Incorrigible old hack that I am, I am always on the look out for 'the new Noma', the restaurant which might come close to rivalling René Redzepi's place by the harbour in Copenhagen.
Of course, no restaurant can have the impact that Noma did, because Noma was the first of its kind and has become justly famous and heralded for dragging Scandinavians out of their pre-Glasnost, France-fawning approach to eating, but it is interesting to see the local, seasonal time/place philosophy filter down, and especially exciting to find a properly refined, complex New Nordic kitchen outside of Copenhagen. For all the talk in the media in recent years (to which I have contributed more than my fair share of hyperbole), the New Nordic 'revolution' has mostly been confined to the Scandinavian capitals so far.
So, welcome to the historic Jutland inn, Henne Kirkeby Kro, which these days is a luxury guest house (run by an ex-Fat Duck staffer) with a truly world class kitchen.
So eager was I to get to the table that I forgot to take a photo outside. So here is a model, yesterday.
The chef here is Allan Poulsen. He trained under a French chef (Michel Michaud - well known in Denmark) up in Skagen - so he has a classical background, which shows in the impeccable technique and presentation of the small servings of the tasting menu I tried.
This was one of the amuse bouches, pickled asparagus sandwiched with toasted rye bread. Rather awkward to eat, and I couldn't help feel that pickling asparagus was a shame. Best just to cherish it in season, I think.
A dish called Vadehave (Wadden Sea). Miraculously sand-free carpet clams (I have spent hours snorkelling for these, and tried every trick in the book to clean them, but to no avail: Allan told me he cooks and strains the liquid, removes the blighters from their shells and rinses them in clean water), with samphire. Transcendently delicious.
Hay-smoked potatoes from the restaurant's fabulous kitchen garden (which supplies much of the herbs, vegetables and fruit used at Henne Kirkeby Kro, and which I also neglected to photograph despite being shown around), and wild garlic cream - doesn't get much more New Nordic than that.
An odd 'fried bread' course. Odd in a nice way.
A tiny slither of kolrabi enveloping something (raw shrimp?) with crown of cress. Pity the waiters and washers up with all these slate plates...
I think this was a tatare of local beef with a clever wrapping made from gellified bone marrow.
One of the great dishes of the evening: Oscietre caviar with woodruff sorbet and pickled celeriac. Impeccable, fabulous flavours, the woodruff sorbet (green in tin, on the right) actually the star.
Another controversial dish, for me, this one: cod cheeks (very nice) blanketed with a melted cheese sauce (hmmm), and onions. I ate it all, but fish and strong cheese? I'm just saying...
More of that sensational lamb, with a purée of Gotland truffle.
A very Momofuku-esque course next: wild mushrooms with a 'No 14 cheese' and parsley. The most addictively delicious dish of the evening.
Elderberries with honey. Scrummy segue into dessert, and extremely pretty.
If I said dessert featured pickled onion and toasted bread, you might take a step backwards, and rightly so. These were paired - not entirely unsuccessfully, I have to admit - with lemon thyme and caramel. I'm all for breaking down that savoury-sweet barrier, something our old friend Alberto Adria is so adept at.
Most Noma-esque moment of the evening: white chocolate, dill and celeriac. Thoroughly refreshing. Simply, one of the greatest desserts I have ever tasted.
Another inspired dessert combination: raspberries and fennel. I have both these things growing in my garden, yet the thought of combining them wouldn't have occurred to me if you had put me in a room with 10,000 chimpanzees and 10,000 typewriters, each of them typing the words 'raspberries and fennel' and wearing raspberry-fennel motif t-shirts. While eating raspberries and fennel. As dessert.
Henne Kirkeby Kro is one of Denmark's most famous historic inns. A couple of years ago it was bought by a family who had made billions (of kroner, but still) from selling fibreglass to wind turbine companies.
They also bought an island. Well, you would, wouldn't you? Together with Allan, they clearly have a dogged, money-no-object approach to making this place one of the greatest restaurants in the region, and I would say they are well on the right path. That incredible kitchen garden, and the fact that they are in perhaps the richest part of Denmark in terms of great produce (lamb, beef, seafood, woodlands, heathland, organic dairies - south Jutland has them all), are going to count for a great deal, I suspect.