Restaurant Review: It will serb you a Xmas feast and you won't balk at the prices
The Balkan countries have definitely mastered the art of producing perfect winter comfort food. So as the winter chill sets in this year, what better way to defrost than with a hearty bowl of goulash soup overlooking the Christmas display at Tivoli?
You could call Hercegovina a classic Balkan restaurant in Copenhagen. Or you could call it an institution. Given its heritage of being open for 27 years in Tivoli, I am going to go with calling it an institution. From the outside, the restaurant looks like any other restaurant in central Copenhagen, but when you step through the doors, you are instantly greeted by the smell of grilled meats and smoky barbecue, the sound of a three-piece roving gypsy band, and waiting staff who genuinely look as though they love their job.
This was a refreshing and warming change for us frequent restaurant-goers, who have been to various restaurants in Tivoli and not before experienced such a hospitable welcome. Our attentive waitress made us feel as though we were guests in her own home, rather than customers she was tending to. And the display of collector’s items, family photographs and other memorabilia hanging from each wall highlight Herzegovina’s family-orientated vibe.
Hercegovina is well known for its Croatian and Serbian cuisine. The restaurant has a small a la carte menu, but the buffet is by far the most popular choice among hungry guests. For the Christmas season, the chefs prepare the usual Balkan dishes, but they also expand the buffet to include all of the traditional Danish julefrokost delicacies, such as five different types of herring, liverpostej and ris á l’amande – just in case you can’t possibly imagine a Christmas dinner without these dishes.
We unfortunately missed out on the famous pig-on-a-spit, so my partner ordered an a la carte dish of roast duck breast stuffed with apricots, prunes and mandarins, while I dove straight into the buffet. I often find buffets to be overwhelming and require a strategic plan of attack before approaching, but navigating my way around this selection was easy as the large flaming grill acted as the artistic centrepiece that bound all of the dishes together and kept them warm.
The goulash soup was a perfect way to start. It was rich and meaty with a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness, and one bowl was enough to ignite my tastebuds for the plates of food that followed. Upon my return to the grill for round two, the charismatic chef told me to leave the decision-making in his hands. He lived up to his word and proved to know what he was doing when it came to grilling meat. The ‘mixed grill’ of chicken, pork and sausage were accompanied with grilled peppers that had a great smoky flavour. A side of grilled red chillies added a great kick to the meat, which was then washed down nicely with a glass of American Cabernet Sauvignon. Though looking back now, I regret not trying the wines from Montenegro and Croatia.
However, the highlight of the evening was by far after the meal when we were able to sit back and watch the gypsy band meander through the tables, singing, dancing and progressively gaining more audience participation. By the end of their set, people of all ages were clapping, using their tables as make-shift drums and even joining in with their interpretation of gypsy dancing. And, just as we thought it was coming to an end, we were engulfed in the scarf of a belly dancer, who had us playing the tambourine as she performed for the guests next to us. Unfortunately we were too wrapped up in the scarf to remove our tops and join in with shaking our bellies.
It definitely was a fun night to remember and far more charismatic than other restaurants in the city. So if you’re feeling adventurous, hungry, or wanting to show off your gypsy dance moves, head to Hercegovina this Christmas season.
Bernstorffsgade 3, Cph V
3315 6363, firstname.lastname@example.org
Open: Mon-Sun 12:00-15:00
Cuisine: Croatian & Serbian
Top Dish: Mixed grill
Price Range: Julefrokost buffet 179-199kr, a la Carte 79-260kr