| Denmark

Interview / On top of the world: Geranium’s Søren Ledet

In 2022 three-Michelin-starred Geranium topped ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list. World Coffee Portal spoke to co-founder Søren Ledet about the long road to success, respecting the origin of each ingredient and why fine dining should take more care with coffee

Søren Ledet. Co-owner, General Manager, Wine Director, Geranium | Photo credit: Claes Bech-Poulsen

What does it take to create the best restaurant in the world? For Geranium’s founders Søren Ledet and Rasmus Kofoed, ascending to the highest echelons of fine dining has taken them on an uncompromising, and often unconventional, journey to achieve their vision.

Geranium’s ‘Universe’ tasting menu is served over a minimum of three hours, encompassing around 20 courses of seasonally sourced appetisers, savoury and sweet dishes.

The recent Winter Universe Menu featured gems such as salted herring in crispy algae with dill stems & aquavit, lightly smoked bleak roe, milk & liquid greens and boiled beetroot, dried cherries and horseradish.

A table with a view is also a great finishing touch when sampling some of the world’s most exclusive culinary creations. Geranium’s eighth-floor restaurant certainly delivers, boasting panoramic vistas of central Copenhagen’s famous copper spires and majestic Fælledparken.

Geranium is the culmination of a 30-year partnership between Ledet and Kofoed that has since set the gastronomic world on fire – and ruffled a few feathers along the way.

“We got fired from a big hotel in Copenhagen because we had big ambitions for the restaurant and didn’t want to do café food. We got fired from the most famous fish restaurant in Copenhagen because the owner thought we made ‘gay’ food!”

“We’ve always been known for making food that’s feminine and delightful,” he adds.

Driven by their unflinching vision, the pair opened the first incarnation of Geranium in 2007, a space that Ledet says enabled them to “evolve slowly with healthy intentions” and grow from there.

From the outset, Geranium served locally sourced organic ingredients “with respect for the people behind the produce,” earning its first Michelin star in 2008.

However, Geranium soon outgrew its first location in Copenhagen’s King’s Garden neighbourhood, a listed building that limited the restaurant’s scope to evolve.

“We couldn’t put a nail in the wall,” Ledet recalls. “We were then offered to move the restaurant to the National Football Stadium in Copenhagen, which at first we turned down because we didn’t want to be associated with bad beer and hot dogs!”

However, charmed by the breathtaking view over Copenhagen, and huge potential to develop the restaurant interior as they saw fit, Ledet and Kofoed created the Geranium restaurant that has garnered such high acclaim today.

From then on the Michelin stars flowed in – first in 2012, and later in 2013 and 2016 – making it the first Nordic restaurant to attain three stars. In 2022 Geranium topped ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list. That same year, Geranium’s direction took a new, and perhaps surprising, turn.

Preparing for service at Geranium | Photo credit: Claes Bech-Poulsen

“A year ago we stopped serving meat – we wanted to move with the times. Denmark has the longest coastline in northern Europe but we eat the least fish and shellfish,” he says.

Going meat-free hasn’t made a dent in Geranium’s culinary credentials and it is difficult to imagine even the most dedicated carnivore turning down deftly crafted creations such as forest mushrooms with beer, smoked egg yolk, pickled hops and rye bread.

The coffee connection

Coffee is also a vital part of the Geranium experience, with Ledet and Kofoed going to great lengths to ensure its integration with the menu.

“A lot of restaurants around the world don’t take coffee seriously enough,” Ledet says. “They focus on the food, they focus on the wine, and then when it comes to coffee they have poor equipment, they’re not paying attention to detail or they’re just buying commercial beans.

“We always made sure that coffee was an integral part of the menu – 90% of our guests order coffee.”

When crafting its coffee offer Geranium turned to some of the best in the business, partnering with world-renowned Copenhagen-based specialty coffee roaster The Coffee Collective, whose founder Klaus Thomsen worked with Geranium to perfect its custom in-house coffee programme.

“Myself and Klaus have always gotten along because he has such attention to detail – if you want to have success you need to pay attention to every detail,” says Ledet.

“A lot of restaurants around the world don’t take coffee seriously enough”

“We looked at the options and we eventually settled on Kenyan beans and we made a special roast that was light – but not too light – and we’ve been using that for ten years.”

“It was important that our coffee, and tea for that matter, was not overshadowing the menu or destroying your pallet. Our food is often quite light and acidic and fresh and once you get to the coffee, yes it will be served with chocolate, but there will be some freshness, fruitiness, acidity.”

Pour-over coffee serves this delicate balancing act well, but Germanium also uses a Flair 58 fully-manual espresso lever to pull shots directly at the table – a piece of coffee theatre that has proven highly popular with guests.

“One of the things I love about coffee is smelling when I’m brewing it. That’s a big part of why we brew in front of the guests. You can then talk to them about the origins of the beans and all the love that goes into the product.”

With Geranium seating a maximum of 50 guests for any one service, there is a minimum three-month waiting list to get a reservation at the best restaurant in the world. However, that’s surely time well spent to get the chance to sample Geranium’s incomparable universe of flavour. 

This article was first published in Issue 14 of 5THWAVE magazine.

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