I was in Copenhagen yesterday researching a non-food article for the Independent newspaper and took the chance to check out a radical new food shop a Danish friend had told me about.
A few years ago I interviewed the rising stars of the Copenhagen restaurant scene for Condé Nast Traveller. Among them was Bo Bech, a great, bearded bear of a man from Restaurant Paustian. Since then Bech has won a Michelin star and become a Danish TV star.
But is this his Icarus moment?
Bech has opened a shop in one of the city’s most expensive retail rental areas in one of the most expensive – if not the most expensive – cities in the world selling a loaf of bread.
Just one type.
No cakes, no milk, no Viennoiserie, not even Danish pastries (which the Danes call Wienerbrød). Just one type of classic, French-style sour dough bread. (Ironic, given that his food is so elaborate, although perhaps in keeping with his renowned pomposity).
This I had to try.
So I toddled down to Store Kongensgade, close to the royal palace, with my local foodie friend Sebastian, to try the bread for myself.
The shop is as minimalist as the concept, with just a wooden table piled hugger mugger with a couple of dozen loaves and a pretty girl girling the till. Through some glass doors you can see the impressive Italian bread ovens, which must have cost a fortune.
A quick calculation from Sebastian reckoned that the costs per year on the place were about £150,000. The loaves sell for around £3.40 each. That means he has to sell… fumbles for calculator… really loads of loaves a day.
So is the Bo Bech Bread worth it?
Yes and no. Great, thick, sharp crust. Slightly disappointing, heavy, doughy crumb, a bit like a cooked crumpet, with – for me – a too strong wholemeal flavour. Not really sour enough for me, either.
That was the verdict ripping off pieces sitting in the sunshine on a bench in Kongens Nytorv. Back home, slathered with some salty butter or, a day later, as the foundation for a perfectly poached egg, it worked rather better.
But, really, I wanted the heavens to open and shining light to illuminate my plate, perhaps with a few trumpets, and though great bread is extremely rare in Denmark and it is great that Bech is showing Danes how good bread could be if they'd just wean themselves off those great, solid bricks of rye bread, loaves like this are dime a dozen in Paris.