Connection: Joyful connection and world-class cuisine at Copenhagen’s smallest gourmet restaurant
By Lena Hunter | Photos: Chris Tonnesen
At two years old, Connection by Alan Bates is a relative newcomer on Copenhagen’s busy restaurant scene – but this intimate inner-city nook in the historic Kartoffelrækkerne (‘The Potato Houses’) block has quickly carved a singular profile as one of Copenhagen’s most joyful and personal dining experiences.
The British chef and owner Alan Bates has over a decade of experience in renowned two- and three-Michelin-star kitchens, including Henne Kirkeby Kro in Denmark, El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, The Fat Duck and The Hand and Flowers in England, and Restaurant André in Singapore.
As such, Connection’s food offering – a succinct and thoughtful seven-course set menu with wine pairings and a little blackboard of specials – is an exquisite reflection of Bates’ personal journey inside and outside the kitchen.
“I started by asking, how do I want to eat?” he says. “We try to cook without dogma. We’re not a Nordic restaurant – we just cook the finest seasonal produce available in a way that makes it shine, with as much flavour as possible.”
Though the dishes are masterful, there is no pretence on the plate. Elegance is beautifully balanced by rusticity and heritage by fun – and flavour reigns supreme. “Everything has to be delicious,” says Bates. “If you don’t put something in your mouth and go ‘wow, that’s delicious’, we’ve missed the point.”
Where flavour is lived
While the menu evolves seasonally, a few staples endure. “One is inspired by cowboy toast – a beloved Danish trash food of white sandwich bread with a meat purée, toasted but frozen and then microwaved. It’s terrible, but also excellent!” laughs Bates.
“We have made our variation on that of brioche fried in clarified butter with whipped and frozen chicken liver and foie gras parfait, and winter truffles when they’re in season. It really resonates with our Danish guests when they get this super decadent and well-constructed reimagining of a humble classic.”
Elsewhere, Bates has introduced flavours from his own heritage. “I’m super British and I am proud to embrace that. I wanted to do something no other restaurant was doing, so we do a Parkerhouse Roll basted with roasted herb-infused chicken fat. The idea came from traditional English country houses, where a piece of bread called a tranche would be placed under a joint of meat as it roasted to soak up the juice and the fat, and the staff would get to keep that while the meat would go upstairs to the family. I always thought that the staff were getting the best bit!”
Bates often hosts guest chefs at Connection for fun nights of cooking with good friends. Over the past two years, he has shared his kitchen with profiles such as Tom Kerridge from two-Michelin-star The Hand and Flowers, Jonny Lake from one-star Trivet, Dan Smith from one-star The Fordwich Arms, Paul Cunningham from two-star Henne Kirkeby Kro, Mark Lundgaard from two-star Kong Hans and Wassim Hallal from two-star Frederikshøj.
Joy and love through food
But in a city renowned for exceptional dining, Bates’ kitchen pedigree is only half of the explanation for Connection’s certain magic. As the name would suggest, its core philosophy is one, not of eating, but of togetherness. “We only have 18 seats and everyone sits together around three Chef’s Tables. When you walk in, it’s like coming home. We draw these heavy curtains which creates this little world. No one’s ever on their phone – they are focused on the company,” explains Bates.
Eschewing the fine-dining convention of lengthy, performative dish descriptions, Connection opts for a gentler style. “We try to keep our food explanations short and give more if asked. I just want to let the staff and the guests talk: what have you done today? What are your plans for the summer? I love cooking and I love food – but the aim of the game is to achieve a consistent product every night, while the curveball is who’s coming in. So I’m way more interested in that.”
“I’ve never been anywhere like this”
Bates describes his time at the two-Michelin star restaurant Henne Kirkeby Kro on the Danish west coast as a ‘real turning point’ in his perspective on what a restaurant should be. “It has such humanity in how it cares for its staff, which rolls into the guest experience. That played a big part in how I shaped Connection. I want this to be a place where you can walk in and feel present.”
Connection’s number of repeat visits is high, and guests regularly book future tables while they’re still eating. As chefs go, Bates is marvellously present himself – an embodiment of the atmosphere he has crafted at Connection. This is the other half of the explanation behind the magic of this tiny restaurant: it has soul.
“I’ve eaten extensively around the globe, but I’ve never been anywhere quite like this,” says Bates. “I just want to share it with as many people as possible.”
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