Oct
10

Café Benedict

Ben Hamilton of Cafe Benedict

A little off the beaten track but more than a little special, Café Benedict is the venue for our second ‘big’ event, taking place later today. Much-valued friends of this project, husband and wife team Ben and Anne Hamilton have created a lovely eatery, combining some of the best cooking to be found in Copenhagen with a cosy, unassuming atmosphere. Chris and I paid a visit last week and asked them to share their story.

A chef for 20 years, including stints at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants around Europe, Ben long held reservations about opening his own place: “When I’ve worked for other people, I’ve seen first-hand what’s involved. You’re not just a chef, you’re an accountant, you’re taking the rubbish out – you’re basically doing everything.”

Despite the doubts, Ben had a vision he was determined to realise and he found a willing foil in his wife: “I couldn’t wait to get away from the stuffy, poncy tablecloth environment and Anne agreed that we should do something together in the industry.

“I wanted to bring my cooking to people who might not normally try it. I wanted to make something friendly and accessible. The amount of places I’ve worked in over the past 20 years, I’ve picked up things from really good vegetarian restaurants to baking in Paris and so on and I’ve basically combined all of that into what I do today.

Ben Hamilton making the bread“I try and keep it seasonal and I try and keep it regional. I concentrate on flavours. Because I’m on my own, I can’t do 15 elements on one plate because it’ll kill me. The risotto that you’ve had tonight for instance, I’ve taken three elements – rice, butternut squash and egg – and just tried to make as tasty a dish as I can.”

The couple work hard at what they do and employ next to no outside help. That means a typical day can involve managing reservations, deciding the menu, choosing ingredients, dealing with the building owners and various suppliers – all before beginning the prep.

This relentless schedule can take its toll but the rewards outweigh the stress. Ben elaborates: “When I have the good nights – and the good nights far outnumber the bad – and we’re full and the guests are leaning across the bar and calling into the kitchen to tell me how good it was, those are the nights I get a buzz from and it makes me remember why I’m doing this.”

But perhaps the main attraction is the feeling of liberation they get from being their own bosses. Ben explains: “The beauty of what we do is that we decide. It’s our menu. When we’re at home Sunday night trying to work out what to put on then it might be that Anne suggests something, or I might be looking through a book or magazine or an old menu from Le Sommelier and get inspired. Or I might be walking in Valbyparken and see some beautiful plums that find their way into a dish. That’s what we like.”

  • Try the 3-course menu for 295kr.
  • Open Tuesday to Saturday from 16:00 until 22:00
  • Check their website for the monthly Sunday lunches during the winter

The approach at Café Benedict is perhaps best summed up by a story Ben recounts of Anne’s time at business school: “She took an evening class before we opened just to brush up on a few things. At the start they asked everyone to describe their concept. Anne stood up and said we’re going to open a small café, it’s going to be cosy, clean and tidy, and we’re going to serve good food and give good service.

“Everyone basically laughed and said ‘is that it?’. But for us that’s enough.”

Café Benedict

Reviews (Danish)
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Oct
10

CPH Meal #2 – Wine List

Here’s the wine list for Sunday’s meal. We know we said there would only be three different wines, but that wasn’t good enough for Christian at Ved Stranden 10. He managed to put together a great list of five wines to complement the food as well as something bubbly for when you arrive.

  • NV · Cremant de Jura “Indigène” · Arbois · André et Mireille Tissot
  • 2008 · “TO” · Burgenland · Velich · Chardonnay
  • 2008 · “Emmeram” · Burgenland · Gut Oggau · Gewürztraminer
  • 2005 · “L’Enchentoir” · Saumur · Manoir de la Tête Rouge · Cabernet Franc
  • 2005 · “Alter Turm” · Weinviertel · Fidesser · Chardonnay + Frühroter Veltliner
  • 2004 · Auslese “Sommerhäuser Steinbach” · Franken · Weingut Schloss Sommerhausen · Sylvaner
Oct
10

Inco

Ben Hamilton in Inco

On Tuesday morning, at the chefly hour of 7.30am, Aaron and I joined CPH Meal #2 Chef Ben Hamilton for a peek into the food professional’s cash and carry, Inco.

Although most of the ingredients for Sunday’s menu are being sourced from specialist suppliers or foraged from the beaches and forests around Copenhagen, some high quality ingredients are just as readily found at Inco. You do have to know what to look for, however: “This stuff’s for if you want to be lazy”, says Ben gesturing at rows of bags of pre–cut vegetables. “But then over here you have these lovely things”, and he picks up and inspects some plump, organic apples from Lilleø.

It seems as if it’s possible to buy any kind of meat, fruit or veg from Inco, but it’s up to the buyer to assess what presents good value, quality and flavour – something that often requires rethinking conventional wisdom: “Years ago freezing food was seen as miraculous technology that would preserve any flavour, but since then it’s acquired a stigma and everyone tries to buy fresh, which is great”, explains Ben, “but in the case of foie gras, cryogenic freezing can produce a product which is actually better than many vacuum-packed or ‘fresh’ versions”. Quick freezing at very low temperatures prevents enzymes from attacking the meat, which often causes an undesirable grainy texture.

I’d long held a vague notion that Inco, or any other professional supplier for that matter, presents an Aladdin’s cave of epicurean delights that simply aren’t available to us mere food mortals, and all one need do is fill one’s basket to assure superior results.

But after listening to Ben and having seen such a wide gamut of price and quality, I’m reminded once more of the importance of the skill and experience of the chefs selecting the products. A fact that’s illustrated by one of Ben’s many illuminating anecdotes: “At one restaurant I worked at, they’d cook dozens of duck breasts every night and throw away the fat. Then they’d spend a fortune on tubs of goose fat from Inco.

“So, I said let’s just take all this great fat from the duck and render it down each night – we ended up with four litres of free fat every day.”

It’s less about merely going where the chefs go, but more about learning to think like one – to be mindful about the trade-off between price and quality without cutting corners or compromising on the end result.

Oct
10

CPH Meal #2 – Menu

Sunday’s meal is almost upon us, so it’s time we told you a little bit more about the event. The evening will be a collaboration between regular chef Rob Martin and new addition but old friend, Ben Hamilton. Ben is the epitome of a classically trained chef and his food is characterised by the use of rich, robust flavours and comforting textures. We think this will provide a fascinating counterpoint to Rob’s lighter and more modern style.

Having spoken with the chefs, we know how excited they’ve been to work together on this menu, and we can’t wait to hear what you think. The event has long been sold out, but we’re aiming to bring you plenty of insight from the prep and the service via Twitter and Facebook.

Location: Cafe Benedict, Borups Allé 112 – Frederiksberg.
Date: Sunday the 10th of October.
Time: 17:00.

Price includes 6 courses and wine.

  • Soft egg, butternut squash, parmesan
  • Cod, beets, sea herbs
  • Foie Gras, figs, chocolate crumble
  • Dry aged beef, red wine sauce
  • Cantal cheese, plum chutney, crackers
  • Elderberries, Pear, walnuts

We’ll post the wine list later this week.

Sep
9

Announcing CPH Meal #2

Hello all, a quick post with the details on our next event.
CPH Meal #2 will be a collaboration between our regular chef Rob Martin and Big Ben, chef and owner of Cafe Benedict.

We’re always excited about our events but this one already feels like it’s going to be special. Chris and I met with Rob and Ben last week and to see the two of them bouncing ideas off one another was bloody inspiring.

We don’t know yet quite what they’re planning but it’s going to be good. As always, we’ll keep you posted as the menu develops but, for now, here’s the essential details.

Just a note that this time you need to order and pay for your ticket in advance. So be quick! There will be a small booking fee, but it’s still a bargain!

CPH Meal #2
When: Sunday October 10th, 5pm
Where: Cafe Benedict, Borups Alle 112, Frederiksberg
What: Five courses + wine
Price: 600DKK

Sorry, SOLD OUT!