The Samuel: A perfect synergy of food and wine
By Trine Ejlskov Jensen-Martin | Photos: Michael Jepsen @mtj-studio
Housed in a beautiful, historic villa in leafy Hellerup north of Copenhagen, The Samuel is one of Denmark’s most exciting fine-dining restaurants. With one Michelin star already in the bag after a mere four months, the future is looking bright for head chef Jonathan Bertnsen and maître d’hôtel Rasmus Knude.
Jonathan was head chef at trailblazing restaurant Clou in Copenhagen for ten years, where he was awarded his first Michelin star in 2014. He is, with good reason, considered one of Denmark’s most innovative and creative chefs. The Samuel, lovingly named after his son, continues his tradition of creating exquisite and outstanding dishes.
“The food I make is in my DNA,” Jonathan says, when talking about his background in French cuisine and his time at the helm of Clou. “I do not stick to specific types of cooking, although I’m clearly influenced by southern European kitchens. But I always use luxurious raw materials.” The restaurant is old-school in the best possible sense and offers a classic restaurant experience with starched white table linen, beautiful cutlery, attentive table service and a menu that often includes caviar, fish and fois gras.
“I was looking at different buildings when the idea for the restaurant started taking shape,” he says. “When we saw the villa in Hellerup, that was it!” There are very few buildings left of this kind, so they have shown the utmost respect to its history during the restoration and refitting. The Samuel first opened its doors in November 2021, but closed again after three weeks, when COVID restrictions forced them to stay closed for six months. Four months after reopening, the Michelin director himself awarded them their first star, an outstanding achievement by any standard.
Food and wine in symbiosis
At The Samuel, food and wine are valued equally and the focus is on creating a culinary symbiosis. This devotion to pairing has been acknowledged with several international awards, such as main prize at the prestigious Copa Jerez international competition in food and wine pairing in 2013, and again in 2019. “I have a rather nerdy approach to food and wine. Wine and raw ingredients inspire and influence my cooking,” explains Jonathan. As both the head chef and sommelier, he certainly knows his way around both palate and plate.
Seasonal and sustainable
“We are not bound by self-imposed rules or restrictions, and don’t want fish from France when we can get the best seafood right here,” he continues. The kitchen always uses fresh seasonal ingredients, never compromising on their commitment to being sustainable. “I think it is healthy to look forward to things being in season. Take strawberries for example, it is worth the wait to have fresh strawberries in the summer – the taste is completely different!” says Jonathan. “New Nordic is not dying, it’s in all of us, it’s just called something else. It has inspired us to be more sustainable. Now we all think about where things come from,” he continues. The Samuel does not define itself as a ‘New Nordic’ restaurant, but does use the best local and sustainable ingredients available – so perhaps New Nordic does indeed just need a new name!
Passion and personality on a plate
A crucial part of The Samuel is their extensive wine list, which includes aged wines, as well as Jonathan’s personal favourite, aged Champagne. “We always find the wines before we create our menus,” Jonathan explains, which is where they set themselves apart. “You can’t change a wine, but you can play around with and adapt or change the food,” he explains.
Though he doesn’t consider The Samuel an anomaly in the current Danish food scene, and recognises the inevitable comparisons to other restaurants and chefs, he holds that “the beauty is that each high-end restaurant is different. Every place is created with passion and experience, and each chef’s and sommelier’s personality shines through on the plate or in the glass, as well as in the pairing of the two.”
The Samuel is passion on a plate and the dedication to combining the very best in food and wine is inspiring. Besides exquisite food and knowledgeable service, the atmosphere at The Samuel is key to the dining experience. Here, ‘hygge’, warmth and classic dining go hand in hand, and you get a real sense of the characters behind the place in each mouthful and every sip. Food and wine truly come together to create an altogether greater whole than the sum of its exceptional parts.
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