A Jacques of all Gallic charms displayed and a master of the lot

It’s quaint, idyllic, bijou and oh-so-definitely French. 

Gallic restaurants are ten-a-penny in Østerbro. Some are gourmet and chic, others traditional and comfortable, but rarely are they both – I had begun to think it was an impossible combination. Or so I thought as I was proven wrong when on an icy cold evening I stepped into the warm and intimate constraints of Restaurant Le Saint Jacques. The restaurant was started in 1995 by none other than Daniel Letz, whose name is synonymous with French cuisine in Denmark. One cannot talk about Le Saint Jacques without referring a little bit to Letz’s legacy.

Daniel Letz, a French chef, started at the prestigious Kong Hans restaurant in Copenhagen in 1980. As one of the first chefs to receive Michelin star recognition for a restaurant, Letz is a key member of the school of culinary artists who started a food revolution in Denmark in the ‘80s. Their efforts and experiments have resulted in a new phenomenon that we know as Nordic-French cuisine and which is served in almost every gourmet and Michelin-starred restaurant in this country.

But at Le Saint Jacques, Letz goes back to basics. His restaurant, which was designed to look like a church, does not scream of culinary extravagance. Instead, one is met with the welcoming aroma of a traditional French kitchen and a simple white interior, complete with a statue of Jesus.

On offer at the restaurant is a range of fine French dishes accompanied by a selections of carefully chosen wines. For starters, their famous smoked salmon is highly recommended. The salmon is  smoked to perfection for about 30 hours, ensuring it retains just the right amount of freshness. Accompanying this was a glass of Sancerre 2010. 

Following this was the pipping hot house special, Scallops Saint Jacques, gratinated with tiger prawns and mussels. This is a special as the scallop is also the emblem of the restaurant.

For the main course, if you are not particularly taken with the choices on the menu, there is always a special of the day. On our evening at Le Saint Jacques we had the popular French dish, Confit de canard, which was served with root vegetables and a creamy sauce. To wash down this well-prepared and substantially portioned dish was a glass of the full-bodied Gigondas 2008 from the Rhone region in France. Finally the sweet ending to this soirée consisted of a serving of French apple pie with crème anglaise and meringue.

When asked about his philosophy of food, Letz explains that a good plate of food is one which is prepared well and  accompanied by the right kind of drink. The menu is simple, the wine list appropriate and the waiting staff helpful and friendly. The guests are neither  overloaded with the choices of wine and dishes on the menu, nor are they promised culinary extravagances and artistic experiments with the food. What is definitely on offer is charm. The simple furnishings, the authentic food and French chatter from the kitchen almost transports one to a cosy corner of Paris. In the summer, the square of Sankt Jakobs Plads opens out into an extension of the restaurant with seating for the guests.

Overall one could say that the food at Le Saint Jacques lacked the usual oompf that one can see on offer in most gourmet restaurants in Copenhagen. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing. As Daniel Letz puts it, a plate of food needs to be “tasteful and satisfying”, and that is what Le Saint Jacques is all about. This restaurant, situated in the plush quarters of Østerbro, aims to serve a good plate of food minus any surprises, pleasant or unpleasant.

Restaurant Le Saint Jacques
Sankt Jakobs Plads, Cph Ø; Open: Mon-Fri 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:00, Sat & Sun 12:00-16:00 & 18:00-22:00
Cuisine: French;
Top Dish: Scallops Saint Jacques
Price Range: 375kr for 3 courses; 445kr for 4 courses; 3542 7707;
lesaintjacques.dk