Daniel Berlin-a great Swedish chef with a spectacular natural wine list

7 Oct

Sweden may seem an unlikely place to find yourself swooning over French wines, but Daniel Berlin is no ordinary Swedish chef, and is advised by an extraordinary sommelier.   The wine list for this fabulous, newish restaurant in the southern province of Skane is compiled by Pontus Elofsson, notably associated with Noma, the world’s best restaurant, just across the Sweden-Denmark bridge in Copenhagen.

Skane is Wallander country, its bleak beauty echoed in Berlin’s elegantly sparse dining-room in the middle of nowhere.   The young chef moved east from the regional capital, Malmo, because of the quality of the produce, and combines the simplest local ingredients into triumphant and memorable dishes.   Given that the room, like the food, delivers such a strong sense of the land, it’s fitting that Berlin has embraced equally earthy natural wines.

To accompany inventive little appetisers – last year’s dried mushrooms hanging on a tiny tree, quail eggs with tomato and cress and a demi-tasse of fabulously rich chanterelle soup – the crispness of a Taburini Domus falanghina was perfect, but the French wines which follwed were truly great.    A good Pouilly Fume can’t be beaten with fish, and the 2010 Pierre Precieuse from Alexander Bain in Tracy-sur-Loire was a triumph with both the cod with sea vegetables and dill and turbot served with both raw and seared cauliflower.  Not your typical Poully Fume, mind you – this was a late harvest wine gleaming liquid gold, like so many natural white wines from the Loire.

Vegetables are the real star of Berlin’s 14 small course dinners; a dish of tender young peas and broad beans served with soft-boiled quail egg and brown butter was bettered only by a spectacular bowl of char-grilled celeriac in a melted sheep cheese sauce.  A glass of Galliac, a 2010 Mauzac Nature from Robert and Bernard Plageoles, made a perfect partner, particularly to the creamy and memorable dish of celery root.

More luscious Loire was poured with the white meat courses – smoked pork with pickled onion and mashed potatoes, followed by veal with cabbage, mustard and bone marrow.   Chenin Blanc gets a sometimes deserved bad rep, but this 2007 Saumur Chace from Domaine du Collier was nothing short of phenomenal – far richer than this varietal usually plays on the palate, with an amazing honey nose.

There was a brief deviation into red – a blend of Syrah and Grenache from Languedoc in the 20102 Le Temp Fait Tout from Rene Pujol to accompany pigeon with smoked beetroot.  Then we dived back into white for the cheese course – always a great move in my book, and the Poussiere de Lune Sauv Blanc from Domaine des Maisons Brulees did not disappoint.   I could have done without the sparkle of Moscato d’Asti which accompanied plums with frozen goat’s yoghurt and elderflower and “first milk” sorbet, but then I don’t love bubbles.

Do get to Daniel Berlin before he becomes an international superstar; he’s in Tomelilla and open March to December, and his food is every bit as spectacular as the wine.



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