at Amass who used to work at the famous French Laundry in California (and Noma before that). He happily talked to K and I about the Amass team as he worked on barbecuing their signature fermented potato bread, made from local potatoes that have been fermented for 10 days, combined with salt and yoghurt, and then cooked on the grill.
As he said, “When I came to Amass, I looked at the bread that all the other famous restaurants in Copenhagen were offering. Everyone does amazing sourdough, and it’s all homemade. I wanted to do something different here at Amass, so I came up with this fermented potato bread – it gives everyone a reason to come here and try something different.”
He loves his job and the team as well. “We’ve been open for about two years now, and in that time, I think only one person has left the team. Everyone’s really close, and it’s a lot of fun to work here.” Catching our accents, he asked if we were from Australia. “It was either that or New Zealand, and I knew there’d be trouble if I got it wrong! We’ve got a few Aussies and Kiwis in the kitchens, and they always have a few jokes with each other.”
Entering the restaurant, you know that you’re in for a cool and innovative experience, not a stuffy formal experience. It’s a big open warehouse-like space, with some pretty cool urban graffiti on one wall. The staff are very cool as well, with either a hipster beard, stretchies in their ears, or piercings.
Our main waiter for the day is a cool Scotsman with ear stretchies and an impeccable ability to pick the right beverages for his diners. Knowing that I don’t drink alcohol, he started me off on a grape juice made with grapes from the French Alps that are normally earmarked for Beaujolais, and then offered me a local organic apple juice from a no-pesticides orchard from the south of Denmark as my second drink. Both were delicious, and I was particularly excited to find the same bottle of apple juice (Fejo Aeblemost) in an upmarket grocery store in Copenhagen later in our stay.
While we had originally planned to have the cheaper lunch menu (395DKK per person), we decided to splurge for the six-course standard menu (595DKK per person) given it was such a special occasion! At the time of dining (it changes regularly!), this menu included the following dishes (wording all my own, not on the menu):
- Fermented potato and yoghurt grilled bread served with a fermented vegetable dip with nasturtium emulsion
- Starter of celeriac mousse, salted apple and wormwood crumble
- Smoked Arctic char served with vinegar powder, potato vinegar crisps, and garnished with nasturtium leaves
- Smoked Danish squid from the West Coast topped with radish, black garlic oil, plum, egg yolk, and flowers from the Amass garden
- Soft scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms, red seaweed, sour curd, and topped with toasted buckwheat
- Wild Danish duck (beware of any stray buckshot!) with pumpkin and juniper, topped with charred parsley
- Dessert of sugar beet syrup, yoghurt ice-cream, baked sweet potato puree, honey from the Amass beehives, and the slightest hint of black pepper
My pick of the above was definitely the smoked squid – I’ve never had squid quite that creamy and smoky before. Combined with the black garlic oil and the firm and crispy radish slices, it blended together on the palate in a rich smoky savoury hit that sparked all my senses. I also loved the fermented potato bread, and complimented Milton on it when we saw him again during our meal. I’m definitely interested in trying to recreate this bread at home when we return to Australia…we just have to figure out how to ferment potatoes first!
I found the duck quite strong and gamey – understandable given that it was a wild rather than farmed duck! Best suited to those like K who like to eat a lot of meat, and rare, strong-flavoured meat at that. K didn’t think much of the soft scrambled eggs which I enjoyed – I thought the toasted buckwheat and the sour curd really made the dish pop, but he thought it was a bit plain.
Overall, Amass was an absolutely wonderful fine dining experience, well deserving of their status on the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list despite the fact that they’ve only been open for two years. Innovation is high on their priority list, as is the promotion and use of local produce. Their staff are warm, friendly and inviting, and come to Amass after having served time in the kitchens of some of the best restaurants around the world – heck the head chef at Amass is ex-Noma! I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to climb up the Top Restaurants list in the years to come, provided they continue creating and trying new things.
Amass is located at 153 Refshalevej in Copenhagen.