Odense’s restaurant revolution continues!

Odense’s restaurant revolution continues!
Opinions | Written by: Bo Jessen | Translated by: Laura Malahovska | Sunday, November 13, 2016

The English-speakers in Odense also need to know what is cooking on the local culinary scene. In this updated translation of our fall text we take a look at the trends and point out new and upcoming restaurants.

About a year ago, we wrote about the restaurant revolution that has transformed Odense into a gastronomic destination. Since then, Restaurant Pasfall has been mentioned in the Michelin Guide, the latest White Guide lists 11 of Odense’s restaurants and notes the city’s development as particularly interesting. The city’s gastronomic scene has also been covered in a series of articles in SAS Travel Magazine, where they also interviewed members of This Is Odense. Food critic Anders Husa has written a food guide for the city, I Pupi Siciliani is ranked amongst the 19 best Italian restaurants in Denmark by the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and Burger Anarchy’s festival burger has been named Denmark's best by Gastromand.dk. The latest praise for the local culinary scene comes from Euroman in an article with the title: “World Class Wines and Michelin ambitions. Odense is no longer just a bump in the road”.

Burger Anarchy being awarded "Best Festival Burger". Photo: gastromand.dk

In the past year a whole lot of new restaurants have opened and there are even more to come...

Lunch restaurants popping up

Light lunch/dinner restaurants emerge both in the centre of town and in nearby neighbourhoods. In November 2015, AC Deli opened its doors on Læssøegade. The restaurant serves hearty, mostly organic salads inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Around the same time, Soup Stone Café opened on Store Gråbrødrestræde, and they have been rewarded for their daring dedication to the soups of the world (psst. follow head chef Stephen for an upcoming revelation of the location of restaurant number two. In May 2016, Den Grønne Café opened on Skibhusvej - they serve a variety of salads and light lunches with lots of organic options; in August, Banh Mi Sai Gon opened on Vesterbro, offering nourishing, healthy and authentic Vietnamese street food on the go; in late summer, a space opened up for the sushi street food restaurant Seaweed in Brands Passage, and only a month ago, one of the city’s night club owners, Oliver Gorju, launched Oliver’s Salat Bar in Pogestræde.

AC Deli. Photo: marialouiseskovbo.com

It is a giant leap forward that Odense has reached a point where lunch restaurants are springing up left and right, not only in the city centre, but also in the neighbourhoods around it - as is the case with both AC Deli and Den Grønne Cafe. It makes me hopeful for new restaurants, cafes, or bars opening on the harbour soon. It is also time for the next wave of places to show even greater ambition in exploring different realms of taste and high quality. I hope that the next ones will dare to stand out even more, and that instead of just opening another salad bar, they will find their own niche. The possibilities are endless.

The street food scene is thriving and there is more on the way…

In February 2016, Geoff Bubar opened a Mexican street food place called Gringas in Overgade, built around simple Mexican food based on local and organic ingredients. No misguided adaptations to Danish taste buds, as with most Mexidanish restaurants, but instead uncompromising and authentic. And the overall street food scene has been revived: food trucks from Pedros Grill & Veggies, Allô Bahn Mi, Mads og Mikkel's Lune Pandekager (Mads and Mikkel’s Warm Pancakes) can be found at different events around town. Mads og Mikkel's Lune Pandekager even did a pop-up pancake joint at Kongensgade 8 in december. Very soon a Vietnamese street food restaurant is opening in Vestergade, and we happen to know that there is more (very) exciting street food-news on the way, but it is still too early to talk about that.

Pedros Grill & Veggies. Photo: Pedros Grill & Veggies

Michelin stars in Odense?

Something big is happening on the gourmet scene. Funen’s new gourmet restaurant The Balcony opened this spring at the intersection of Vestergade and Kongensgade. The Balcony's balcony overlooks what once was the most dangerous street corner in Denmark, but the city is changing and this is one of the major signs. Strictly seasonal ingredients from Funen in a formal decor bordering on decadent. Already in June, the restaurant was announced among the high class restaurants in White Guide and named Odense’s best restaurant. In the brand new edition of White Guide, The Balcony ranked as Odense’s best and Scandinavia’s 40th best restaurant - an impressive achievement in such a short time for the young kitchen team. The food has been called ‘excitingly ambitious’ and now the restaurant just needs to find its own way without borrowing from the other Danish top restaurants. Who knows - maybe Odense’s first Michelin star will land above Froggy’s (who could have guessed!?)

Oysters at The Balcony, Vestergade. Photo: The Balcony

In October 2016, in the extension of Odense Theatre, Restaurant Kongens Have opened. Out with the ticket office in the beautiful extension and goodbye to the fact that Odense Theatre has so far been without a proper restaurant. Even though the logo design does not exactly signal 'quality', the tenant proves the opposite. The restaurant is managed by Stefan Graversen, who also runs Restaurant Nordatlanten at the harbour. The interior is light and Scandinavian and an elegant spiral staircase connects the ground and first floor. The café opens in the morning, while the restaurant is open in the evenings and offers three-, five-, or seven course menus - a Danish-French mix with promising combinations. Fyens Stiftstidende seemed excited in their review, and I am looking forward to meals on the summer terrace in Kongens Have. Hopefully other cultural institutions will follow the lead and add food to their the menus.

Café & Restaurant Kongens Have. Photo: Odensespiseguide.dk

Wine bars galore!

It is not only restaurants that proliferate in Odense’s streets. More than five (!) new wine bars have opened in the past year: first came S'vineriet vinapotek that since November 2016 has served fine wines in an industrial setup in Klaregade. Almost at the same time, the guys from mmoks opened a wine bar in the backroom of their restaurant in Kongensgade. In the early summer, it was Lalou Vinbar’s turn to open in Pogestræde, named after the French wine goddess from Bourgogne and this has become my preferred vinous joint. Here Ivan Laursen and Thomas Brieghel serve natural wines (among other choices) and French specialties at a very reasonable price. Almost simultaneously, Noé Vinbar in Kongensgade opened, and finally, during the summer, Amy's Bar & Winehouse - more regular bar than wine bar - raised its curtains.

Lalou Vinbar, Pogestræde. Photo: letsblogsomeshit.dk/

Odense is already home to some of the country's best beer bars, like Christian Firtal - Odense and Carlsens Kvarter, but this summer Bryggeriet Flakhaven got new owners and with them came an even greater focus on local beer from Funen. Add to that a new, bright star among beer bars, namely Dunkbar in Jernbanegade. Behind Dunkbar are two beer nerds, Peter Pagh and Stefan Lund Jørgensen, both of whom used to man the bar at Christian Firtal. Ten taps for beer with focus on quality, and two taps for cocktails. We love nerds and their beers are not just good, but fantastisc. The decor, the lighting, and the music? I could do with a little less midday canteen and a bit more evening beer bar.

Dunkbar's alterpiece

The revolution continues…

There is no indication that the revolution is subsiding. On the contrary.

In November 2016 Bar'Tapas opened its doors between Restaurant No. 61 and mmoks in Kongensgade (will someone please urge construction magnate Thomas Lund to sell Kongensgade nr. 67, so the street can finally be complete?). Mickey og Malte Christensen from Sæson Spisested teamed up with their friend Amir Alwa and have hired Tony Linde, who has previously worked at Ruths in Skagen. They are serving the world’s first running tapas in a Spanish-Danish country kitchen mix with a focus on quality ingredients from small producers and Spanish wines. All-you-can-eat thinking is rarely linked with quality, but in this case the kitchen actually comes close. It is a restaurant with few airs and room for everyone - we called this style ‘gourmet with a hugh-gear attitude’ in our recommendation of Sæson Spisested in our 2016 city guide, and we meant that in the best way possible.

The young team behind Bar Tapas. Photo: Bar Tapas

In December, the exclusive steak restaurant MASH Odense (Copenhagen, Aarhus, London and Hamburg) launch in the nearly completely renovated property at Vestergade 11 with a summer terrace facing Flakhaven. Even though we are more passionate about local food than restaurant chains, we still welcome MASH as another step towards making Flakhaven a vibrant square with an abundance of eateries. The people from MASH themselves point to the shift in mood in Odense as their main reason to open. They are calling Odense “the new Aarhus - a city all restaurants will flock to”. We don’t agree that Odense is anything other than itself, but we are glad that more people are becoming aware of the city’s transformation.

The MASH Odense storefront in winter time, doors will open in summer. Photo: MASH

This isn't all. The city’s vegan food scene - until now kept alive by ØKOllektivet's catering, communal dining in Kærnehuset in Nedergade, Ungdomshusets Café's vegan Thursdays and the Rise of Veganism DK’s occasional events at the harbour - just got a major overhaul with the opening of two new restaurants.

In December Vladimir Stanić and Elisa Bresson opened Venchi, an organic vegan cafe in Pantheonsgade, close to Vestergade. Their menu includes burgers, sandwiches, smørrebrød and, my personal favorite, Balkan- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. I have long waited for someone to serve good Jugoslavian dishes in Odense and even though the traditional regional cuisine is very meat-based, their greens are an often forgotten delicacy. The interior is industrial-yet-warm.

Furthermore our good friends at ØKOllektivet, who took part in our street event “Gaden som lærred”, have announced the opening of Cafe Kosmos Vegan & Organic in Lottrups Gård, offering vegan and organic dishes with local ingredients and focus on sustainability and animal welfare. Equally worth celebrating is the fact that they plan to host small cultural events at the cafe. That is really exciting stuff, and we are thrilled to watch their plans become reality in the near future.

The team behind ØKOllektivet and Café Kosmos. Photo: ØKOllektivet

The city’s new cultural venue ODEON will also be opening a cafe in the early spring. Fortunately, their initial plan to open another nacho place hell fell apart, and instead they are collaborating with Bo Lindegaard from I’m a Kombo in Copenhagen to create a reasonably priced community oriented dining concept. There will be homegrown vegetables, fish, and more on the menu, focusing on local ingredients from Funen. An eatery for all the different people who will be working and living in and around Odeon and the revived Thomas B. Thrigesgade area in the future.

Looking further ahead, plans for a new indoor farmers market on I. Vilhelm Werners Plads were greenlighted earlier this year, as part of the new project for Thomas B. Thriges Gade. It is a little early to speculate what it will have to offer, but I am hoping for a good relationship between them and Grønttorvet, dedication to produce from Funen and uncompromising quality. So far the first visualisations of the building are looking good with skylights and lots of foliage.

The projected Farmers Market on I. Vilhelm Werners Plads

The Restaurant scene in Odense has taken leaps and bounds in the past few years, and it is important for the city that these initiatives spring from local forces, young and old; people who believe in Odense and show their passion through their work. I have already had quite a few of last year's wishes granted, but there is still great potential for new projects to unfold. I still long for a high quality Middle Eastern restaurant in town, as well as a gourmet Latin American restaurant to supplement Pastel Brasil's informal take on Brazilian cuisine. And what about a farm-to-table restaurant that exclusively cooks with local produce? More venues that combine culture/books/ideas and food? Or what about a seaweed restaurant - we have Denmark's foremost expert in this field, Ole Mouritsen, walking the streets of Odense, after all! What would you like to see in the city? Share your culinary dreams with us in the comments, and then get out and support the new (and the old) restaurants.

ALSO, remember to read our recommendations of the city's 92 most interesting venues, restaurants, shops, and sights of 2016 at www.thisisodense.dk/en/places



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