I hadn’t expected the testicles. Although in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised: offal is one of the signature specialities at Brør, the unpretentious Nordic bistro run by two Noma alumni that has recently become the talk of Copenhagen.
“Here are your bull’s balls,” the waiter announced matter-of-factly, describing the dish exactly as it appears on the menu. On the plate before me sat two oval-shaped patties, almost mannerly in appearance, covered in copper- toned breadcrumbs and accompanied by a ramekin of tartar sauce. Beneath the crisp coating, the texture was reminiscent of thick custard. The flavour reminded me of fugu shirako—blowfish smelt, served as a winter delicacy in Japan—only two shades richer. The tartar sauce laced with lemon juice provided just enough acidic sparkle to cut through the heaviness and elevate the dish. No wonder people come in and ask for the testicles without ever having visited the restaurant before.
Turning such humble cuts into ethereal culinary experiences takes real skill, but owners Victor Wågman and Sam Nutter have no shortage of talent. Before opening Brør (which means ‘brother’) in April 2013, the two friends spent around four years working together at Noma, cooking under René Redzepi and eventually becoming sous-chefs, with Wågman in charge of produce and Nutter managing the test kitchen.
The testicles were originally Wågman’s idea. He’s the Danish-speaking, circumspect Swede—the one who takes care of the business side of things while Nutter, the impetuous 29-year-old Brit, oversees the cooking. Because the duo had launched the restaurant on a shoestring budget, the bottom line had figured heavily in his initial choice of ingredients. “At Noma, I’d dealt with a lot of great suppliers, so I asked them what would be the cheapest but best product we could use, and that’s what we ended up with,” he said, before adding, “It’s a shame that these cuts are often discarded in this country.”
From the beginning, offal had been a fixture of the menu, presented in creative ways to both challenge and delight the guests. There was boiled sheep’s head, served whole—eyeballs and all—alongside a whip of puréed lamb’s brains, smeared on crackers with apple chutney. There was a collagen-rich giant cod’s head, baked for four minutes and then garnished with remoulade sauce and nasturtium salt. And a mildly addictive chicken-liver paté—topped with fermented mushrooms and black currants, pickled pine and flecks of crispy chicken skin—that came with sweet and smoky baby corn and a basket of chewy rye bread.
The formula has paid off. The Brør family is growing and Wågman and Nutter plan to open a bakery, appropriately named Café lillebror (little brother) in late November. The new space is located just around the corner and will supply the main restaurant with fresh bread, in addition to a café and lounge space serving wine and snacks for those waiting to be seated at Brør.
Now that the two are no longer so focused on “making ends meet”, the chefs say that they’re going to pour their efforts into developing the menu with “more interesting products” and techniques that draw upon their haute-cuisine experience at Noma. On my recent visit, a dish of thinly sliced raw squid, tossed in cep emulsion and crowned with porcini mushrooms, amply displayed the duo’s aptitude for delicacy, as did a mélange of raw and quickly blanched peas, dressed in verbena oil with herbs and frozen nasturtium, atop a dollop of crème fraîche. “A lot of people come to the city just for eating, and we want to make it exciting for them,” Wågman explained.
Thankfully though, the bull’s testicles will remain.
Skt. Peders Stræde 24A
1453 København K
+45 3217 5999