Set on a road populated by villas and rarely-tested Land Rovers, Hotel Hornbækhus emerges majestically from the shade of the tall trees surrounding its beautiful structure.
The first thought that comes to mind is that the building belongs to a colonial age where the likes of Karen Blixen used to seek retreat. But this is neither a farm in Africa nor the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi.
While the legendary Danish author never actually visited Hornbækhus, an impressive line-up of artists, both Danish and international, have been drawn to this gem of a hotel in a region of the country quietly earning itself a reputation for being the Saint Tropez of Denmark.
Tintin’s father Hergé was a guest here once. As a token of thanks, he left a drawing of the Belgian globe-trotting detective, Captain Haddock and Snowy on the beach at Hornbæk with a comment on the excellent food and catering, and how the schnapps was an especially nice experience. Particularly for Haddock, I would imagine.
Snowy would like the beach
It was on a Friday evening that we, a company comprising two adults and two mature children, arrived and parked in front of the rambling, red guesthouse. Shortly after ringing the bell in the small reception area we were met by a smiling, softly-spoken waiter who checked us in, informed us the next serving of dinner was at 7 pm and directed us to our rooms.
We took our overnight bags upstairs to a spacious room complete with a bathroom door with an old-fashioned keyhole that my son would later wrestle with to unlock from the inside. Standing for more than a century in gracious ‘Gustavian’ Swedish Manorhouse style, Hornbækhus has perhaps seen better days, although a flat-screen TV and a curious digital alarm-clock on the bedside table clearly indicates they are keeping up with the times.
Since there was half an hour before dinner, we took a walk to the beach, which is only a few minutes away. We marvelled at the summery feeling of the homes we passed on the way, and then as the sea came into view, the children made a run for it. Had it not been for the dinner ahead and the excellent wind-surfing conditions, the youngsters would have probably torn their clothes off and run straight into the sea.
… and the bread
We were seated in the middle of the airy, well-lit dining room. Elegantly laid, the table displayed the most beautiful Royal Copenhagen porcelain plates. At the bottom of each, the characteristic tree-logo of the hotel is painted in green. True to the artistic nature of the place, the logo was designed by the Danish architect Steen Eijler Rasmussen in appreciation of free lodgings in the post-war 1940s.
For starters, and to the tune of melodies from the ‘40s, we were served scrumptious scallops: one oven-baked, the other deep-fried, with a single white asparagus steamed in elderflower. Cream of cucumber, pickled sea buckthorn and pea foam is arranged delicately around the plate and adds a touch sophistication to the dish. of Another delicious detail is the butter to go with the very white, soft bread, in which mustard seeds and oregano are mixed. Everything was eagerly devoured by the four of us.
Keeping up with sipping the fine glass of elderflower-like white wine after a welcome glass of bubbly – elderflower juice for the children – proved to be a challenge. But the ever present and conscientious waiter answered my request for water, before I even voiced it.
Silverside beef marinated in red wine and cut in healthy slices made up the main course. The somewhat sinewy, yet juicy meat makes chewing worthwhile because, as with the first course, the combination of summer greens and thyme fully complement the course.
A children’s favourite
“My mother said there’s no dessert for those who don’t eat up,” the waiter teased the youngest. Only the youngest scoop up every last bit of the vanilla panna cotta, burnt white chocolate and raspberry. No, we all do (the tarragon granita topping being the only part scooped away by the young lady).
The next morning, well rested and really well catered to, my son and I walked through the Danish Saint Tropez (equipped with designer shops and even a funky coffee shop) after a luscious breakfast buffet. After a leisurely wait at the station we caught the train, also known as ‘grisen’ (the pig) in Danish, towards Helsingør. From there we took another train straight to Copenhagen. By 12:30 we were back in the city.
Unless stated otherwise, the meals in these reviews are paid for by the venue.