A standard bearer deserving of a spot in your almanac pronto!

Good food and good jazz is the simple equation behind The Standard, the venue that has breathed new life into the old Custom House building on the edge of the inner harbour. Opened in October, it comprises an intimate jazz club and three restaurants: Studio, where the co-owner and head-chef Torsten Vildgaards creates fancy and experimental dishes that draw on his eight years of experience at Noma, but aren’t so shackled to the Scandinavian supply chain; Verandah, a contemporary Indian with an authentic, yet sophisticated menu; and finally Almanak, the most affordable and relaxed of the three. This focuses on local and seasonal ingredients, and it’s here that we scuttle on a cold, wet, windy Friday evening.

Our first impressions are great. Super-friendly girls wearing trendy black jumpsuits take our coats while our eyes skim over the warm, contemporary interiors to the big panes of glass overlooking the water.  You probably know this building. Since 1937 its art deco style and not-so-subtle green façade have made it an eye-catching feature of the harbour front. It became available to rent just as The Standard’s owners – Claus Meyer chief among them – were contemplating a dining and jazz venue, and despite its cavernous and narrow interior, they couldn’t resist. So the idea of one venue was abandoned and instead the building was carved up into more intimate spaces. Varandah and Almanak slot either side of a central reception area and staircase, while the jazz club and Studio are above. All the spaces benefit from wonderful views and, come the summer, 150 seats will transform the deck into one of Copenhagen’s prime sunning spots. 

The 100-seat dining area definitely feels a bit ‘Meyerish’. Elegant, clean lines with modern furnishings, subtle pendent lighting, a muted colour palette – safe, but lovely. The kitchen is open, allowing you to peer in at a team headed by Andreas Møller who previously spent two years as a sous chef at restaurant Saison, followed by a stint as head chef at Kanalen in Christianshavn. 

Almanak is open for breakfast, lunch, Sunday roast and dinner with a three-course set menu offered in the evening alongside a la carte dishes. The savvy option is the dinner and jazz deal, which for 545 kroner includes three courses with wine parings, plus a ticket to either the 6 or 8:30pm concert. We go for one of these and some a la carte dishes. Nibbles of Fried pigs trotters with a herb emulsion and Toasted sourdough spread with cod roe and goat’s cheese were moreish, salty and encouraged much champagne quaffing – job done. The Cod fish bisque served with roasted endives was rich, silky smooth and pared brilliantly with  Finca La Emperatriz, Blanco, Rioja, 2010, while the Deer tartar accompanied by dried and fried porcini mushrooms, cranberries and red sorrel was both beautifully presented and delicious – a wintry Dyrehaven on a plate. 

The main courses were so-so. The Baked cod served with grilled Danish octopus, steamed leaks, parsley puree and cod foam was unevenly seasoned with the cod lukewarm and the leeks pretty tough to get a knife through. The saving grace was the lovely ‘Nordic risotto’ made with pearl barley and an abundance of herbs. Braised veal breast and tongue with an artichoke mash, chard onions and a sweet apple sauce was tender, sweet, sticky and comforting. Again the wine parings were spot on and served by our helpful and friendly waitress, Winny.

We loved the desserts. The teeth rottingly-rich white chocolate mousse tempered by the sourness of a skyr sorbet and sorrel oil vanished in a flash and the more complex Seabuck sorbet with malt flakes, dried nougat and salted caramel cream tasted wonderful if you scooped up all the components in one.

I liked Almanak a lot and it’s great value for money. But it reminded me of a Danish woman’s wardrobe. It’s lovely and stylish, and everything is presented with precision and skill and feels expensive yet unpretentious, but there’s no breaking of boundaries. It’s chic blacks and greys instead of a bright red jumpsuit. After the meal we checked out the jazz club where Niels Lan Doky, the Danish jazz pianist and record producer, has concocted an exciting and innovative programme of concerts. With jazz this good and potent cocktails, the standard was set high indeed.


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