Le Sommelier, fine wine and french gastronomy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen restaurant Le Sommelier, Copenhagen, opened in 1997, it was a small revolution wine wise. The two young wine waiters, Jesper Boelskifte and Erik Gemal would make a difference in the hospitality industry, which at that time had nothing further focus on wine.

They put their own wine collections in the basement and opened with a wine list, which attracted much attention among wine connoisseurs. Not only was it rare and prestigious bottles, one could also get many of them served by the glass.

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Curiously the wine bar concept never really caught on, and as the two wine waiters got a partner in the form of star chef Francis Cardenau the gastronomy focus was strenthened. It became a vastly popular restaurant, known for good, classic French food, excellent wine and Denmark’s probably worst acoustics.
But now the acoustics demon has been exorcised, in connection with an extensive renovation that has eliminated the strict French expression where waiters wore long white aprons. Tooday, they are as talented as in the past, but now dressed in checkered vests, it’s a casual style that works disarming.

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Thus, it is now far more comfortable to stay at Le Sommelier, although strictly Francophile might miss yesterday’s tight French expression, since it has been slightly diluted.
The food quality remains unchanged. It is classic French with great heaviness and lots of flavor, rustic but with a built-subtle elegance.
The menu is, however, adjusted, and it is different from Denmarks other French brasserie-oriented restaurants. Several of the dishes you can call French clichés is gone, but not fried foie gras, which is a must when Francis Cardenau is behind the stove.

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But where most restaurants in the genre serves up steak frites and onion soup one would look in vain for these dishes at the new Le Sommelier menu.
The closest is a veal cutlet, and it should not be confused with a red steak. It made one of the guests at a luncheon I attended after the review visit, and in this context, a veal cutlet appear disappointing.
The veal is incidentally also represented in the form of fried liver, and it becomes too overwhelming, you can walk easier with, for example, young goat and rabbit.

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The latter got served partly as filet, served on a warm, shiny plate, partly as thighs cooked in the sauce. This was made with vin jaune and it arrived in a shiny copper pan with beautifully carved carrots, crispy zucchini, finely drawn and deeply flavored morel mushrooms, celery and olives. Rabbit meat was juicy, firm and clean in flavor which gave a nice contrast to the distinctive sauce.
The young kid was cooked gently so the meat had retained a pink tinge. Again there was an intense sauce that made nice contrast to the virgin pure goat meat.
Soon game will be flooding into Le Sommeliers kitchen, that is known to make much out of this genre which is mostly ignored by most other Danish restaurants.

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This evening there is a foretaste, namely partridges, and here one must necessarily treat oneselves to a glass of Pommard. Preferably, from 1971, and it is indeed available by the glass, sweetly priced at 160 kr. It is perfect for the partridge. Despite the 43 years, the wine is in full hopla, with plenty of fruit and strength, a sweet and comfortable tartness where the tannins have resolved beautifully.

Serving such a wine by the glass is indicative of how much this restaurant escapes from the main stream, like a turkey in a chicken coop. The wine list is legendary, with some 1,500 bottles, several other rarities than those bestowed by the glass, and this alone is reason enough to visit the restaurant Le Sommelier anno 1997, which is said to have gone on to become a full-grown classic.

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A classic that you can be very well served if you love the classic French, of excellent wine and comfortable conditions.

It can be added, that the trio behind Le Sommelier expanded their business by creating Umami restaurant and the Mash Steak chain, also present in London.

Here’s a slideshow with above pictures and more:

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