It’s pretty hard to separate Danish food from Danish design, although the latter is very much the country’s mid-20th century high, and the former has become the star of the early 21st. Yet somehow they are umbilically linked, whether at a low-key lunch place, a high end restaurant or even a beach hotel festooned with designer lamps. As far as sources are concerned, Jutland, which I’ve just visited, was the home of the designer daddy of them all, Hans Wegner, whose inspiring museum is in a converted water-tower at Toender (panoramic top floor below).
Few countries of only 5 million inhabitants can claim such a high profile in both categories (OK, maybe Catalunya, not yet a country and with a bigger population – 7.5 million), so on my recent Jutland trip I was fascinated by the correlation between the two creative directions. Purity is a shared trait (that Lutheran spirit?), so bringing harmony to your dining surroundings, though sometimes I did appreciate an escape from the box.
Like here for example (above), a polytunnel in the vast vegetable garden of Henne Kirkeby Kro, a hip, gastronomic country inn. In the garden you stumble across this folly furnished with an eclectic mix of Cantarutti Forest chairs, recycled bits and bobs, and raised beds sprouting herbs destined for the cooking-pot. I loved this quirky hideaway – perfect for a drink or a snack, though pretty damned warm when the sun is out.
An addendum – it’s run by two Brits: chef Paul Cunningham, and GM Garrey Dawson. Maybe that explains the idiosyncracies?
Henne Kirkeby Kro’s dining-room, highly recommended for indulging in superlative food, is far more modern-classic, but the inn also claims the Hunting Lodge annexe where corridors of ceramic bricks enclose a glass atrium, a stuffed fox, wall-hung antlers and the odd Wegner chair (above). Of course. In the guest-rooms, design shifted centuries to stunning Haiku sofas by Gam Fratesi.
There was something distinctly designer-ish about Cunningham’s plating too, for example this dessert (above), where architectural meringue concealing a ewes milk yoghurt sorbet teetered over a bewitching pool of lemon, olive-oil and a liquor infusion of tarragon, lemon verbena, thyme and sweet cicely. Got that? Not quite mid-century modern with such rococo ingredients, but brilliantly architectural in appearance – and herbs from that polytunnel.
Nearby, at the far more traditional country inn of Ho Kro, I admired their homemade recycling of antlers and chunks of birch tree into candleholders, while their cheerful food composition lifted the heart (above).
I found the opposite at Henne Molle A Badehotel, a modest-looking 1935 beach hotel in a prime position right beside the rolling sand-dunes. I was amazed to discover it was designed by the celebrated architect, Poul Henningsen (1894-1967). He was also a lighting magician, so at times it felt rather like being in a lighting showroom – in fact a sales brochure for his lamps trailed in my room. It was nonetheless impressive to see that though his classic PH5 (above) dates from 1958, it still looks totally on trend. And I liked the cosiness of the room – a bit like being on a boat, all utterly functional.
More original in its mix was the charming Rudbecks Ost & Deli on Fanoe Island (for more on the island, see my foodie blog post here) where varied mid-century furniture and lamps (top above) echoed the dazzling baroque-ness of an open sandwich – showcasing four of the island specialities sprinkled with edible flowers. As if I didn’t need more food…but it felt like savouring a painting.
A short distance away, still in Fanoe’s port town of Nordby, was Kellers Badehotel, a small inn with a delicious seasonal menu from around £23. Here I was greeted by a mid-century classic + sheepskin (top above) – perfect for those chilly Nordic nights. Better still was their fantastic grilled sourdough bread slathered in rapeseed oil. Fields of brilliant yellow rapeseed were in fact one of the agricultural sights on the mainland.
More floral additions, this time garlic flowers, echoed the 21st century design styles of Chhat, a youthful restaurant converted from a gymnasium in Blaavand – a popular local resort. Seated on a signature sheepskin, I recommend ordering the excellent steak tartare – though the menu changes fortnightly. What you won’t miss out on is Chhat’s divinely creamy butter (above) – ever present.
Finally it was south to the source, namely Wegner’s hometown of Toender near the German border. Here an old water-tower has been converted into a comprehensive museum of his furniture designs, rising on eight floors to the panoramic penthouse. Amid the streamlined beech chairs, I focused on a particularly quirky design – yet again sporting that typically Nordic sheepskin. Here’s the genius below (1914-2007).
Last but not least – more Wegner chairs, this time spotted in the sacristy of the 18th century church at Henne Kirkeby. So in Jutland, not just cooks and hoteliers but also priests got that mid-century Danish message. Tak!