COPENHAGEN: It’s been a bumpy year, and the year has only just begun. In fact, it’s been a bumpy few years. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused catastrophic ripples, devastating small and large restaurants through the hospitality industry. Such an effect makes a birthday even more celebratory – proof that you’ve weathered the storm. For Brace, the Michelin Green Starred restaurant in Copenhagen, turning five years old, is both a cause for celebration and an opportunity to reflect on what has been.
Opening in February 2017 under the guidance of Italian Nicola Fanetti, Brace burst onto the Copenhagen dining scene, promising Nordic-Italian cooking. Fanetti, a young chef from Malonno in Lombardy, had already spent a number of years in Copenhagen kitchens, working at Era Ora, followed by Noma and Quadri. However, eager to go it alone, he opened Brace with the ambition of blending cultures, showing guests how Italian and Danish culinary traditions can harmonise. Moving with the seasons and leaning on local ingredients, he brought the warmth of his homeland to the kitchen and began creating dishes rooted in Nordic produce.
His approach to sourcing and creating a tight-knit network of producers and suppliers fit the Copenhagen restaurant community, a togetherness within the industry that Nicola continues to take inspiration from. Meanwhile, his blend of culinary cultures, melding the Danish with the Italian, created a new symbiotic pairing of cross-cultures and has established Nicola as the pioneer of Nordic-Italian cuisine.
Then 2020 happened. Despite turning five years old, Brace hasn’t been five years operational. Just as Nicola and his team found their feet, Brace was forced to close. They stepped in line with other restaurants in Denmark, addressing government protocol and waiting for things to blow over. Of course, they didn’t. The short-term future looked bleak. The long-term future, who knew? The restaurant closed. Much of Copenhagen followed. The international restaurant community was thrown into chaos.
However, Nicola’s network of producers and suppliers continued to harvest and fish. Nature was causing devastating effects with one hand while continuing its work with the other. The weeks and months do not pause for a pandemic, and the seasons moved forward with their cycles. Nicola saw the opportunity for reflection and reworking. He re-examined the menu and re-addressed the entire restaurant. In July 2021, Brace was re-launched after a complete overhaul. “Lockdown allowed us to reflect,” says Nicola, “but it was also an opportunity for progression, focussing us in a way we hadn’t before.”
With the restaurant closed and an empty kitchen – and staff still on payroll – Nicola and his team sprang into action. “Here in Copenhagen, we have access to some of the best products in the world, so we kept the supply chain moving and spent many months adapting and transforming our dishes into something incredible.”
The result was a new menu format following three simple menus: The Brace Experience (12 servings), the Taste of Brace (7 servings) and the Brace Lunch Menu (4 servings). Dishes include White Asparagus – Egg yolk – Parmesan 24 Months Aged. A delicate rose of steamed Danish white asparagus is served with rich egg yolk and Parmesan cream and is inspired by ‘Asparagus alla Milanese’. There’s also Langoustine – Ramson – Nasturtium – Onion. Using the best quality Danish langoustines, Nicola serves them in ravioli with an intense onion broth, ramson oil and nasturtium. Two of the new desserts have already become hits if guest feedback, and the Instagram grid is anything to go by. Pistachio – Gooseberry – Baerii Caviar sees a Sicilian Bronte pistachio parfait mixed with dried gooseberry powder and crowned with a generous helping of caviar. Then, Bee Pollen – Mulberry – Sea Buckthorn uses pollen from Seerupgaard, a biodynamic farm south of Copenhagen, with foraged anise hyssop and bursts of sea buckthorn gel.
The closure also allowed for periods of experimentation, and the team were playful when it came to useful ways to reduce waste and food surpluses. This included launching a new juice pairing, leaning of the abundance of local fruits, vegetables and in particular, berries. They also used imperfect herbs to make drinks, such as Saffron and Tagete juice and Sea Buckthorn Kombucha.
In celebration of their birthday, the restaurant also announced the opening of a new online shop, selling products and ingredients – durum wheat linguine, aromatic oils and Nordic Pesto, produced by Nicola for Bonverre. You’ll also find Modern Italian Espresso, reinvented, Nordic style, using the same ingredients as the traditional Italian espresso, while other products promote and celebrate the best in Danish creativity with limited-edition, high-temperature fired stoneware ceramics by Concreta.
“The whole team feel so much positivity after such a difficult few years and all the new changes. Now we’re celebrating a birthday, and the world is beginning to open up and see people travel again. We’re so happy to be back doing what we do best,” says Nicola with a smile.
Brace, Teglgårdstræde 8A, 1452 København, Denmark
+45 28 88 20 01; www.restaurantbrace.dk