Like a grandfather to the town, most inhabitants of Allinge have a relationship with Grønbechs Hotel – a property that’s kept a watchful eye over the harbour for over a century
Now a mix of hip and cosy, old and new and simply exceptional food, Karina Janø explores more
If these walls could speak, you should probably brace yourself. Setting the scene for 100 years of history, from belligerent fishermen to political rallies, this building has seen a thing or two.
From rowdy physical fights to shrewd, intellectual debates, this old hotel has stood its ground in its days nestled between the old houses in the small fishing village of Allinge on Danish island Bornholm.
In 2014, the three adjoining buildings were purchased by the founder of Danish political online news site Altinget, and since then carefully renovated, step by step. Now also home to the newest addition to Bornholm’s raging gourmet scene, restaurant Vilhelm, there is plenty of reason to make a visit.
Mind you, this is an old building. It comes with creaking floors, low ceilings, minimalistic rooms and quirky bathrooms (bath products from L:A Bruket is a mitigating circumstance though). But several Danish prime ministers have not seemed to mind. On the plus side, some rooms have spacious balconies overlooking the cosy, old courtyard – and some French balconies with sea views.
The quirkiness ends with the rooms though. The restaurant, bar and lobby area is confidently decorated mixing modern quality items, antiques and warm lightning. The candles and oil lamps only emphasise the warm, Danish “hygge”.
Sink into the soft furniture, get updated with a newspaper (coming in handy if you should run into one of those political types) and indulge in a cup of the exceptionally good coffee.
During ‘Folkemødet’, Denmark’s most sought after and hip political festival (everyone who is anyone is there), the courtyard turns into one giant party; DJ stars and coloured lights aplenty.
Every summer, political parties, unions, NGOs, companies and journalists gather in Allinge to debate, share and celebrate democracy and community. And many participants either stay at Grønbechs, come for a meeting or a drink in the courtyard or eat in the restaurant.
Flavour comes first
That being said, you definitely don’t have to be interested in politics to eat or stay here. Hotel manager and executive chef Mathias Sejer Sørensen will make you feel very welcome, taking his time to talk to all of his guests.
For a time he lived and worked on another Danish foodie-crazed island, Samsø, and he loved gathering the best produce around the island everyday, talking to the producers and going home to cook what he found.
He was working at Kong Hans, but was weary of Copenhagen, when he got a job offer at the noted gourmet restaurant at the seaside hotel Stammershalle on Bornholm. He leaped at the opportunity to go back to an island and a few years later he was offered the position as executive chef at restaurant Vilhelm.
Taught in the French kitchen by Michelin cook Francis Cardenau his philosophy includes: “full on flavour” and “what you order is what you get”, e.g. a piece of fish will not be covered in garnish.
Generous portions of hearty food like grey duck with plums and slices of beetroots pickled spruce and intense game sauce arrives at the table and the scent rising from the plates is anything if not alluring.
This feels like comfort food gone gourmet in the best sense, and perfectly fitting the rain drumming on the windows. Potent Languedoc-Roussillon red wine from Château Saint Jacques d’Albas completes the palate.
Wait for childhood memories to rush from your tongue to your brain as you crack into the white merengue lid of the interpretation of classic Danish apple cake with vanilla cream and candied rosemary on top. This is dessert, as your Danish-French grandmother wouldn’t make it.
But who knows what will be on the menu when you visit. Inspired from what is available, in season and simply the best, Sørensen may change the menu from day to day. He will buy produce locally but only if they can match the best. However the menu will always carry a touch of Bornholm.
Make it happen
Please visit groenbechshotel.dk to find out more and make a booking.
Words by Karina Janø