Suits. That’s the first thing we notice when we step into Grønbech & Churchill, the Michelin-starred restaurant opened by Rasmus Grønbech in March last year. To be fair, it’s lunchtime, and through the windows of this corner building loom the alabaster walls and giant starred flag of the Maersk headquarters.
By offering a fancy but quick two-course lunch menu, Grønbech & Churchill has cleverly ensured that it has suits on tap.
The building is unremarkable from the outside: a basement with an ever-so-discreet sign that fronts both Amaliegade and Esplanaden. Churchill Parken lies directly opposite, hence the Danish-Anglo name. Inside the decor is classic understated Scandinavian: clean lines, a palette of whites, greys and blacks, elegant glass pendant lights, and candles flickering on the tables and from within Perspex boxes on the window sills. But let the eye roam and you’ll notice numerous injections of modern art: sculptured heads by the celebrated Danish artist Michael Kvium for example, and a crinkly, slightly creepy looking new-born baby nestling on the shelf next to the wine glasses.
Everything you see and taste is down to Rasmus Grønbech, the founder, owner and head chef who having worked in numerous kitchens, including that of Prémisse (now AOC), has finally ventured from the wings to stride out onto centre stage. At lunchtime, when guests are seated in the smaller section of the restaurant, you can look through an open arch and see Rasmus and his team obsessively tinkering over dishes on the clinical stainless steel pass.
It’s in this section, on a busy Wednesday, that we take out seats, guided by headwaiter Jesper who, as a veteran of The Paul restaurant, has managed to develop a professional, informed yet friendly style. We’re starving. We wait. Then a slab of slate arrives, adorned with a stack of rugbrød, slices of salted sourdough and a generous pot of butter, and the fun begins.
Both the lunchtime and the evening menus are divided into two options that change on a monthly basis. The Grønbech menu is a light offering, typically featuring a seafood main, while the Churchill menu, true to its name, is a very robust, heavy affair. In the evening you pay 500 kroner for four courses, with the option of splurging another 500 kroner on the accompanying champagne and wine menu, and at lunch it’s 275 kroner for two courses with optional extras of canapés, cheese and dessert. It’s a smart concept as it keeps the menu manageable for the kitchen while providing two completely contrasting options for guests. “It’s almost always the women who opt for the Grønbech,” says Jesper.
To start we’re served a take on gazpacho: peeled buffalo and plum tomatoes perched on spring onions, marooned in a pimento and vanilla reduction and adorned with a wafer-thin slice of ‘burnt’ bread. On the side comes a generous wedge of Valencay, a classic goat’s cheese from the Loire Valley. It is beautifully presented and due to the high water content of the tomatoes, the dish has a clean, incredibly refreshing taste. Next comes a rich beefy bouillon served in a teacup, garnished with fresh flowers. Hiding within its depths are pieces of succulent langoustine, raw white mushrooms, cooked silky chanterelle mushrooms and spring onions − a clever combination of textures that again elevates simple, seasonal ingredients into gourmet food. The main is a generous and tender breast of mallard, coated in a rich apricot reduction, which we both agree is a far superior take on the classic Canard a l’Orange, but it is the dessert that really wows. Two weeks later and I’m embarrassed to confess I’m still daydreaming about the white chocolate mousse, prune compote, white chocolate and yoghurt sorbet, and perfectly ripe plums crowned with white chocolate disks. It was simply delicious.
In the evening up to 50 guests use a separate, more intimate section of the restaurant. There’s only one sitting, and although I suspect there’s usually a few suits, Jesper says the atmosphere is much less formal, much less rushed and, most importantly, much less corporate. For a business lunch, Grønbech & Churchill is a solid choice, but if you really want to languish in the undoubtedly fine food, knock back some booze, laugh out loud and – God forbid – wear a pair of jeans, an evening booking is recommended.
Grønbech & Churchill
Esplanaden 48, Cph K; 3221 3230
Open: lunch Mon-Fri 12:00-14:30, dinner Mon-Sat 18:00-22:00
Top Dish: Chocolate mousse
Price Range: 500kr for 4-course dinner (1,000kr with wine), 270kr for 2-course lunch